Wednesday, April 11, 2012

SCBWI MD Conference Recap (or In the Merry Land of Maryland)

Tip of the Day: It's National Library Week! Tell your librarians how much you appreciate their services -- and their books!

On Saturday, March 31, I attended the SCBWI MD/DE/WV chapter’s spring conference: “Rx for Children’s Book Creators: Getting Your Stories Right.”

Why did I drive all the way to Maryland for a one-day regional conference, you may ask? Because I needed to visit my friend and her new baby, and I figured with the conference only an hour away from her, I'd squeeze it in and write off my trip! Another interesting tidbit: the first SCBWI conference I ever went to was in MD while visiting this same friend in 2006.

Anyhoo, the morning started with PB/MG author and writing coach Esther Hershenhorn and her talk, “Getting Your Stories Right.” She focused on how not only should writers and illustrators focus on the plotlines of their characters’ stories, but that they should also view their own creation journeys as plotlines. Kind of a cool concept, one I hadn't considered before.

After lunch, HarperCollins Associate Editor Sarah Dotts Barley discussed “Common Mistakes and How to Avoid Them.” I was familiar with a number of the “mistakes” she saw in her submissions, like “show don’t tell,” and a reminder to not include every stage direction that your character makes to get from point A to B. But for beginners it was a good talk, and she was a gracious and patient speaker with cool credits like the DEAR BULLY anthology who clearly knows her stuff.

Rachel Orr, agent at Prospect Agency, was the final solo presenter of the day with her talk, “Voices Carry: Discovering and Developing Your Own Personal Style.” And oh em gee, her discussion and examples were the most clear I have heard on the subject of the elusive "voice!" Go Rachel! She took portions of published picture books and novels, stripped them of their “voice,” and put both versions on a PowerPoint slide for comparison. Voila! A great presentation.

The final session, “Fairy Tales and Cautionary Tales,” consisted of a panel of eight of the region’s members who are agented or published. They talked about the mistakes they made along their journeys and what they would do differently now, how they got their first published gigs, and what their best advice was for writers and illustrators struggling to make it today. It was a frank, humorous, and realistic chat on the publishing industry that I really appreciated.

After decompressing my brain at my friend's house where I hung with her baby and we dyed Easter eggs, I drove home excited to dive into my MG revisions again with a focus on voice and the knowledge that I am a character in my own writing life who will one day achieve my greatest writing desires. Woo hoo!

Deena, Miss Subbing for Pubbing

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