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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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