Writers Resources

SCBWI Summer Conference Recap, Part 5

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If you’ve been reading my SCBWI Summer Conference recap posts, thank you. If you haven’t, here’s the fine print: out of respect for the SCBWI, I’m only sharing the highlights from my notes. You can read the previous recap posts here.

From “4 Agents View the Current State of Children’s Books”:

Tracey Adams, Barry Goldblatt, Marcia Wernick and Tina Wexler gave the agents’ perspective on the industry to a group of groggy writers who’d been partying into the wee hours Saturday night. Somehow I managed to take some decent notes.

  • Sometimes they love a book but have to put it on the back burner and sell something else first
  • Don’t be focused on one project; when you finish one, get busy on the next
  • Think long-term
  • You should be getting better with every book
  • To get to the next level, write at the next level
  • Don’t compete with anyone but yourself

From Gary Paulsen’s “A Writer’s Upside-Down Life”:

When Gary Paulsen started giving his keynote address, I thought what he was telling us was too incredible to be true. But as I listened, I realized what he was telling us was too incredible not to be true. And many times while hearing him speak, I wanted nothing more than to give him a hug. The man has had an unbelievable life. And it was a privilege to hear him speak.

My favorite quote from his talk was this, in regard to moose:

“They’re just mean. They’re the Charles Manson of the animal family.”

Mr. Paulsen has had not one, but two teeth kicked out by moose. Unbelievable.

Toward the end of his talk, he gave rapid-fire advice for writing and for life in general. Here’s what he said:

  • Do your best ideas
  • Don’t write down to your audience
  • Kill your television
  • Read like a wolf eats
  • Read what they tell you not to read
  • Read all of the time
  • There’s a need for more stories, especially for kids

Read like the wolf eats. I love that.

Final recap post on Friday. Thanks for reading.


SCBWI Summer Conference Recap, Part 3

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Hello and welcome to part three of my SCBWI Summer Conference recap. Here are parts one and two, in case you missed them.

From Judy Blume’s Conversation with Lin Oliver:



Hearing Judy Blume speak about writing was the ultimate pinch-me moment of this conference. She was a special surprise guest speaker this year. From the reaction of the 1300+ authors/illustrators in the audience, you’d think we’d all reverted back to pre-teens at a boy band concert. I don’t know about the others in attendance, but I kept slipping into this quasi-dream-sequence space where this voice in my head whispered, “That’s really her. That’s Judy Blume. That woman shaped part of your childhood. Her words became part of who you are today.” Let me just say, she was beautiful and elegant and eloquent and it was truly a delight to listen to her. Thank you, SCBWI, for inviting her to speak.

Through the fangirl haze, I managed to learn from what she shared. And I’ll share some of the highlights here with you.

  • Children are the same as they were back when; technology may change, but people don’t change.
  • Getting a draft done all the way through before editing is how she prefers to work.
  • She’s a terrible first drafter, but loves revising.
  • When she starts a story, she knows where to start and knows where it will end, but she knows nothing in between.
  • It’s best to start a story on the day when something different happens.
  • The stuff that’s going to reach your readers is the stuff that comes from deep inside.
  • Writers must identify with their audience if they want the work to connect.
  • When she was rejected, she’d say, “They may not have liked that one, but wait until they see what I’m writing now.” That kept her going.
  • Everyone needs someone to support them.
  • Get the censor off your shoulder when you write.
  • Write the way you think it should be and figure it out later.

From Michel Kripalani’s “From Book to E-Book App: A Case Study”:

Michel of Oceanhouse Media shared so much info in this breakout session my hand cramped. I went into the breakout expecting it to be an hour-long commercial for his company, and was so grateful when it wasn’t. Here is some of the advice Michel offered to those considering getting into the e-book app market:

  • Be prepared to enter a competitive, fast-moving industry
  • The experience of your team is critical
  • Understand exactly what you’re trying to accomplish before investing
  • Understand pricing models and how they work
  • Consider all options for your digital rights
  • Understand all of the platforms available
  • Be prepared to think outside the box
  • Remember the old rules do not apply

From Jon Scieszka’s “The Myriad of Possibilities of Form, Style and Genre”:

If you ever get the chance to hear him speak, go. He’s hilarious, but also insightful. In this keynote, he walked us through his history as a writer, starting waaaay back when he was a kid. He shared with us all of the different forms his work has taken (books, comics, etc.). I was laughing and enjoying his storytelling so much, I didn’t take a ton of notes, but I did jot down these gems:

  • The one thing he learned in his MFA program was not to listen to people.
  • When he set out to write his first book, he brought to it everything he loved.
  • He shaped his career on the things he loves (comics, history, etc.).
  • Preschoolers are like Alzheimer’s patients on acid; to them everything is new and freaky.
  • You need to love the book you’re writing because you’re going to be with it a long time.

More recapping next week, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. 🙂

SCBWI Summer Conference Recap, Part 2

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I’m spending the next week or reviewing my notes from the SCBWI Summer Conference. As I stated in my previous post, I took a notebook’s worth of notes, but out of respect for the SCBWI, I’m only sharing the highlights from the sessions here.

