Thursday, August 9, 2007

SCBWI National - An Overview

Every time I sign up for a conference, I inevitably get cold feet as the departure date approaches. But not this time. I was so ready to get away and fill my creative well, and I was willing to brave the madding crowd to do it.

I was not disappointed. That Lin Oliver and Stephen Mooser really know how to show a girl a good time!

As always, I was struck by the amazing people we have working in this industry, all who care so passionately about the books they write, illustrate, acquire, and bring to market. Young readers are very lucky to have these professionals on their side.

Walter Dean Myers started the conference off with a bang in his inspiring speech, A Passion for Detail. The takeaways I got from that speech were:

1. We need to not simply inform, but to evoke the experience in the readers’ mind, and
2. Look for the details that give the experience the ring of truth, the clicking of heels on the wooden floor, or the sticky juice of the peach running down her chin.

I also got to hear the amazing Tamora Pierce speak. Her latest book Beka Cooper: Terrier is one of my faves. (I’ll have complete notes up on her workshop over at my blog in a day or two.)

Also, John Green was especially inspiring, another one of those people in the industry that you can’t help but feel will touch a number of kids lives in a positive way. I’m also feeling very affectionate toward him because he came out as an introvert during the conference, which put him on Mary and my Introverts We’d Love to Interview list. (John, if you happen to be googling yourself, click here to contact us for an interview.) One of the things that was so fascinating about John’s presentations was how completely relaxed his speaking style was. That’s not to say he wasn’t nervous, according to him, he was. But his style was so devoid of artifice or airs, completely a what-you-see-is-what-you-get approach. That’s my approach as well, but it works much better on him, so it was inspiring to watch a master.

Our own Shrinking Violet Mary Hershey gave an amazing workshop on excavating your funnybone and finding one’s own approach to writing humor. It was informative and funny and felt like deep therapy work, but oh-so-important. None of our deepest selves get out of this writing gig untapped, and Mary gave us some amazing help on how to do just that.

At an editor panel that included Arthur Levine, Mark McVeigh, Krista Marino, and art director Elizabeth Parisi, they all stressed how, in their mind, manuscript critiques and revision letters were the beginning of a dialog. They have no expectation that all their suggestions will be utilized by their authors, but they do except them to be addressed in some way. I thought that was heartening.

There was another editor panel toward the end of the conference featuring Emma Dryden of Atheneum, Dinah Stevenson of Clarion, Rachel Griffiths of Scholastic, Allyn Johnston of Harcourt, and Julie Strauss-Gabel of Dutton. They all talked about their perfect book. The interesting thing was, none of them really wanted to find the perfect book, the joy was in pursuing it.

I also thought it interesting that they expected to have editorial feedback, and didn't want to just be a copy editor. Which is funny because I always thought that was the author's goal: to get the book so right, that the editor wouldn't have to fix anything. But according to these women, that would make them very unhappy. It was such a startling perspective! And one I needed to know about.


Mary Hershey said...
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Anonymous said...

Thanks for the great summary of your conference experience, Robin.

Man, oh, man, I was ready, too. Could NOT wait to get there and was NOT ready to leave.

Now I just want a week or more to sift through all that I've come away with.

And, yes, John Green was sage, hysterical, disarming and voted by a few of us as People We'd Most Like to Go on A Date With if We Weren't Already Spoken For. (Elizabeth Parisi, too.)

My conference highlights coming Monday!


jama said...

Thanks,Robin. Several people have mentioned John Green in their wrap-ups. He must really be amazing.
Doesn't sound like an introvert, though :)!

R.L. LaFevers said...

But remember, Jama, introversion is not determined by whether or not you can get comfortable speaking in public or being inspirational! And I think he's done a great job of making his slightly-less-than-comfortableness work for him.

Also, I attended a few sessions on promotional stuff that I intend to highlight in more detail over the next couple of weeks. So you haven't heard the last word from me on the conference yet!