Sep 14

My Top 20 SCBWI Nuggets….

LAX, here I come!

As impossible as it seems, over one month ago I sat in a huge ballroom along with 1,199 other children’s book writers and illustrators from 46 states and 19 countries eagerly anticipating the 41st annual Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators-LA  conference. The 171 men, 942 women, and 122 undeclared came from a variety of professional backgrounds,  including my personal favourites:  anatomy professor, bonsai artist, director of fun, literary Olympian, and actor (just one….Henry Winkler aka the Fonz!).  Really.

Honestly, every day since the conference ended I’ve struggled with how to pass on what I learned in those three days.  I’ve concluded that it’s impossible.  What I can do, however, is give you some of the precious gems I found in my notes and hope one or more will strike a chord with you.  You can always check out the SCBWI website and the LA conference blog to get up close and personal with the organization.  Here are the authors/illustrators I had the privilege to hear:

*Keynote Arthur Levine:  “use anticipation instead of surprise”

*Keynote & Workshop Leader Patricia Maclachlin:  “children learn to speak so they can tell us stories already in their heads”  “opening lines tell the truth of the story;  “say more, use fewer words”

*Workshop leader Christina Gonzalez:  “multi-cultural stories are no different than any other kid’s book”

*Keynote & Workshop Leader Karen Cushman:  “no rules, expect the unexpected, court and seek surprise”  “for every book you want to write read 100”   “write your truth; trust yourself”  “need strong characters but don’t put balls on girls”

*Editor’s Panel:  “tell old stories in new ways”   “DO: please yourself, finish, be aware of the market, read all you can, be aware of advice givers”  DO NOT: publish for the market, be afraid to finish or take on too much advice”  “Never ask an editor ‘What are you looking for?'”

*Keynote Bryan Collier:  Bryan held everyone in the room in the palm of his hand as he shared his story.  When he finished those of us who weren’t weeping were  jumping up and down, hooting and hollering appreciation for this big teddy bear of a man.  His story of his grandmother, how he discovered water colour paints….oh, my.  Find the book “Dave the Potter” and you will come to know Bryan.

*Keynote & Workshop leader Dan Gutman Creative writing guru, Dan led workshoppers through the steps of writing a story….while writing a story!  Lots of fun with very creative participants.  A common tool for writers and writers who teach others writing.  Dan is an energetic, wiry guy who is, I’m sure, a big hit in schools.

*Keynote & Workshop Leader Jay Asher:  “put character(s) into peril; throw small rocks to accumulate problems; help character find a way down but introduce more problems”  “inject tension slowly–force the reader to read faster!”  “boys do read but how you present conflict is different; narrator has to sound like a boy”  “boys avoid problems while girls find solutions”

*Picture Book Panel:  a few book recommendations by panel:  Every Friday, House Held Up by Trees, I Want My Hat Back, This is Not My Hat, Cat’s Night Out, A Penguin Story, This is not a Box, This is not a Stick, BowWow Birthday, WonTon, Red, White and Boom, Breaking Stalin’s Nose, Dog Parade.   Some quotes: ” pictures can breathe; speak to your readers in universal and timeless ways; all picture books start with the character’s motivation; text gives action and emotion; illustrations tell the story visually; be aware of new openings and spaces that work for you”

*Keynote & Workshop Leader Ruta Sepetys:  “foreign publishers hire ‘book scouts’ to report back; book scouts scour blogs/twitter”;  “some countries have price protection”  “Italians love books that take place in book stores”  “for foreign markets you need a video (including script and translation) plus a selection of photos plus a Q&A you make yourself (saves them time) = your promo package”  “video greetings can be in a variety of languages; ie, Konnichiwa Japan!”;  “book covers vary in each country, often surprising the author”  “bookfairs:  Bologna (March) only kid’s books, all meetings scheduled; Frankfurt (October); London (April).  Google each one for details.”  “Tour pitfalls:  be in shape, be prepared for anything, pack essential tech needs, don’t check a bag, have foreign cash in hand”

Three very full days starting at 7:45am until whenever you fell into bed exhausted but I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.  I managed to stay hydrated, ate power-up foods throughout the day, rested when I had to, and passed on the flash mob at the outdoor Hippie Hop.  Back in the day I would have been right in the middle of it all; ahh, times have changed.  .

Gained:  new friends, pages of “gems”, ideas for new projects;  Lost:  my expensive sunglasses

Alas, I didn’t actually see Fonzie but I was comforted to know he was in the house and we shared the same passion!  🙂 🙂


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