Posts Tagged ‘WHEN A DRAGON MOVES IN by Jodi Moore’




Brand New Booktrailer–WHEN A DRAGON MOVES IN by Jodi Moore

Filed under: Check-it-out

This is one of my all-time favorite picture books. <310246290

And now, WHEN A DRAGON MOVES IN by Jodi Moore, has a brand new book trailer…


What do you think, is the dragon real?

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SCBWI Eastern PA Pocono Mt. Retreat 2012

Filed under: Conferences, SCBWI, Touching the Surface, Writing, YA Books, Young Adult (YA)

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

Here is some of my favorite nuggets from Amy…
*If you wish to be pretty, please be more honest with yourself.”
*One person is a portrait, more is a story.
*Dynamic bodies captured in gestures tell stories.
Later in the evening we had Sweets, Swaps and Shirts. This is where you wear a fun T-shirt (conversation starter), sway books and eat candy. I brought some of my favorite Simon Pulse books to share. I loved sharing these wonderful authors with my friends.


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*

Next up I had the pleasure of having a second Workshop session with the lovely Sara Sargent. 

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!

This is how I started…

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.

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The Bermuda Triangle Stole My Blog Post

Filed under: Blogging, Copy Edits

I was in the Bermuda Triangle of blogs posts this morning!!!!  Grrrr.  I had internet service, but for some reason, my blog page refused–absolutely refused to open–no matter what I did.  I was reluctant to shut the whole computer down, even though I suspected I needed to.  It’s just that I tend to have at least thirteen partially completed things pulled up and active at any given time.  I’m afraid of losing track of them in the shut down.  Finally I gave up, put them all on my dashboard, and did a restart.  It worked, but now it’s sooooo late I’m loath to post my planned Teen Seen interview.  It’s really wonderful, so I think I’m going to save it until Monday.

Hmmmm so how shall I entertain you now?  *eyes pile of edits and glances at watch*  I won’t, but I’ll share an exciting piece of news that I just found out about.  If you want to meet my favorite dragon and the amazing Jodi Moore, here’s your chance…

Off too edit.  *smooch*  Teen Seen on Monday!  Also, if you have any specific topics you’re interested in hearing more about in future blog posts, or have any questions I can try to answer, feel free to ask away.  Have a great weekend.

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SCBWI LA 40th Anniversary Conference-Part 4

Filed under: Conferences, SCBWI

Imagine it’s Saturday, the second day of the SCBWI LA Conference.  You are up at 7am and you’ve freaked out your roommate by Face-Timing your family on the computer while she’s in the shower.  (She thought you invited a gaggle of really loud people into the room and figured she might have to dash out and say hi in her underwear.)  All is forgiven when your kids see her (fully clothed) and run to grab her debut picture book, WHEN A DRAGON MOVES IN. Impressively, they can put their hands on the book in less than 30 seconds, making your roommate very, very happy.  *grin*  You don’t even have to buy her a make-up cake-pop.   You cyber kiss your kids and pray for your hubby who is road tripping to New York City with the rug rats to “do stuff”.  You and your roommie head out the door when you realize that you’ve got a phone message on the room phone.  Popular roommate is being sought by the goddess of the Blue Boards, Verla Kay.  Off we go…

Jodi Moore, her Dragon and Verla Kay for a mini book signing.
And guess who Verla’s roommie is?  Linda Jo Singleton!!!
Verla and Kim <3
But the clock is ticking and its time to find your coffee (which out of desperation has changed from decaf to half reg/half decaf) and something yummy to snack on.
This is the point in the morning that you realize you just left your camera in Verla’s room. *head thunk* So you run, passing Richard Peck (blowing kisses) as you leap into an elevator and hope you’re not too late.  Verla is walking down the hall and you wave your arms and she pulls your camera out of her bag.  Like a lightning bolt, it all becomes very clear.  There is no way in hell that you will ever be able to host a discussion board.  Not gonna happen.  You’ve discovered your social media limits and it feels good.  You hug Verla (because she’s cool that way) and slide into the Starbucks line just in time to meet another cyber friend…
Kim and Debbie Ohi!!!!!
And FINALLY, coffee and bagel.  

If, and only if, you can visualize this, will you be ready to have the full Saturday morning conference experience.  Let’s roll!


For the record, next time the Wall Street Journal wants to write about YA books being too dark, I’m going to gift wrap the brilliant Donna Jo Napoli and send her to them.  Donna Jo laid out a brilliant response to those people who do not understand why we must write about terrible things.

