Early on Saturday morning, my friend Lynn Colt and I carpooled to the SCBWI MD/DE/WV Conference in Buckeystown, Maryland. (Doesn't Buckeystown sound like such a redneck town? It's actually very pretty!)
We were pretty bleary-eyed and in desperate need of caffeine, but the conference itself was a blast! We listened to great talks, chatted with new friends, gushed over KidLit art, ate way too many muffins, and generally had a wonderful time.
Here's a recap of the day:
8:00 - 8:50AM -- Lynn and I arrive, eat muffins, and chat with Rebecca Evans, an illustrator from Maryland who has an incredible portfolio. I think I'm going to buy her fish print!
8:50 - 9:00AM -- The Conference Coordinator gives us a hearty welcome. When she asks how many people are picture book writers, over half the of the room raises their hands. Yowza!
9:00 - 10:00AM -- Editor Marilyn Brigham of Marshall & Cavendish gives a presentation on how to strengthen our books through word choice.
* Avoid purple prose. (Purple prose is overly detailed, overly dramatic language.)
* Take out adverbs.
* Use the active voice whenever possible.
Around 9:15 -- I head to the bathroom. On my way back, I pass by freaking Rosemary Stimola! I do a little dance in my head. Rosemary Stimola! She represents freaking Suzanne Collins! Squee!
10:00AM - 11:00AM -- Art Director Kristen Nobles of Candlewick Press offers a talk on illustration.
* I'm terrible at drawing.
* Kristen asks us to take out a piece of paper and briefly sketch four illustrations.
* I fail miserably.
11:00AM - 12:00PM -- Breakout session time! Lynn and I decide to go to the YA session led by Author Laura Bowers, who spoke about passion and perseverance.
* Make time to write. Get your butt in the chair!
* It's all in the revisions. Laura mentions that she revised her first novel perhaps 20 times before it was published.
* She also provided some worksheets on character arcs that I found helpful. It's important to ask ourselves questions like, "What does my MC want versus what she needs?" "What does she hate?" "What does she fear?"
12:00PM - 1:20PM -- Luuuuuunch! We feasted on delicious lasagna and met some awesome YA writers at our table.
1:20PM - 2:10PM -- Author Kathi Appelt, winner of the Newbery Honor Award, talks about her writing processes.
* Before the talk starts, every attendee receives Kathi's business card along with a dime. *Scratches head* A dime?
* I really loved this talk. Kathi told us about her process through a series of anecdotes and she is a natural storyteller.
* The best story? Kathi talks about her paternal grandmother who had a penchant for saving dimes. When she asked her grandmother about it, her grandmother said that she would save dimes when she was pregnant during the Depression to save up for the hospital fees. Ever since then, she kept saving dimes to remind her of how much she loved her son.
* Moral of the anecdote? We can find stories in even the most simple of objects.
2:20PM - 3:10PM -- Editor Heather Alexander of Dial Books tells us about the day in the life of an editor.
* I really enjoyed this talk as well because I didn't know much about the whole editing process!
* In short, Heather's day consists of reading manuscripts, going to meetings, drinking tea, going to meetings, and going to more meetings.
* Interestingly, Dial Books does not have acquisition meetings. Instead, Heather will speak to her supervising editor and the president of the imprint if she falls in love with a manuscript.
3:30PM - 4:20PM -- Agent Rosemary Stimola talks about...dun dun dun...query letters!
* Rosemary recounts various query horror stories. Like the ones that are mass emailed to every agent in New York. And like the one she received from a convict. (She actually requested materials!)
* When it comes to queries... Make it smart. Make it short. Make it stand out.
My favorite talk would probably be Kathi Appelt's--she also seems really kind and funny--but my favorite aspect of the conference was the muffins.
No, my favorite part of the day was meeting other KidLit writers. Since writing novels encompasses so much of my life, it's amazing to be able to talk to other people who share my passions and who know where I'm coming from. I wish I could go to a conference every Saturday!
Speaking of conferences, Lynn and I are already plotting ways to go to the next SCBWI MD/DE/WV Conference in July... If you're in the DC area, come join us!