Not that bigger is better, but… This year the New England Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators held the spring conference at the Crowne Plaza in Nashua and it was excellent! It was overflowing! We were busting out! A record number of authors and illustrators took over the hotel April 11-13. I got a warm and fuzzy feeling remembering my first conference 8 years ago in Portland, Maine, where the cut off was around 200 people. It was at least double that number. I was inspired that day in Maine and this conference was no different. Here are some nuggets of gold to share:
1) Laurie Halse Anderson was the keynote. She challenged those of us who have been in a writing slump to write daily, if only an hour or two, for 21 days. The experts say it takes that many days to make it a habit. I know this, I knew this… I needed Laurie Halse Anderson to kick my butt. FYI, this is Day 1. I’ll keep you posted.
2) On revision, LHA says she makes five passes.
1st: Logic. Does this make sense?
2nd: Details. Do they match what I’ve written? Can I enhance the story?
3rd: What can I cut out? Your writing should say what you mean in as few words as possible.
4th: Word Choice. It has to match the speaker.
5th: Spelling. I assume she also meant other piddly things like capital letters, punctuation…
3) When you are empty and spent, when you can’t write for one reason or another, fill up on the arts. She also repeated Picasso’s (I think) line about how we must do the thing we think we cannot do in order that we can do it. It went something like that. So there was the challenge, but also permission to refill our wells when necessary. Figuring out when to push and when to rest is our job.
4) Sarah Shumway, editor at Dutton, gave a fantabulous workshop on Pitching and Packaging our work. I usually find it hard to talk about my current work–actually any work. She suggests thinking like an editor. Have a one line sales handle and a short book description. This will make it easy for the editor to sell in acquisitions. This one-line example is from a book Dutton has coming out in the fall: It’s You’ve Got Mail on manga and role-playing games–a totally fierce and current romance for teens. (Gamer Girl by Mari Mancusi) I came home with my sales handle and book description in place. It refocused me and I’m good to go!
5) The NESCBWI conference is full of PLU (people like us) and if you haven’t given yourself the gift of the full conference weekend, I highly recommend it. Being able to go to my room and chill, or swim, write, or party like a crazy woman whenever I wanted to, made it a worthwhile expense. And yes, yes, the workshops were excellent. Also, it was nice to see familiar faces, and feel the warmth, energy, and enthusiasm everywhere. Mark your calendars for next year (April 24-26, 2009)!