First she talked about the Unprotected Children in the world.  They are…
     -The children who are loved by their parents, but are abused by society.
     -The children who are abused by their parents.

She said that children who are unprotected are isolated with the abuse.  They do not go out and share the horrors of their life with others.  They are alone.  But they are able to find a like person that they can relate to in a book.

Most kids don’t have the power to change their world.  They do not have control over their situation.  To read about someone who survived the same things that they are going through, with dignity, can help a child to survive too.

Secondly, she spoke of the Protected Children. These children, must learn empathy for the rest of the people in the world and the safest way for them to do that is in the pages of a book.

I’m going to stop here because I think this is important.  The next two speakers coming up are equally as powerful and I want you to have the time to really think about this.  I’m still mulling it over a week+ later.  I don’t know about you, but for me this is bigger than just writing books.  It is about saving lives and changing the world we live in.  As Bruce Coville said earlier, “We love our children individually, but we have a hard time showing it collectively.”  So often my hands are tied and my ability to impact change is ineffective, but there are two ways that I know I can make a difference.

First, I can write books that respect and support Unprotected Children.  I will not censor my heart and soul.  Those kids deserve better than that.  Secondly, I can choose to raise my Protected Children with empathy.  At the very least, they will meet these Unprotected Children in the pages of a book.  They will learn how lucky they are and how big their hearts must grow.   I want them to learn that we can not live in isolation and blindness.  I want them to begin to see that we are better off dealing with the struggles of growth than the hurdles of ignorance.

I urge each and every one of you to share Bruce Coville’s and Donna Jo Napoli’s message with as many people as you can.  It is time to make a change.

First up on Friday–David Small.

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Book Birthday – Jodi Moore WHEN A DRAGON MOVES IN

Filed under: Uncategorized

Happy Birthday to you…Cha, Cha, Cha!!!!  Yesterday was a wonderful day for one of my best friends and writing buddies, Jodi Moore, author of WHEN A DRAGON MOVES IN.

“If you build a perfect sandcastle, a dragon will move in.
And that’s exactly what happens to one very lucky boy at the beach. Mom is busy sunbathing and Dad is busy with his book, so the boy and dragon roam the beach together, flying a kite, braving the waves, and roasting marshmallows.
But no one believes him when he shares the news of his magnificent dragon: Mom only hears the roar of the ocean, Dad thinks the dragon feather is a seagull feather, and know-it-all sis claims there’s no such thing as a dragon.
That’s when the sandwiches mysteriously disappear, claw prints are found in the brownies, and dragon-giggles erupt from the strangest of places. Heh-heh-heh.”

                                                                                                                                         Flashlight Press

And if you haven’t heard the good news…WHEN A DRAGON MOVES IN has been chosen to appear on the SUMMER 2011 KIDS’ INDIE NEXT LIST (Inspired Recommendations for Kids From Indie Booksellers)  Woot!!!!!!

As you can imagine Jodi and her Dragon are very excited.  They aren’t the only ones.  My boys had the privilege of being BETA readers for Jodi, so they’ve been in love with Dragon for a very long time.  Would you like to know what they think?

“It’s interesting because it’s a mix between fairy tale and reality.”
                                        The 10 year old

“I love that the main character is a dragon and oh-oh-oh did you know that Dragon is in the school library now???”
                                         The 8 year old

 I think I may know how that Dragon snuck into school…*wink, wink*


“I love that at the end, when he made the big giant sand castle…all the dragons started marching in.  That’s my favorite.”
                                           The 5 and 3/4 year old

Where can you get your very own Dragon?

Barnes & Noble


Your Local Book Store

Independent Publishers Group (IPG)

But hurry because if you NEED to have a Dragon NOW–I’ve heard of several bookstores that have already sold out.  And if your lucky enough to get a Dragon to move in–Jodi has a signed book plate that she can send you.

If you’d like to keep track of all the trouble fun a dragon can get into, you can help Jodi keep an eye on him on Facebook, Goodreads and Twitter.  You can also read her blog, find out about author visits and a whole bunch more on her web site Writer Jodi Moore.

If you get a Dragon, don’t forget to come back and tell me all about him!!!!!

