Extra Random: New England SCBWI

Laurie keynoting at NESCBWI 2008

Nothing invigorates a writer more than a really great conference. I just came back from Nashua, NH, where I spent the last nine hours hobnobbing about my book and this website at New England’s annual children’s book and art conference (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators). Here are five randoms that I learned or experienced at NESCBWI:

1) Young adult writers are awfully nice folks. Even though there were hundreds of vacant chairs around, Maurissa sat down next to me at 8 a.m., as I sat there with my coffee and my morning face. I’d never met Maurissa before, but she made me feel right at home. Thank you.

2) One of my favorite authors has a tattoo, and she isn’t afraid to show it to us and any 15-year-old who thinks getting a tat is rebellious and nonconformist. Laurie Halse Anderson (Twisted, Catalyst, Speak), said tattooed author, talked on everything from Beowulf to Picasso. My favorite moment? When she talked about “filling up” on art when writing has depleted her (which happened after finishing the amazing Speak). She talked about taking two weeks to do nothing but garden, can, and knit. Makes me look longingly at my dusty paints, and for once, I’m not feeling guilty about possibly taking a day off to do my own “filling up.”

3) If you’re a series author, it’s been said that by the fourth book, it’s time to put your characters on a desert island and blow them up. Debra Garfinkle, author of two series (Supernatural Rubber Chicken, The Band), jokingly said Book 4 was around the time when she contemplated offing characters. After letting herself relish this thought, she went on to problem solve her rut by having a different location in Book 5 and a cousin visit in Book 6.

4) So I’m not the only one who related to Jack Nicholson in As Good As It Gets. Sarah Aronson (Head Case) says she’s OCD when it comes to the first chapters of a book. I totally related. The first chapters set the tone of a book, and if the beginning’s off, that means 250+ pages are about to be off. However, this doesn’t mean revising your first three chapters to within an inch of their poor lives all for the sake of an agent submission and/or a writing contest. The goal should be to revise in order to help you get to the end of your book. Otherwise, your first three chapters go through 20 revisions, and Chapter 4 and beyond get one revision, at best. Agents notice in so not a good way.

5) Vampire chick lit = dead. Historical = kickin’? Harold Underdown, a former editor and now consultant, reported the market is flooded with vampire chick lit. Okay, so note to self: Vampire chick lit has officially jumped the shark. What was hot? Young adult teen historicals. As one attendee explained to me, there is a movement in school curricula where teachers are assigning more historical fiction. And nothing says “cha-ching” like schools buying 30 of your book times five classes.

~S.C.

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3 Comments

Filed under SCBWI Conference

3 responses to “Extra Random: New England SCBWI

  1. I loved your post. Very informative and entertaining, too. You have an engaging voice.
    I would have loved to meet Laurie Halse Anderson- I am so jealous of you! She sounds like a very cool person, and wise, too.
    Thanks!
    Beth Fehlbaum, author
    Courage in Patience, a story of hope for those who have endured abuse
    http://courageinpatience.blogspot.com
    Chapter One is online!

  2. Hi Susan! It was so very nice meeting you at the conference, and you are right: Maurissa is a great person! It looks like we attended the same workshops, too.

    Another thing I took away from Debra G.’s series workshop was the importance of creating a “series arc,” a continuing thread (or story line) that stretches from book to book, gaining in conflict and tension, and eventually, resolution at the series end.

    Sarah Aronson’s advice about creating Authenticity in the first page of a story gave me an “Ah-Ha!” moment. What am I doing in my first pages? Forcing an agenda, or letting the story and the main character unfold naturally?

    I really look forward to visiting your new Blog again. I’ll be bookmarking it!

  3. Beth: Thanks for dropping by! On Monday, Robin will be posting about her writing, so make sure to check that out. And Laurie was VERY cool–she even gave me a hug when I introduced myself as “I’m just a midlist author.” And her husband? Just as cool, taking notes for her at the conference.

    Angie: I loved that point, too, about the series arc. I found myself making notes for my story as Debra talked. That authenticity note from Sarah is also a great talking point; it doesn’t matter how beautifully you write, it just matters that you immediately–and continually–connect with the reader. And nice analogy about “Am I forcing an agenda on my readers?” My analogy is “author intrusion.” :o)

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