Tuesday, August 03, 2010

SCBWI Insanity

I'm back at work after four incredible days at the International SCBWI LA conference, in lovely downtown Century City at the Hyatt Regency. (If you go I highly recommend having martini under the awning at sunset outside. East Coasters kept looking around in awe, saying, "It's so NICE!")

It was nice. And chock full o'info/advice/inspiration. And exhausting. At the end of each day a nice glass of wine with new SCBWI friends was required in order to recover.

Here are some of the highlights for me:

1. Arthur A. Levine's class in getting Emotions on the Page.
Arthur has his own imprint and is the US publisher of Harry Potter. He's also an editing genius. I took his class in emotion in writing, and sat in awe, watching him pick apart the student's prose - gently, always with humor and sensitivity, but with a laser-like precision that demanded you think long and hard about every word you put on the page. Plus he would occasionally break into song, mime the actions he was talking about, or do a disco move. I can't recreate his brilliant suggestions here, but remember:

  • The details you pick out should convey emotion. Your reader should know what the main emotion of the scene is.
  • That emotion and those details should be very specific.
  • Avoid generic phrases like "an exhausted sigh." Think about what a sign is, how it sounds, what it feels like, and convey that with vivid word choices.
  • Details should be appropriate to the POV character. As in, if your protagonist is an eleven year old and you're writing in first person, all the details should be something an eleven year old would notice and say. More specifically, they should be details YOUR eleven year old would notice.
And so much more!

2. Meeting online friends at last! 

3. Getting inspired by great writer/speakers like Marion Dane Bauer and Jon Scieszka. Marion (winner of the Golden Kite for Picture Book text) had us all crying, while Jon had everyone cracking up.  We really ran the emotional gamut every single day of the conference.

4. Reciting poetry with Ashley Bryan and all of the other 1100 attendeees.

And so much more.  I'm worn out, but very happy.  My brain is so full, I've just got to get to writing to exorcise it.

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