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Eastern PA SCBWI Pocono Mountain Retreat 2011 – Part 3

Filed under: Uncategorized

We’ve established that I’m t-i-r-e-d…so I won’t belabor the point.  Instead I’ll focus on the omelette station.  Honestly I have to focus really hard because omelette is one of those words that never “looks” right when I start typing it.  But I’m blabbering.  I do that when I’m t-i-r-e-d.  Anyway, I love a good omelette station and Sunday morning I knew that there was one is in my near future-BRUNCH!  I also knew this because the staff of the SCBWI Eastern PA are like conference fairy godmothers.  But in the meantime, while I waited for my yummy omelette, I grabbed a coffee and a cinnamon muffin the size of my head and I was all set to listen to Lee Harper. 

The Sabatini house is full of Lee Harper Fans.  We fell in love with his illustrations for Leslie Helakoski’s WOOLBUR.  Lee’s forthcoming picture book, in which he is also the author, looks fantastic!  THE EMPEROR’S COOL CLOTHES.

Lee reminded us that writers and illustrators really aren’t that different, we both look to the world around us for inspiration and we both have to practice our craft in order to become good at it.  He also wisely noted that sometimes the work we do for children is just meant to make them laugh.

Time for a little Editor and Agent Q&A…

From left to right…
1.  Liesa Abrams-Executive Editor at Alladin, an imprint of Simon & Schuster.
2.  Ruta Rimas-Assistant Editor, Balzer +Bray, Harper Collins Children’s Books.
3.  Dianne Hess-Executive Editor of Scholastic Press.
4.  Joan Slattery-Literary Agent, Pippin Properites.
5.  Robert Agis-Associate Editor at Sterling Children’s Books.
6.  Jennifer Rofe-Literary Agent, Andrea Brown.
7.  John Rudolph-Literary Agent, Dystel & Goderich Literary Management.

In addition to answering questions posed by the audience, they were the panel judging First Pages, which is a look at the very first page of 3 picture books, middle grade and young adult manuscripts.  Hearing how everyone responded to an anonymous first page of material was a very helpful experience.  I was a reader for the three middle grade pieces, which explains why I wasn’t taking the best notes throughout the Editor/Agent session.  *grin*

In addition, there was also an illustrator’s First Look session.  Lee Harper judged it along with Alison Impey. Alison is an award winning designer, currently Senior Designer at Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.  I had a chance to really hang out with Alison over the course of the conference and she’s wonderful. Curiosity got the best of me and I plied her with millions of questions about her job and I found it fascinating. If I was an illustrator, I would LOVE to work with her.  Alas…that will never happen, so we will just be conference buddies.

OMELETTE STATION!!!!!  Yes, I should have taken a picture, it last longer.  But since I didn’t I now need to interrupt the writing of this blog and go make my own breakfast.  But wait– before I go–it’s a quick trip back to the Golf Bag Holder…

Jodi Moore and I make a pilgrimage back to the Golf Bag Holder every year.  This is the official site of where we became friends and critique partners.  Perhaps it was our 1 yard line.  If you’re not familiar with the 1 yard line–Donna Gephart talked about it in her presentation.  She said that at those moments we’re tempted to give up, we just may be standing on the 1 yard line–so close to our goal.

Our first Poconos Conference was shortly after my father-in-law passed away.  I’d signed up for a critique session and never managed to get my pages out on time.  I was kicking myself.  I’d let myself miss an opportunity and all I could picture was my future editor or agent never meeting me because I’d missed my chance.  I tend to be a little bit hard on myself sometimes.  *grin*  Jodi also didn’t have a critique, so we decided to spend the down time working together and reading each other’s manuscripts.  We both wrote picture books and young adult and just happened to have our YA’s with us.  All the comfy couches were taken and the weather was cold and rainy so we decided that this really uncomfortable bench was going to be our little crit corner.

Jodi told me that I was the very first person to ever lay eyes on her novel.  I think that’s a very special thing. She also told me something else…she’d been writing picture books since her boys were little and she just wasn’t sure if this was ever going to work out for her.  I think she might have been on that 1 yard line.  As we later learned she was also in a Golf Bag Holder.  *grin*

I recommend that everyone spend some time in the Golf Bag Holder.  We really do go back and sit in it, but if you can’t make it to the Shawnee Inn in the Poconos, that’s okay.  I’m talking figuratively.  When you’re in a hard and uncomfortable place in your writing, don’t be afraid to share that with someone.  Sit there and tell the truth and speak your fears, because you will find that we all have them.  You’re not all alone–out on the 1 yard line.   And like me, you just might figure that out the most important thing of all…

If given a choice between having the book and having the friend–I’d pick the friend EVERY time.

