Friday, March 18, 2011

SCBWI - Lessons Learned

Last weekend I traversed the eastern seaboard and wound up in Buckeystown, Maryland for a regional SCBWI conference. It was a day filled with most informative and inspiring sessions from the likes of YA author Laura Bowers, editors from various presses, and (sigh) literary goddess agent Rosemary Stimola.

Yes—I traveled almost seven hours for a day thing, but it was so worth it. I left with validation and rejuvenation. I got to spend time with my awesome CP Ricki Schultz, and I finally got to meet fellow Write Brained Network peeps, Sara McClung, Cristin Terrill, and Cambria Dillon! Check out their blogs! They’re super-duper fabulous. And they're all going to rock the YA market with their amazing stories.

An-y-way - I always return from trips with presents to share, soooo here's yours, faithful blog readers—a snapshot of my lessons learned:

Marilyn Brigham of Marshall Cavendish Children’s Books discussed how to use powerful word choice and sentence structure so that your work stands out. Stuff to avoid…

a) Clich├ęs (find a new way to say it!)
b) Adverbs (use a stronger verb instead)
c) Repetition (mix it up! Keep the language fresh!)
d) Clutter—each word must do useful work. Avoid unnecessary prepositions, adjectives, and definitely omit the obvious, like tall skyscraper or large whale.

She also advised reading your work aloud, using active voice, and reading more books by authors you admire and figuring out why the writing is good.

Cool thing about Marilyn’s session—I already do most of this. So for me—majorly validating.

YA author Laura Bowers gave the best quote of the day:

Passion makes you WANT to write the story. Perseverance MAKES you write it.

And she talked about how to combine the two to completely rock a YA novel. Here’s just a layer of the richness she delivered…

To write with passion:

• Create characters you love
• Put them in a dynamic setting
• Turn them upside down with conflict
• Tell their story with an honest voice
• Draw inspiration from personal experience
• Layer with richness while editing

She talked a lot about character development and detailed how she maps out not only needs and desires, but also quirks, hates, and future plans. She gave examples as to how she drew insight for characters from overheard conversations, vacations, or eccentric family members and friends.

She encouraged us to just write and add in richness when we come back to edit. And she gave examples from her own work as to how to add richness through similes and metaphors that provide insight into your characters.

I already do this too! Here are examples from my novels…

Mookie hung his head like he missed a cheap goal. (Mookie(yes, Mookie)was a soccer goalie)

I knew I had about as much of a shot with Nic Moretti as I did at failing a test. But one could always dream. Jamie Peters (my uber-smart wallflower in my superhero novel)

But the thing Laura Bowers hit my heart with—her five-minute advice on perseverance. She encouraged us to figure out our heart’s desire and to make lists of daily actions that will help us attain our goals. She quipped that if we wanted to be writers, why would be doing everything else but writing?! Cleaning out the attic can wait. Putting together that photo album you’ve already put off for months? It can can wait another month or two. Heck, the laundry will still be there after two hours of writing.

If you want to be writer, than “get your butt in the chair.”

In six words, she gave me the permission I frequently refuse to grant myself.

There were many other fab speakers that day, but the most memorable—Rosemary Stimola (aka Suzanne Collins’ agent!). She talked queries—how they need polish and personality. No gimmicks. Just substance. And then my fangirl mode kicked in and well...that’s all I wrote down. I was too mesmerized by her stories of the fourteen-year old that pitched her at an ALA convention. Her deliverance of sample log lines tugged at my heart strings. She epitomized the passion that fuels the writing industry and her session rendered me inspired. Rejuvenated. I drove away that day wishing I could spend every waking moment honing my craft.

The whole weekend was a learning experience. And as much as I learned from the conference, I probably acquired twice as much knowledge about the publishing industry from hanging out with Ricki, Sara, Cambria, and Cristin. Cristin and Cambria are agented (YAY!!!) and their perspective on that side of the process - extremely insightful.

We chatted about our stories (PS - cannot wait till these future books hit the shelves!!!) We discussed conferences and writing. Our muses. Our difficult scenes to write. And well, honestly, the whole weekend was just fantabulous.

SEE! The new fab five.

Other lessons learned—just FYI

1) Driving over big bridges STILL causes serious hyperventilating issues

2) Cristin and Sara make the most amazing cookies EVER

3) Styrofoam cups + Moscato + very little sleep = one ugly morning

4) Ricki has the coolest license plate—Love! <3

5) Maryland has a lot of hills

Oh—and in other news

Cambria and another fellow Write Brained Networker Carolina Valdez Miller recently signed with Vickie Motter of Andrea Hurst and Associates! Congrats ladies! They're hosting amazing blog parties to celebrate.

Cambria and friends are giving away signed books, critiques, and much more starting next week! Head to her website and check it out. Now! What are you waiting for?!

Carolina and her friends are giving away tons of really cool stuff including—wait for it—a KINDLE! Whoa! Check it all out here.

And my super-awesome crusader friend Michelle Merrill just interviewed me for her blog. Click here to experience her fabulosity (and see the interview!)

Soooo - any lessons YOU learned at a conference or just from hanging out with friends?!


  1. Sounds like you had a brilliant weekend!! So glad you got to meet up with your CPs, I haven't met any of mine :( But you know, living in a different hemisphere kind of hampers that stuff ;)

  2. Sounds like a great conference. Glad you had a good time and got some great advice.

  3. I am so jealous!!! (and happy for you). I am going with you next time. I need that kind of inspiration. It looks like you had a killer weekend. Thanks for sharing what you learned :) You'll be agented soon, too.

  4. I love the Laura Bowers advice on perseverance. Yes, indeed, those pictures and so much else really can wait.

  5. Sounds like you learned some important lessons and had an awesome time! I love the advice about daily goals - now I just have to make myself follow it. :)

  6. I learn quite a lot hangin' around here! Sounds like a fabulous conference. Thanks for sharing your notes with us...and thanks for the shout-out :)

  7. Can I just say I am so envious. I can't for this summer when I get to finally meet WBers in person.

    Sounds like you had way too much fun.

  8. I wish I had my writer friends around me, as it is I only know them cyberly :(

    Crusader saying hi. Hope to see you over at mine soon. Bring a bottle!

  9. awwww! I somehow missed this post. And now I miss everyone SO MUCH! (Except Cristin... I'm sitting right beside her...)

  10. Sorry it's taken me so long to get here! Looks like it was an amazing conference. How fun to meet other writers. Wow--7 hours!!

    Thanks so much for the mention, too! :D


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