Sunday, September 13, 2009

Just Do It (Apologies to Bruce Coville, Who Reminded Us to Avoid Cliche)

If you write kidlit, or are thinking about writing kidlit (just do it), you must join SCBWI. And then find out when your regional chapter is having its annual conference (because lovely as LA and NY are, we can't all get there every year...sigh). And then sign up, and GO. The end.

Because (it's never the end) it was fabulous. Friday night we were all put into genre areas to forge new starter critique groups (or, presumably for those who were already in several, to extol the virtues of same). As I'm already in a picture book crit group, I met with three wonderful people who are all interested in chapter book writing, and we plan to try critiquing via Skype (or other conference software). We met Bruce Coville, writer and incredible public speaker (and I like to think I'm a tough audience...probably untrue), who spent an hour or so talking about "voice." And then we met the two editors who had made it in from NY: Eve Adler and Ruta Rimas. Both were great sports for the duration, and very generous with their energy.

Saturday was an all-day affair: longer presentations from each editor on their houses and on their lists, likes and dislikes. A presentation from agent Ted Malawer, of Upstart Crow (formerly of Firebrand Literary). Door prizes. The conference was well-themed the Wild, Wild, West, and guess what playing card I drew for door prizes? The ACE OF SPADES. I got to answer (guess) the second question, and won a gift card from the conference bookstore... how wonderful is that? After lunch there were breakout sessions, and I spent an hour with Dian Curtis Regan on picture books (and am scoping out her seminar at Texas A&M for next summer), then another hour with the incomparable Bruce Coville on plot and character (really, his performance energy is astonishingly generous), and then an hour in a group critique with Eve Adler. And then, ANOTHER presentation by Bruce, on writing in general (just do it). And networking, networking, networking. Handing out business cards, and making new contacts. A lot of people I recognized from the July workshop, so it's a small-ish community you can meet quite easily.

Oh, and my crit partner told me on Saturday that "she liked my piece." As I wasn't packing, despite the conference theme, she filled me in: a piece I wrote called "The Inside Joke" (advice for picture book writers) was published in In the Wind, the regional SCBWI newsletter. I only just subscribed (oops), so had missed it... much mutual hilarity with Jenn Bailey for same. Kudos to Sue Ford and the fleet of volunteers!

I can't wait for the next one. Oh, and if you volunteer, which I didn't yet, you usually get a reduced conference fee. Come on! What are you waiting for?!

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