SCBWI Summer Conference Recap, Part 6

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It’s hard to believe the SCBWI Summer Conference is already two weeks behind us. What an incredible experience.

If you’ve missed my previous recap posts, here you go:

  • Part 1 (Bruce Coville, Publisher’s Panel, Libba Bray)
  • Part 2 (Laure Halse Anderson, Emma Dryden)
  • Part 3 (Judy Blume, Oceanhouse Media, Jon Scieszka)
  • Part 4 (Norton Juster, Beverly Horowitz, Mary Pope Osborne)
  • Part 5 (Agent’s Panel, Gary Paulsen)

Here are the final two sessions I’ll be recapping. As always, thanks for reading. :)

From Bruce Coville’s “At the Intersection of Plot and Character: The Place Where Stories Happen”:

How awesome to get to hear Bruce Coville speak twice at this year’s conference. I took more notes during this session than any other. He had so many practical and inspiring things to say. Here are some of the gems:

  • The sweet spot for a book is in this center between plot and character; compelling characters in amazing plots
  • Every generation wants a good story well told
  • The perfect ending is both a surprise and inevitable, but never a coincidence
  • Character is plot and plot reveals character; how can you care what happens if you don’t who it happens to?
  • Good plotting is the art of choosing details, asking why-why-why until you get to the fresh ideas
  • Ask how rotten you can make life for the character
  • Answer by writing scenes
  • Make your character face a tough choice, moral decision; readers identify with someone forced to make a difficult choice
  • Characters must have an agenda, inconsistencies and exist in a matrix of relationships
  • Plot is weaving a series of actions to bring threads of the story together in a non-random and most satisfactory way; who wants what and why can’t he have it?

Bruce’s advice to writers is to take risks. If you aren’t risking, you’re not writing. Gamble every time you write. If you aren’t at risk of crashing, you haven’t jumped.

From Laurie Halse Anderson’s “Daring the Universe”:

Laurie started off her keynote quoting T.S. Eliot’s Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock. “Do I dare disturb the universe?” Art, she said, disturbs the universe, and living our dreams is revolutionary.

She could have stopped right there. I was sold. But she had so much more to say:

  • The artist’s job is to disturb
  • We are world shakers
  • The seed of art in your soul spins and keeps you discontent until you submit
  • If you don’t jump, the wings never come
  • The creative life demands discipline; it’s hard
  • Writing forces you to be alive and being alive can hurt
  • To stop writing is to succumb to despair, death of the spirit
  • Exercise control over self; discipline creates order
  • Be kind to your muse; she deserves love and care

Laurie ended her speech — and the conference — with a call to action: Take the revolution to the next place. Our children need us to tell the story of truth.

Thank you, SCBWI, for another amazing conference. And thank you for all you do to support those of us who create stories for children. Congratulations on 40 years. I wish you 40+ more.

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