The NY SCBWI 2010 Conference-Part 2-Saturday Morning

Filed under: Conferences

I’m just going to dive right in because nothing starts a conference better than an infusion of …

Stephen Mooser and Lin Oliver!
As always, Lin got everyone’s funny bone flexed when she gave us the stats on this years conference. Despite the stinky economy, the 2010 conference had the highest attendance in history. A whopping 1,047 children’s writers and illustrators gathered to be inspired and informed. We came from 14 different countries and 45 states. I won’t tell you which states have fallen down on the job. Just know that they’ve been severely reprimanded and feel rather silly after learning that Lin was in attendance after having heart surgery in November. The entire room was pleased that “the heart of SCBWI” was healthy and doing well. We don’t know what we’d do without her. She is the only one who can commander the men’s room for the ladies. Thanks Lin!

Are you excitedto hear about our first speaker? You should be because its the brand new Printz Award winner of Going Bovine….

Libba Bray!
It is going to be hard for me to express the sheer awesomeness of her speech…its hard to take notes when you are in simultaneous awe and hysterics. I can tell you that her first inclination for the title of her speech was PUNCTUATION. Lin Oliver shot that down LOL! So she spoke about WRITING AS AN EXTREME SPORT. Since everything Libba said was a double edge sword, both full of great insight and hilarity…I’ll just post some of her best phrases and thoughts and let you digest them at your leisure…
*Every time you write a cliche the terrorist win.
*I’m not known for my reckless abandon unless its in my writing.
*You take the neurotic things you spend your whole life trying to hide from everyone and you jam all of that into your writing.
*In reference to saying “serious sacks”…once you get a Printz you can reference testicles all you want. LOL!
Libba continued on by telling us to BE THE GIRAFFE. One evening she asked her son what he wanted to be when he grew up. She was half listening and expecting him to give a typical answer when he announced that he wanted to be a giraffe. She was a bit surprised LOL! This story was to remind us to take the road less traveled when we make choices in our writing. Where your mind goes first should be the last place where you actually end up. She recommended the book HOW TO SPEAK IN ROBOT as an example. She also reminded us that people ARE frustrating. Strive for the small unexpected moments in your writing. Her example was from the movie Star Wars.
Princess Leia-“I love you.” Han Solo-“I know.”
Kim-*Sigh* I love you too Han Solo…Han Solo? OK back to Libba and some more advice…
*Give your characters gritty bits.
*Sit at the kitchen table with your characters.
*Look at the layers…look past the stereotypical.
*It doesn’t pay to fall in love with your characters because if you do then you can’t “see” them.
Libba also cautioned us to say no to the Teradactyl boyfriend. As in…”should I add in a hot Teradactyl boyfriends with with a wing span into my YA novel? Everyone else has one!” *Don’t follow trends.
*Don’t let the “Should I’s” creep in.
*You have to write for yourself-listen to your pages.
*Make your writing true and then dig a little more.
As Ray Bradbury said…”First you jump off the cliff-then you build the wings.”
Before leaving the stage Libba implored everyone to join her in the YEAR OF WRITING DANGEROUSLY. I’m there! Hope you’ll be too. Like Libba said, “Write like it matters and it will.”
*Kim bows her head for a moment of silence*
I did get up from my homage eventually. Of course I needed a potty break and then it was off to Break-out session #1. But before we could get to the heart of the matter, we had to take care of our feet first. After acquiring the last pair of boots in Phoenix, AZ Amy Nichols, found that extended days in 2 inch heels had undesirable side effects. Lucky for her NYC has shoe stores!
Now back to our regularly scheduled programing with Ben Schrank, Publisher of Razorbill (an imprint of Penguin).
The topic for this break-out session was THE REAL DEAL ABOUT TEEN NOVELS. Ben started off by letting us know that there is a dream for writers of teen novels and we as writers should shoot for it. What he meant was that there was a real wild card factor in teen writing. No one knows for sure what is going to be the next big thing.
His biggest example of this was Jay Asher’s THIRTEEN REASONS WHY. Jay’s book was published two and a half years ago and is still out in hardcover and has spent 57 weeks on the NY Times Best Seller List. Why did this book go viral? According to Ben there was an almost 1 in 100,000 odds of this happening. He called Thirteen Reasons Why the GO ASK ALICE of this generation. How did all the stars align?
