Monday, November 4, 2013

Things I Learned at SCBWI


I just got home from the MOSCBWI conference, and I thought I’d make a quick list of the gazillion helpful things I learned …you know, for reference, in case I start to flail around and decide to eat cookies all day instead of write.

First of all, it was a wonderful conference, and I couldn’t think of one bad thing to say.  Not even one little critique for the ‘What could we do better next year?’ section of the questionnaire.  Ok, so I would totally buy more books if they put more books in front of me, but I don’t actually think that’s a complaint or even a critique, so it doesn’t even count.

I would also listen to the speakers in 24-hour segments, but I don’t think that’s realistic, nor do I think any of them would actually agree to a filibuster of hungry-to-learn writers.  Although—not to get political or anything—I think any one of our speakers would be MUCH more interesting than some of the filibusters I’ve heard about in the news lately.  If you want to see who was there, check it out at http://www.moscbwi.org/Fall_Conference/Index.html.

But I digress.  Here’s what I learned at the Missouri Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators conference:
  • We are pretty cool people, HOWEVER, in order to figure that out, it is necessary to come out of your shell and actually TALK to all the awesome people around you.  And when you do, it’s completely worth it!
  • If writing is your dream, you HAVE to do it.  You have no choice.  It is a part of you, so go figure out how to get it done.
  • Your muse is your friend.  Listen to her (or him).  That’s where you will get your awesome ideas, and you will not be led astray.
  • Discover the kind of person you truly are.  Work hard to get things done correctly.
  • Go build a fort.  While listening to the wonderful Dan Santat explain this, there was a great a-ha moment.  We always encourage our kids to go outside and build forts and explore and do wonderful, creative things.  Do not lose this creative spirit as an adult.  Keep building forts!
  • Don’t ever follow the money.  Follow your style and your voice.  Follow your passion, and your path for success will come.
  • Learn from your mistakes.  They are not mistakes if you learn from them.
  • If you don’t KNOW your main character, you know have a book.  KNOW your characters.
  • Show moments of grace and character in your characters.  Make them human.
  • Make the time for what you love.
  • Add joy to your life.  Be a role model.  Achieve your dreams.  Don’t rearrange your life around work.  It should be the other way around.
  • Join like-minded people.  Find your tribe.
  • The reader can never be wrong.  Once you have written the book, your perception no longer matters.  It is how the reader perceives the book.
  • Know why your bad guy is bad.  Make your characters dimensional.  All of us have a good side and a side we would rather keep hidden from view.  What makes your bad guy so bad?
  • Revisions should be a bloodbath.  Cut ruthlessly.  If you don’t miss it, you never needed it in the first place.
  • Your job is to MAKE the reader want to continue.  There must be questions they simply have to have answered.
  • Be true to yourself.  Follow your dream.
  • Above all, just write.

So that about sums up my weekend.  It was filled with writers and agents and editors and pretty much just all-around awesome people.  What did you guys do?

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