And the cool thing is that I know that she would too.  *heart squish*

What’s the best thing that ever happened to you at a conference?

P.S. Because it took me so long to get my post completed today I can now jump up and down and say that Jodi and I are officially heading out to the LA SCBWI Conference in August…do you think they have a Golf Bag Holder?

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Eastern PA SCBWI Pocono Mountain Retreat 2011 – Part 2

Filed under: Conferences, Touching the Surface

 When we last left off I was tired.  Really, really tired because I’m a blabber mouth and can’t stop talking to my writer peeps.  *sigh*  So after a really yummy breakfast (BTW I really enjoy this whole “people cooking all my meals for me thing) and a little dash big dollop of regular coffee in my decaf, I was ready to kick off a full day of conference done Poconos style!

Have you met Donna Gephart?  If you haven’t then you need to.  She’s amazing!  Her talk was called Six Reasons to Quit Writing (and One Important Reason Not to).

I think you’re probably familiar with these…

1.  It takes to long to be successful.
2.  I’m not good enough.
3.  There’s not enough time to write.
4.  You’re afraid that you’ll fail.
5.  Rejections are too painful.
6.  Someone tells you you shouldn’t write.

Yup, that’s a BIG, FAT YES to all six.  We’ve hung out together before.

But why do I love Donna Gephart so much?  She made me cry.  Her journey touched me and her honesty moved me even more.  I won’t give away her secrets, but here’s what she would want you to know…

*Like the characters we create, writers struggle with internal and external obstacles.  Just know that no one can stop you if you want it bad enough.

So proud to be a part of her tribe.  *heart squish*

Workshop Time!!!!

Two more amazing revision workshop sessions with Suzanne Morgan Williams.

#2-The Solid Structure and #3-The Considered Details.  I especially enjoy any activity where I get to play with colored markers AND learn how to revise better!!!!

After lunch I had workshop #4- The Publisher’s Process: From Submission to Finished Book with Robert Agis (Associate Editor at Sterling Children’s Books).  Once again I was having too much fun to take a picture.  Really I mean it–this is one funny editor, but don’t let his humor fool you.  He’s very knowledgable in his field and kind enough to share that information in a way that everyone can benefit.

At this point in the day (3:10-5:30) I was usually on line, heart pounding in chest, waiting to sit down for my paid critique.  Since I didn’t have one this year and the weather was beautiful–I went for a run.  *grin*  Kind of a neat way to process everything in my head.  Squeezed in 5.5 miles and still had time to hang out on the porch and wash the stink off of me in time for dinner.

After dinner, the Silent Auction/Raffle kicked butt and raised over $3,000.00 with half going to the SCBWI Japan Chapter.  The money that is raised for PA goes to providing scholarships to next year’s conference. The auction ladies rock and I’m not just saying that because they had a basket of Charm’s Blow Pops for the folks who donated–although it did increase the odds that I would give them a shout out. *grin*

So, you’d figure after a late night on Friday, I’d be curled up in a corner, snoring to beat the band.  We’ll I might have been if I hadn’t been hanging out with this fantastic group of people…

Shhhh Don’t tell anyone I did Bunny Ears.  Anyway, this fabulous group of friends threw a little party to celebrate Jodi Moore’s debut picture book WHEN A DRAGON MOVES IN and the sale of my first YA novel TOUCHING THE SURFACE.  They baked yummy things, had little inspirational presents and made us feel loved, special and proud to be a part of something so wonderful–a tribe.

You might imagine that I finally went to bed, sleepy and content–and I did–just hours later.  It was my last night to curl up in a stack of pillows and whisper and laugh with my roommate Jodi, but that’s what happens when a Dragon moves into your heart.

My sincerest thanks to my tribe…

Do you have a tribe moment you’d like to share?

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Eastern PA SCBWI Pocono Mountain Retreat 2011 – Part 1

Filed under: Conferences

I’m back from a FANTASTIC time at the Eastern PA SCBWI Pocono Mountain Retreat.  The first speaker of the evening was Donna Jo Napoli.

Donna Jo started off by letting us know she had 14 years of rejection under her belt.  In addition to reminding us to hang in there and keep writing, she had other sage bits of advice…

* When at a conference-grow big ears and listen to what agents, editors and authors have to say.  They are sharing what has taken them years to learn.

