Tuesday, August 07, 2007

SCBWI Conference Mania

So I just spent four days at the big ol' Los Angeles conference for the Society for Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. Four fat days of lectures, workshops, parties, networking, lunching, schmoozing, clapping, laughing, fighting off drowsiness, excitement, nervousness, and hard work. On the fourth night I went out for pie with my best friend and was totally hyper. I giggled and made faces and in general just acted very silly. After all the focus demanded by the conference, I guess I let my inner doof loose.

Highlights for me included:

The Keynote by Walter Dean Meyers, in which he talked about how it's a passion for detail that lead him to become a writer. He really made me think about why I write and what makes writing good versus bad. And he's right - finding the RIGHT details to include about your character and what she's doing and how she does it - that's key.

Emma Dryden's passionate Keynote about the adventure of writing.

Agents Kate Schafer and Tracey Adams talking about their different styles of agenting. Later I attended Kate's "Advice from an Agent" workshop and was blown away when she mentioned an obscure book as one of her favorites - Tomorrow, When the War Began by John Marsden. "Any John Marsden fans out there?" she asked. "Yes!" I said, though I don't think she heard me.

These are fabulous teen novels about a group of young people in Australia who go camping without their parents. While they are off in the bush, the rest of their country gets taken over by a foreign power, and they must first struggle to survive before they begin an underground resistance movement.

I loved this series so much that I pitched it to a producer I was working with at the time. She loved them too and went into a bidding war with another producer for the TV rights. Alas, she lost. But I immediately loved Kate for loving that book. Amazing - the power of a great novel.

Tamora Pierce, who wrote some of my favorite fantasy novels, talked about all the many sources she uses for inspiration. Her quote from another writer: "The immature artist imitates. The mature artist steals."

And my favorite - the Writing the Series Workshop with Bonnie Bader and Judy Goldschmidt from Grosset and Dunlap and Price Sterns Sloan. This was two mornings spent learning how to put together a proposal for a book series. After the first day we had homework, and I worked late into Sunday night, determined to make my proposal kick ass. I figured that it ain't often you get to pitch directly to an editor and get feedback. So what the hell. In the second session, as it came near my turn to read my series concept, I could feel my heart start to beat very loudly and very fast. I'd written it in the voice of the protagonist. Would that work? I thought it was pretty damn good. Was I wrong?

Turns out, I was right. Bonnie and Judy said that my proposal was a good example for the others to follow. They liked it! They really did! I just need to really hone the voice. I was shaking by the time I was done. I couldn't really hold my pen to take notes on what they said, so thank goodness most of what they said was positive. After they moved on to other people, I finally calmed down. Whew! So now here I go - I'm gonna rewrite this proposal, come up with three slick, fabulous chapters to submit, and go from there. Very exciting.

I also really enjoyed the Golden Kite Awards luncheon, which included a singing contest and great speeches from Sarah Pennypacker, Larry Day, Walter Dean Meyers again, and Tony Abbott. I'm forgetting someone else very cool, but they all rocked, and our table bonded over the shared fear of singing, and over the ridiculous and fabulous singers from other tables.

Overall grade for the conference: A.

But I'm exhausted and exhilarated. You've got to work, baby, work! And even in college I didn't sit listening to speakers for eight hours at a stretch. Work is less intense, and my job is pretty damned demanding.

I'll be there next year. Wish I could afford the upcoming NYC conference!

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