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The Extra Perks of Attending a Writers conference

Attending a conference for children’s writers and illustrators has more perks than you might imagine. It’s about talking to people who you know and also to those you don’t know. Here are some of the extra perks that I got when I attended the SCBWI conference in LA that didn’t come from the conference itself.

--was able to put faces to names from the listservs I belong to for children's writers
--re-connected with old friends
--met new friends
--met new and re-connected with other SCBWI members from Indiana
--met the manager of the children’s department of the largest independent bookstore who knew my books without my showing them to her
--met some great people from Japan and Australia and other countries
--shared the flight out to LA with another author/conference attendee who I’d just met, and shared websites to look at and books to read, and made a new friend
--shared a room with two of the best roommates at the conference
--met lots of dog-loving, book-loving people
--met a librarian who also does reviews for SLJ
--met Verla Kay of the Verla Kay message board for children’s writers, and got an informal personal guide to working my way around the message board from her
--met Alice Pope of the Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market book, and now the head of the SCBWI Team Blog
--sat next to an editor who gave me his card after looking at my picture book
--talked with Lin Oliver and Steve Mooser, founders of SCBWI
--got to tour the SCBWI offices
--shared some birthday cake for another author
--got tips on networking and school visits from other authors
--got to see the ocean, the beach, the big city buildings, and the mountains all in one view
--got a head shot, video shoot, and a website consultation
--got more websites to look at
--got tips on holding conferences and events
--got tips on promoting my book from other authors
--was able to purchase books personally autographed by the author or illustrator
--was able to sell and autograph my books along with other PAL published authors on Friday evening
--got a special gift for someone special
--sat in a whirlpool tub and talked about writing
--attended the Heart and Soul celebration with the best costumes ever
--shared illustrations for our books with another author at the airport
--had some great meals that I didn’t have to cook
--met a man from Hawaii at the airport whose wife is a teacher
--enjoyed meeting a woman from Texas and her granddaughter at the hotel when my flight was delayed another day, and shared e-mail information
--met a young lady who was traveling to Ireland on her birthday
--laughed a lot and had fun
--was totally inspired by everyone that I met and saw there

The next time you are trying to decide whether to attend a conference for children's authors and illustrators, keep in mind the perks that are waiting for you along with the information that you'll get from the conference itself.  Read More 
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Brief Words of Wisdom from Keynote Speakers in LA

The Keynote speakers at the SCBWI conference in LA offered lots of information and inspiration for both new and seasoned writers and illustrators for children. I'd like to share a a few words of wisdom that I took with me from their presentations.

Jon Sczieska—Read the best and the worst; learn technique and details; leave room for the illustrator; your mission: be a story-teller.

M.T. Anderson (Tobin Anderson)—“Books take us away from home so that we can see home.” Language is key.

Editor Panel—they read cover letters; they want to know about you along with your writing.

Loren Long, Illustrator—MOOD and EMOTION are key or central, in characters and scenes.

Gordon Korman—“When we are writing for kids we are writing for ourselves.” Get a sense of what a kid thinks is cool; we are kids ouselves, only a little older.

Agents Panel—YA (young adult) is hot, but MG (middle grade) is coming back, including series, and especially MG directed toward boys.

Marion Dane Bauer—we read and write to reach an emotional resolution; our story begins in our own hearts; it’s about struggle; it begins in our neurosis.

E.B. Lewis—“Simplicity makes a book look wonderful.” It’s hard work to make that happen; do your research.

Gail Carson Levine—regarding predictability: we want to enjoy again what we’ve read before; regarding using suspense builders: ‘worries’ are a good way to end a chapter.

Panel on Narrative Nonfiction—go first to primary sources, then check your facts with secondary sources; all NF needs layers, emotion.

Carolyn Mackler—put your characters into situations; there is always an ebb and a flow.

Gennifer Choldenko—use the whole spectrum of feelings; every character is distinct; every detail must work; find the emotional core, feel your way through a story; write for the kid who needs your book.

Rachel Vail—write stories with both humor and heart; have a strong voice; through the laughter we can touch someone; write with compassion.

Paul Fleischman—on organization: the more planning, the less re-write is needed; document your research; read straight through and highlight what you want to go back to; every word and scene should be there for a reason.

Panel of Publishers—Stretch as much as you can; create a good story with good content and good writing; write for what you think is cool and entertain yourself; “If everyone writes for trends, the vampires win”

Ashley Bryant—“Poetry needs performance; there are voices that rise and fall”; poetry has rhythm that will carry or swell; try to bring the words alive, creating music out of words.

There's nothing like being there in person. But I hope you take something away from this post that inspires you.  Read More 
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