Another successful SCBWI Eastern PA Pocono Mt. Retreat! Every time I attend this conference there is something special going on. This year I was thrilled to spend the weekend with Laurie Halse Anderson and to bring a friend to her first writing conference, but more about that later. First off, everyone celebrated the 20 year anniversary of the conference by exchanging memories. I was still in transit, but my buddy Jodi Moore (author of WHEN A DRAGON MOVES IN) told the very special story of the Golf Bag Holder. If you haven’t heard this story you can read about it HERE.
Now we have two of our “babies” sitting in the Golf Bag Holder with us. <3
Now that everyone knows the secret of the Golf Bag Holder, everyone wants in on the love. This just makes me smile.
First up was my Workshop Session with Sara Sargent, who talked about Inspiration, World Building and Other Indoor Sports.
My favorite thing she said in this session was that watching a character evolve is fun. Seeing it happen live is exciting, so take your reader on the ride with you instead of giving them so much backstory. I don’t think I can ever be reminded of this too much. Great advice.
The first Keynote speaker of the Conference was New York Times best selling illustrator Amy June Bates…
This is the part of the program where the Friday all-night gab-fest mutates into a dire need for coffee AND the heart thumping anticipation of knowing that Laurie Halse Anderson is going to be the morning’s guest speaker. *SQUEE*
Laurie’s keynote was Writing the life of Your Dreams. Crap! How am I going to pick out just a few choice phrases for you to savor when everything she says resonates with me and makes my heart grow by three sizes? I’ll do my best…
*Never Google your name–You only need to know what YOU think of your work.
*Writing time will not magically appear.
*Having a dedicated writing space opens up a dedicated writing space in your brain.
*Give yourself the gift of art, especially if you’re feeling dry. You need new stuff going into the well.
*”I would rather have a root canal and then chew on aluminum foil that write a first draft.” I LOVE THIS WOMAN!
*Ideal ratio of time spent for writers–10 hours writing : 5 hours reading : 1 hour farting on the internet. *head thunk*
It was a packed house so I pulled up a section of rug, which was actually rather comfortable. This session with Sara was about TENSION and how to take your novel to the next level.
My third Workshop session was outside of my usual box, but I enjoyed it tremendously. YOU CAN’T MAKE THIS STUFF UP: HOW TO USE PRIMARY SOURCES TO CREATE NARRATIVE NON-FICTION by Deborah Heiligman.
As I mentioned, narrative non-fiction is not something I ever plan to write myself. Research makes me break out in hives, but I LOVED hearing about how Deborah created CHARLES AND EMMA and I’m biting at the bit to read it now. Attending this session gave me lots of great take aways that I could translate into my own writing life, but the one thing that really struck a cord was when Deborah said…”It all has to be in service to the love story.” What she meant was that, with an avalanche of facts and interesting information to pick from, the only way to successfully chose what to put in the book came when she reminded herself that her story was a love story and all the information needed to progress that plot line of Darwin’s life. I loved being reminded of that–I know how helpful it is to have that focus in my own writing. So, as a little side note, I highly encourage you to step outside of your box every once in awhile and take a session that you don’t think will be a perfect fit, because you just might find something wonderful in the unexpected.
Now it’s time for Laurie Halse Anderson to get mean about revision in Workshop #4
I’ll share a couple of her secrets with you…
*Everything needs to be on the table to be cut or changed–even the main character.
*It doesn’t matter if it REALLY happened. It’s only good if it informs the story.
*It can always be better.
*The fun of reading is the mystery–don’t weigh down it down with too much back story.
*Make the character’s life hard.
*Kids reach for books to find out how other people deal with situations.
*THE GAP-this magical place between the reader and the story. You want to trust the reader enough to let them fill out some of the places on their own.
At dinner, Taylor and I had our very first knitting lesson. It was so much fun when it stopped being confusing LOL!
And this is how I ended…
Megan, Carli, Kim, Stephanie and Taylor
After dinner the lovely Kay Winters talked about THE POWER OF PICTURE BOOKS.
BTW–Guess who had an ARC in the Silent Auction?
ME!!!!! I’m very happy that TOUCHING THE SURFACE could help raise funds for next year’s scholarships. And the auction winner was…
My girl and yarn guru, Carli Bandeira. I really hope she loves it. <3
And just when you think that we’d exhausted our sugar rush from the Sweet Inspirations candy bags with writing prompts…
It’s time for a dance party… Twist and Shout!!! Oh, and Mary–we did Jagger LOL!
Heading back in after checking out of our room and putting our bags in the car, Taylor and I were cruelly reminded (by Megan and Jodi) that we had yet to make it to the table with the morning beverages LOL!
Next I got the chance to hear Deb Heiligman speak some more…
*Writing for children is the most important job in the world.
*When I am writing I recognize myself–I know who I am when I’m writing.
And to finish off the conference there was a FIRST PAGES/FIRST LOOKS Panel that evaluated the first pages of picture book, middle grad and young adult manuscripts in addition to a selection of three illustrations by three of our artists. And of course, because the conference was so wonderful, I can’t help but avoid saying goodbye. Here were some more highlights from the weekend…
Friends sharing their books.
I finally was formally introduced to Carli’s tea duck. He totally quacks me up!
A full circle moment for me–getting to share one of my heroes with someone I love very much. Laurie personally welcomed Taylor into our tribe.
We stand on the shoulders of those who came before us…
Laurie and Taylor. This makes my heart squish.
Laurie signing books for the Fishkill Frogs!
Taylor with knotted yarn barf. ROTFL!
Sara Sargent and I have a very similar chocolate addiction. We bonded. Green & Black’s Organic
Yep, I was totally trying to put Angie in my suitcase. I love this lady.
And speaking of love…
I know it’s a little blurry, but the thing is…I can see it clearly and that is all that matters.
Monday is almost here and I’m more than tired. I stayed up too late talking to my friends all weekend, but very moment was a gift I couldn’t pass up, and speaking of presents…
I’m now the proud owner of my very own Time Turner. It feels good to have it–you never know when you might need it. But for now…
I don’t want to go back and change a thing–it was perfect.
I’m taking questions about the conference or the magic of the Golf Bag Holder. Or you can feel free to chime in about the sheer awesomeness of Laurie Halse Anderson or the SCBWI Eastern PA. Wish you all could have been there.