NEW ENGLAND SCBWI SPRING CONFERENCE 2014

Create Bravely: Make Your Mark

Part1

What an amazing experience!! I have so much to tell that I thought it best to break this blog into two parts.

I left my house at 5:30 a.m. Okay, that’s NOT the amazing part since I’m not really a get-up-at-the-crack-of-friggin-dawn kind of girl!

The conference began with a welcome from the conference organizer, Kristin Carlson Asselin, author of Any Way You Slice It. Thank you Kris!! You did an awesome job!

Kristin said, “You have to be brave to get through the process.” So true.www.kristineasselin.com

Then they picked names for a door prize drawing…And I won this book!!

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The first keynote speaker was Peter H. Reynolds, author of Dot and Ish. Both of these wonderful picture books are about encouragement.

Peter said, “We get magnificence from just a little encouragement.”

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Both books illustrate this message beautifully for children. He also spoke about what’s going on in our schools, how art is the first thing to get cut when budgets are decided.

“Get rid of tests that stifle creative teachers from teaching creatively. This age of testing keeps teachers from actually getting to know their students which would enable a teacher to teach more individually.” Totally agree Peter!!

Art and creative writing teaches our students to expand their minds. Teaching to the test teaches our students to limit themselves to learn just what they need to know for the test. Common Core assumes that we are all the same and should all learn the same thing at the same time. Not true. We are not the same. Even identical twins, who may look the same, have a different voice, different interests, different abilities. We are all wonderfully unique. And that’s all I have to say about that…for now.

My first workshop of the day was Perfecting Your Pitch with The Book Doctors, http://www.theBookDoctors.com, a.k.a. Arielle Eckstut & David Henry Sterry, authors of The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published.

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I LOVED these two! They were hilarious and super informative. They asked, “What is your book about? The answer is your pitch.” They explained how sometimes the only opportunity you get is to give an elevator pitch. An elevator pitch is over in a flash, the same amount of time that it would take an elevator to get from one floor to the next.

Then there’s the long pitch, which is funny because it’s over in under a minute, two hundred and fifty words. That’s it. The people that we are pitching to, read/hear pitches all day long; be ready at any time to give your pitch. And it better be badass. Practice it out loud. If it sounds stupid or confusing to you – you who wrote the book – imagine how it will sound to a stranger.

David said, “Back story does not belong in your pitch.” He also said, “Show don’t tell. Don’t tell me it’s funny, make me laugh. Don’t tell me it’s sad, make me cry.”

Then there was a discussion on finding comp titles. That’s where you find something already out on the shelves that’s similar to your books. “Find out who the author’s agent is and query them. BUT, don’t pick a book that’s too famous. Pick something that’s like your book, has done well, but not so commercially known. This shows you know the industry.”

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My second workshop was a Writing Intensive on Character Development with Aubrey Poole, Associate Editor, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky and Fire. http://www.sourcebooks.com

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Aubrey talked about using an ISTP (Introverted Sensing Thinking Judging) for character development. This relates to characters that have introverted sensing with extraverted thinking. She spoke passionately about Sherlock Holmes as an example of this type of character. She REALLY likes Sherlock! Me to Aubrey!!

Aubrey also said, “Characters shouldn’t be the same at the end of a story as they were at the beginning. They have to go through change.” Some questions to ask yourself when you’re working on your plot:

What does your main character want?
What is the price he/she will pay for it?
How will he/she achieve this?
What will he/she sacrifice?

Verythought-provoking indeed.

The Crystal Kite Award was given to Jo Knowles for, See You At Harry’s.

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This woman’s speech made me cry. She was so gracious and genuinely touched to receive such an amazing award. She spoke about knowing what it’s like to be an unknown author, conference attendee. She encouraged those of us who have not been published yet to persevere and stick with the SCBWI. Congrats Jo! And thank you for the words of encouragement. I truly appreciate them!

My next workshop was, Write What You Don’t Know; A Workshop on Fleeing Your Comfort Zone with Kendra Levin, Senior Editor, Viking Children’s Books, http://www.KendraCoaching.com, and Julie Berry, @julieberrybooks, http://www.julieberrybooks.com, author of All The Truth That’s In Me. AMAZING book! This workshop was two hours of frickin’-awesomeness!!

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This very hands-on workshop is the second workshop of Kendra’s I’ve had the pleasure of attending and the first of Julie’s.

One of the exercises we did was to write a conversation between two of our character’s where the main character learns something they didn’t know. After that we described the secondary character; looks, personality, feelings. Then we did the same exercise but made all the characteristics of secondary character the complete opposite. My opposite secondary character was very dark and angry. I kinda liked him that way! LOL!

We talked about what we already know about our own comfort zone.
What POV do you prefer? What kind of voice do you like to use? What kind of stories do you write; contemporary, fantasy, horror, sci-fi. Julie said, “If you always write in first person ( I ) try to write in third person (he, she, it). Or try second person (you). Pushing your boundaries makes you a better writer.”

The next writing intensive we did was to show your character discovering their true calling. I LOVED this one! I got a whole scene out of it.

Some of the books they recommended were, Fiction Writer’s Workshop by Josip Novakovich, Creating Fiction by Julie Checkaway and The Art Of Fiction by John Gardner.

I would love to do another workshop with these two ladies!

Now after all that you would think the day would be done. NO!

The Industry Professional Panel on Publishing In and Out of New York featured:
Kathleen Rushall of Marsal Lyon Literary Agency, LLC.  http://www.marsallyonliteraryagency.com

Mandy Hubbard of D4EO http://www.d4eoliteraryagency.com
Emily Mitchell of Wernick & Pratt Agency  http://www.wernickpratt.com
Sara Crowe of Harvey Klinger, Inc.  http://www.harveyklinger.com

All of the agents agreed that you do not have to be in NY to get published. Here are some words of wisdom from the panel.

“The writing sells the book. Write a good book and you will get an agent interested in working with you.” Mandy Hubbard

“Don’t give up. Perseverance pays off.” Kathleen Rushall

“Having an agent will not solve all of your problems. You will still have a lot of work to do.” Emily Mitchell

“Just because one of us passes on your book doesn’t mean it won’t sell. It just means it wasn’t right for us.” Sara Crowe

Phew! It was a jammed packed day, that for me, ended with a hot fudge sundae in my room 😉 Some of my fellow writers attended the poetry slam and others went to the peer critiques that evening. Day 1 of the New England SCBWI was well worth every penny!

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Day 2 coming soon!!

Peace party people 🙂

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