*Jay wrote a great book. *The packaging of the book was excellent, from the cover to the back-copy.
*Jay was great at connecting with his readers.
*The public consciousness was open to the book.
*Word of mouth was instrumental.
In summation, the perfect storm took happened, with all the components falling into at the right time. Ben also cautioned that really good writers can have one or more of these factors work against them. It does not make them bad writers, but it can make their books much less successful. So we should always dream big, because the dream can happen, but we shouldn’t be discouraged if it doesn’t.
Ben also gave a list of common mistakes:
*Writing for the market. The market is a weird beast that is hard to control, but be aware because there is a market. At the end of the day, if you try to write for the market AND don’t enjoy what you are writing, it will show.
*Don’t try to talk like a teen. People read all over the country and the world and the slang is different everywhere.
*Don’t introduce your character on the nose. *Don’t windmill-use lots of words that don’t progress the book.
*If you are telling a story that has been done before (and they all have been) you have to tell it in a unique way. His example was THE REPLACEMENT, a horror story version of Catcher in the Rye due out in September 2010.
*If what you’re writing doesn’t connect with the pecking order of what would happen in a school cafeteria, then it is unlikely that it will connect with readers.
Ben said he is looking for the book that nobody saw coming and cautioned us, as writers, to be nice, confident, secure and above all don’t yell at people. Behaving like that isn’t going to help you.
When asked what he expected from his authors, he responded by saying that he didn’t like them to talk about the inner workings of Razorbill. He didn’t want to “reduce the magic.” He also said that trust was an issue and it was important promote yourself.
Over the course of his presentation Ben highlighted Suzanne Young (One of the fabulous SCBWI Conference Bloggers) and her new series The Naughty List. He mentioned quite a few other great books that would be hitting the shelves soon, but I apologize for not catching all the pertinent information. A friend of mine Lara Zeisis (met her at the Easter PA Poconos Conference last year) also writes with Razorbill, so check out her Lola Douglas book TRUE CONFESSIONS OF A HOLLYWOOD STARLET.
Time for Break-out session #2 PICTURE BOOKS WITH ALLYN JOHNSTON.
Allyn is the Vice President and Publisher for Beach Lane Books and she made me and almost everyone else in her sessions cry. She is passionate about her Picture Books. She has strong memories of being read to as a child and believes that a good book changes the emotional temperature of the reader.
Things to pay attention to: *Your job is to make the words so fabulous that the reader wants to read them again.
*Example HADDIE AND THE FOX By Mem Fox-beautiful rhythm and repetition. *Picture Books are for an audience who can’t read. You are writing a play/performance for them. *You need to right a book so fabulous that you are making the reader the star.
Great Picture Book Beginnings:
If you are choosing to be a great picture book writer, you have to trust that if you’ve done your job well enough, then the illustrator will have something special to use to begin their own creation. Trust the artist. Embrace the mystery of the story.
Don’t forget to apply the same great story telling to non-fiction.
I mentioned earlier that I got misty eyed during while Allyn read some of these wonderful books. It was this last book that that pulled at my heart strings the most. You should all know it. So simple. So perfect. The next time you read it, just think of it in terms of the writer’s journey…or the journey of anyone who has a dream.
Lin Oliver slaved over that chicken all day! We also have to say a big thank you to AMAZON for stopping by with some great news. Amazon is donating $25,000 to SCBWI for work in progress grants.
Amazon’s Jon Fine
I’m going to stop here. We have food in our belly and money in the bank. Next blog installment coming your way soon. :o)



2 Responses | TrackBack URL | Comments Feed

  1. Loving this, Kim. Thanks for sharing in words and pictures. You make me feel as if I was almost there (and if I could have been in two places at once, I would have been but I'm not as magical as I would like). ;>

    -Pamela Ross

  2. Kim, you are so good at recapping the events of the conference! Great post. I might just direct my blog readers over here instead of writing my own recaps. 🙂 Not to mention you took great pics.

    Hey, that girl has some cute shoes! Hey wait, that girl is me. LOL! 🙂

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