Tuesday, July 17, 2012

SCBWI Conference

What a learning experience I had at the Maryland/Delaware/West Virginia SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) conference this past weekend. Preliminary information promised a lot with the title “Creating Sparks: Kindle the Fire of Imagination.” It did not disappoint.

Award winning authors Richard Peck, Deborah Wiles, Sally Walker and Bobbie Pyron provided inspiration and practical instruction. I returned home with a notebook full of tips on how to improve my writing and ideas for future books.

I enjoyed learning from Richard Peck’s experience.  Practical advice presented with humor. Bobbie Pyron showed the patience necessary to make your writing alive. I was amazed at the diligence and drive of Sally Walker in pursuing details for her non-fiction books.

Deborah Wiles was inspiring as she discussed using your imagination to invent the documentary novel. Editor Stacey Barney in “how to get an Editor (to fall in love with your manuscript) used audience participation. Differences in opinions and reasons for them provided a good example of why editorial opinions could differ so much. The conference ended with the rebelliousness of James Proimos, revealed through his presentation of “How to Write a Novel That Sells in Ten Weeks.” Again, humor and facts made for an interesting session.

I survived a detailed critique by agent Molly Jaffa of Folio Literary Agency. Just kidding. She combined praise for ideas and other aspects of the first 10 pages of the Middle Grade novel I am writing, with suggestions for ways to improve it. I was happy. You don’t ask for a critique if you think everything is perfect.

Molly led an Opening Pages workshop on Saturday discussing what first pages need to do, such as establishing stakes for the main character. There should be internal conflict, change, sacrifice, questioning. The opening pages need to introduce characters we can care about, build tension, and make us want to find out what happens next. It sounds like a lot, but we don’t want too much to happen within those first few pages.

Writing that is fresh and new is what she is looking for. She is not interested in trendy. I have a lot more hints written in my notebook, as well as books and authors she recommended we read and learn. Molly lost her voice later that day, but not her ability to communicate and provided more insight during panel discussions the next day.

I am writing more than I normally do in my blogs, but I was so inspired and motivated this weekend, I wanted to record some of my thoughts. More details from the conference will follow in future blogs.