Sunday, September 19, 2010

Notes from the SCBWI conference

I spent yesterday at the fabulous fall SCBWI (Society for Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) Rocky Mountain chapter conference down in Lakewood, with authors who had come from as far away as Montana and California to attend. I hesitated before signing up to go; I've become sort of a conference snob in recent years, wanting to be invited to speak on the program so that I can go for free, rather than paying out of pocket to attend. But I've spoken at plenty of SCBWI conferences over the years, so this was my turn just to sit there with my little notebook and soak it all in. I'm glad I did.

I started the day by doing three paid critiques for other conference attendees who had signed up for this additional conference perk - always a bit dicey, as some people don't really want a critique session from a fellow author; they want a critique session from one of the attending editors or agents, preferably one who will offer them a contract on the spot. But my three authors were all wonderfully appreciative and obviously eager to grow as writers. I fell in love with all three.

The opening keynote address was by super-star Bruce Coville, who managed to be both funny and inspirational. He took as his topic the seven deadly sins and seven shining virtues of writers. Of the traditional list of seven deadly sins, only one, sloth, made it onto his revised list, rounded out by : dullness, repetition, cliche, inattention, perfectionism, and clumsiness (lack of craft). His seven shining virtues were: passion (replacing chastity), sensuousness (replacing temperance), wisdom, guile, humor, courage, and joy. I want to write with courage now! I want to write with joy!

Traci L. Jones, winner of a Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent award for African-American authors, gave a talk on writing a multicultural book that had everybody singing her praises for the rest of the day. On the one hand, Traci encouraged authors to write outside of their culture (e.g., she sees herself writing chiefly, not about African-American characters, but about "misfits" who happen to be African-American: "Misfits can come in any color") - but on the other hand, she showed us just how much respectful effort is going to be involved in doing this - all those telling details re speech patterns, family expectations, skin color - anad HAIR!

I also attended a session on social media by an impressive 20-something guy, Drew Shope, who runs a business called Thrive that helps the non-media-savvy get up to speed. I learned that more people played Farmville last year on Facebook than have played Pacman in the entire history of the game. He said "The website is dead" - who knew? It's all blogs now. Apparently!

Egmont editor Elizabeth Law was a hoot (but a helpful hoot) in her session on managing your writing career. Best advice: band together with other authors for collective promotion. I also think I'm now going to make available online some cool stuff connected with my recent books - so be on the lookout!

The whole day was glorious.

I love being a writer. I love being part of the world of writers and writing.

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