*Writing fiction is like walking into a room naked while everyone else is dressed-you have to start exposing yourself.  (figuratively of course)

*The reader may be off base about what you’ve written, but they are never wrong.  Listen to what they have to say.

*Write for yourself and be sure to enjoy every step of the journey.

*If you don’t care about it, don’t write it.

New to the Poconos format, we had our first Workshop session on Friday and then headed off for a yummy Shawnee Inn dinner.  But before I stuffed myself, I had a very special moment…

I was there when my amazing critique partner Jodi Moore, introduced her “baby” to her friends and fans…

Jodi sold out of her copies of When a Dragon Moves In in record time, but you can get your copy at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and your Indie Bookstore.  You’re going to LOVE this book!!!

I was also very happy to welcome someone new into the SCBWI family…

Tommy Jarrett from my local SCBWI had a great time at his first conference.  You can check out more of his art work at Jarrett Studios.

After diner we got to hear from the amazing Suzanne Morgan Williams.

Suzanne’s talk was–Caution: Write at Your Own Risk.  She used her own personal journey about writing her YA novel Bull Rider to show us how writing comes from the inside out.

Then it was T-shirt night with Nachos and Networking!!!!  I was having so much fun talking to everyone that I didn’t even take a picture.  Opps!

I’d like to say that after a good night’s sleep I was well rested for a jam packed day, but the truth–I was up until the wee hours, hanging out with old friends and making new ones.  Did I fall asleep in my cheese danish?  You’re going to have to wait until my next post to find out if I was snoozing on Saturday.

If you’ve never been to a conference before, let me know if you have any questions.

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The 2011 NY SCBWI Conference – Part 3

Filed under: Conferences, SCBWI, Touching the Surface, Writing

I’ll admit it…it was tough getting up on Sunday morning. I stayed up until about 2:30 am talking with my roommate Jodi Moore.  She’s just launched her web site and her very first picture book,  WHEN A DRAGON MOVES IN, will be out May 1st.  We had plenty to talk about.  *squee*

After dragging our luggage to the lobby to be checked, we headed to the ballroom-wanting to make sure we had great seats for the morning’s first keynote speaker, Sara Zarr.

But before she came out, we got to see the award winning art of our amazing illustrators.  Everyone’s work was spectacular and make sure you check out Showcase Winner, Leeza Hernandez’s web site.

We also gave a nod to the wonderful SCBWI Team Blog.  If you want to know anything at all about what happened at the conference stop by The Official SCBWI Conference Blog.  You’ll feel as if you were right there.  Equally as hard-working and fantastic is the staff at SCBWI…

*insert applause*

All right, now we can get back to Sara Zarr.  I promise-you don’t want to miss this.  It was special…

This is a hard speech to write about.  I’ve refrained from reading any post on the topic because I thought it would be best if I captured my feelings from my perspective.  When I critique a MS, I always jot down whatever comes to mind along the way.  I want to give the writer, the experience of how I reacted as a reader-I think that’s valuable.  The same is true with my response to the keynote.  Sara’s words, without a doubt, affected everyone in the room who listened.  I can’t tell you what they discovered, but I can tell you what they meant to me…

Standing at the podium was a very emotional experience for Sara.  One of those full circle moments when you find yourself standing at the end of something and the beginning of something else.  After 5 years of writing, Sara came to the NY SCBWI Conference as an attendee.  She came angry and frustrated.  She was hoping to figure out the system, network, find the answers.  

What she found out was that 5 years of writing just wasn’t enough, her agent wasn’t the right agent and she found herself back at square one.  She returned home and did all those things that she thought would finally make her enough.  She returned to the NY SCBWI Conference in 2005.  I was one of the worst experiences she’s ever had.  She left her purse hanging on the back of her chair and lost it.  She wondered if being kicked when you’re was down is a sign.  

We’ve all been there.  My baby is called TOUCHING THE SURFACE and it goes something like this…

Life-altering mistakes are meant to alter lives.

At seventeen, Elliot Turner feels like she’s a failure in life and in the afterlife.  She’s died for the third time and until she can remember her past and figure out the growth plan for her soul, she’s stuck at the Obmil Center for Progression…

At a NY Conference a couple years ago I waited in line for two hours to pitch my book to a very wonderful agent who was volunteering his time.  He looked at me and said…"Dead girls are out, I’d put that in a drawer for at least a decade and forget about it.  What else have you got?"  

I had nothing.  Damn.  