Today’s lineup: Laurie Halse Anderson and Emma Dryden.

From Laurie Halse Anderson’s breakout session, ” The Nuts and Bolts of Crafting a Creative Life: Finding Lost Time and Reclaiming Creativity”:

  • 24 hours a day is more than enough time to meet the demands of life and do your creative work
  • The universe wants you to be creative
  • Change causes discomfort, but discomfort won’t kill you
  • You have the intelligence and desire to regain your creativity and lost time; it’s just scary to do so
  • You have more control over how you spend your precious time and energy than you want to admit

Laurie pulled no punches in this session. She made it clear what a person must be willing to do to lead a creative life. She dispelled the myths writers buy into that keep us from believing we can do this writing thing. And she provided examples and exercises for determining what we each need to change to reclaim our time and creativity. Her number one message for creative people was to turn off the internet and television. Make that sacrifice for the sake of your creativity. She encouraged writers to feast on art and protect our work spaces. She also warned against self-sabotage, quoting Faulkner: “Don’t be a writer. Be writing.”

From Emma Dryden’s “Traveling Through the Digital Landscape: Where We’ve Been and Where We’re Headed”:

Emma gave a detailed and comprehensive history of how technology has impacted the publishing industry. She laid all of the events out for everyone to see, from the unveiling of the first Kindle to the demise of Borders. She explained how each event affected the industry, providing statistics and facts. It was eye-opening and (I thought) refreshing to have someone talk open and honestly about the big ol’ digital elephant in the room.

Some points I found particularly interesting and worth noting include:

  • Story still and always will matter most
  • Ebooks are expanding the marketplace
  • If the enhancements in an enhanced ebook don’t really enhance the experience, then they’re not worth the investment
  • Authors must negotiate their digital rights
  • It pays to be flexible and on time in this changing landscape
  • Indie bookstores have an opportunity to reinvent themselves
  • Experimentation leads to progress
  • Consumers are demanding more choices and want more personalization and customization
  • Authors still need to write the best content possible
  • What still matters as the landscape changes: literacy, imagination, human connection

More highlights on Friday. 🙂

What Are You Waiting For?

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It happened again the other night. I’d made a new acquaintance, and in the course of our chatting, the subject of writing came up.

“I have an idea for a story,” she said. “I’ve even written some of it.”

“Why don’t you finish it?”

“Yeah, I should. I will. Someday.”


On Monday, a fellow writer and friend of mine passed away after a very brief battle with cancer. Her death was sudden. Shocking. My first thought on hearing the news was, “How is this possible?” My second thought was, “She never finished her novels.”

To my knowledge, she’d written three, but never completed them. I don’t know why, but I suspect it had something to do with Someday.

Not long ago, Laurie Young wrote a guest post at The Parking Lot Confessional called Writing Scared. Please read it. Laurie put a lot of wisdom into that post, wisdom that has hit home for me this week.

Yeah. Writing scares me. Well, not so much the writing part as the sending-out-for-others-to-read part.

But dammit, I don’t want to leave this earth not having tried.

I’ll resist the temptation to post the “carpe diem” clip from Dead Poets Society. But can you stomach a few quotes?

How do these strike you?

To always be intending to live a new life, but never find time to set about it – this is as if a man should put off eating and drinking from one day to another till he be starved and destroyed.  ~Walter Scott

Waiting for the fish to bite or waiting for wind to fly a kite.  Or waiting around for Friday night or waiting perhaps for their Uncle Jake or a pot to boil or a better break or a string of pearls or a pair of pants or a wig with curls or another chance.  Everyone is just waiting.  ~Dr. Seuss

As you grow older, you’ll find the only things you regret are the things you didn’t do.  ~Zachary Scott

For a long time it had seemed to me that life was about to begin – real life.  But there was always some obstacle in the way.  Something to be got through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, a debt to be paid.  Then life would begin.  At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life.  ~Fr. Alfred D’Souza

You will never find time for anything.  If you want time you must make it.  ~Charles Buxton

Many people die with their music still in them.  Why is this so?  Too often it is because they are always getting ready to live.  Before they know it, time runs out.  ~Oliver Wendell Holmes

Fear not that life shall come to an end, but rather fear that it shall never have a beginning.  ~John Henry Cardinal Newman

And this one for my friend Derek:

Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans. ~ John Lennon

At the end of my philosophical gnawing, all I’m left with is a question. A simple question that breaks the legs out from under all of my excuses. It’s a question I pose to you here in all seriousness.

What are you waiting for?

Just Write

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Have you promised yourself this is the year you finally write your novel?

And are you sitting there wondering how exactly you go about writing the novel you’ve promised yourself you’re finally going to write?

Have you bought books about how to write your novel?

Are you googling in hopes of finding the right resources to get you started writing your novel?

Are you reading blog posts from others writers to learn how to write your novel?

Are you putting off writing your novel because you’re doing “research”?

I’ve done all of those things. I have a lot of writing books. And I read a lot of blogs about writing. I’ve gone to conferences and seminars and workshops and classes.

There’s only one thing you need in order to finally write your novel this year.

You need to write.

So go.

Go and write. Don’t worry about anything else. At least not for now.

For now, just write.