I’m not sure what made Sara, once again back at square one, keep going but I’m glad she did.  Just the way I’m glad that I’ve kept going.  For me, it’s always been the speeches, made by someone who used to be standing where I am.   Other people’s journeys and wisdom keep me going when I find myself back at that lonely little square.  I’m addicted to the feeling that the people in the room genuinely care, whether they’re in the seat next to me or on the stage.  

Sara, after getting misty eyed with awe at where she was standing and what it took to get her there, announced the following…

She was going to give the speech she needed to hear when she was the one sitting in the audience.  

I believe that giving that speech was an amazing act of courage.  I want to share it with you, but I can’t duplicate her humor, or effectively illustrate her ability to look within and portray herself honestly.  What I can tell you, was that sitting and listening to her made me feel less alone.  My neurosis had company.  

So I will share with you the many things she said that resonated with me, but understand that bullets, no matter how witty or insightful, can not take the place of the things that sat between the words.  It was an honor to have been there.

*The time between when you’re a beginner, but before you are a professional is one of the hardest in your life.

*If you’re blessed with mental health…lucky you!  LOL!

*Creative people do it for life-there is no end game.

*We need other people.

*Only other creative people get it when it comes to the joys and struggles of your work.

*It takes a tremendous amount of faith to live a creative life.  We have faith that all the good stories haven’t been used up by other artists.

*We have unsustainable habits: It’s not practical to be typing with one hand in a bowl of M&M’s. *giggle*

*Is understanding the business side of writing important? Hell yes-but you need to know the value of that on your life.

*Do things that take your mind off yourself-writing is a solitary business.

*You can start to believe in your rejections more than you believe in your capacity to learn and grow.

*At the end of the day-what do you want to create?   Relationships.

I know I feel as if I made a friend…thank you Sara.

No act stood a chance of following the standing ovation that Sara received…except this one.  Now it was time to laugh.  

Look Who’s Laughing: How to Do Funny for Young Readers and Why.

*Mo Willems
*Lenore Look
*Marvin Terban

Moderator-Leonard Marcus

I wish I could share all the wit and wisdom but I took bad notes.  I didn’t want to interrupt the laughing.  I was having too much fun.    Near the end, Mo said…The fundamental difference between kids and adults is that the kids are shorter.   I have to agree…we know they both love to laugh.

I’ve had the good fortune of hearing Linda Sue Park speak at my local Eastern NY SCBWI Conference.  She was amazing.  I knew what I was getting ahead of time and I still wanted to run up and hug her after she was done speaking. She talked about CONFIDENCE…

*Where things get stressful is in between-the area where you want something, but don’t know if you have the goods.

*Don’t believe in yourself, believe in the work.

*If you read a lot, you begin to build a mental standard in your head-it gives you a vast store house of stuff to compare to.

*How long does anyone spend to be a professional/master at anything?  You have to invest a whole lot of time to get good at anything.  The training for writing is reading.

*The thing about NOT believing in yourself…is that there are so many opportunities.

*If you’re NOT afraid of a challenge-that is NOT courage-it’s a malfunction in your brain chemistry.  Courage is what happens when you’re afraid.

*You never love a book the way you do when you’re a child.

*(After a young boy told Linda Sue that he had read her book 62 times) I try to make every sentence I write worth reading 62 times.  *heart squish*

Yes, my friends-she too got a standing ovation and it was well deserved.  I swear I could have floated out of that room when everything was over.  I was so pumped I didn’t even mind the line for the autograph party…

I needed to get all the way down to that far door before I could get in the "real" line.  Who cares-I had plenty to think about on line.

Elephant and Piggy…opps…I mean Mo and Me LOL!

Linda Sue Park…focused on the work.  Awesome!

Sara and Me…new friend and inspiration. 

Conference over.  Well almost…

There is something to be said about daydreaming while having a really good egg, ham and cheese sandwich as you’re sitting on the floor of Grand Central Station.  It’s as good a place as any to realize that someday is the very best place for your train to be heading…

So tell me…who inspires you?

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Great News for friend and fellow writer Jodi Moore. Her picture book WHEN A DRAGON MOVES IN has been picked up by Flashlight Press!!! I am so excited for her and hope to document a little bit of her journey to publication. You can also find Jodi Moore on Facebook. She is also JustJodi on the Verla Kay Blue Boards and from time to time, in April at the Eastern PA Poconos Mountain Retreat, you can find her in the golf bag holder!


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