That’s right, you can’t beat four days of soul inspiring speeches, crafty keynotes, fabulous friends (old and new), and literary giants like M.T. Andersen serenading the crowd. I just got back from the big SCBWI Summer Conference and boy does it ignite you with inspirational fire! Don’t worry, I filled an entire notebook with great information to share with you, but before I hand over the nitty-gritty, I might mention a few of the things you just can’t take notes on. So here’s my top six reasons why you should attend an SCBWI LA conference in the flesh:
1. M.T. Anderson’s Sweet Serenade to the State of Delaware. Yup, literary guru M.T. Andersen ended his keynote speech with side-splitting hilarity. There’s nothing quite like watching a six-foot-uber-intellectual belt out a fictional state song of Delaware, while frolicking across stage. American Idol’s Simon Cowell would’ve been horrified, but one-thousand SCBWI members could only leap from their seats in standing ovation. Sheer genius. (Catch a snippet of him singing here: Rock-on M.T. Anderson).
2. A One-on-One Manuscript Critique with the Editor of The Hunger Games. This was my first manuscript critique, so you can imagine my excitement when I learned that Jennifer Rees (editor of The Hunger Games) would be sharing her expertise. Talk about opportunity of a lifetime! Her refined eye pinpointed areas in which I need to stretch myself, and I’m jazzed to dig in and revise. (No, despite my attempt to bribe her with cookies, she didn’t tell me anything about Mockingjay).
3. Cyberspace Meets the Real World. I tweet tweet tweet, and blog blog blog, and follow a lot of the kidlit community online. So how sweet it is to meet many of my blogger-brethren in real life! So here’s a quick shout out to some of the great tweeps I got to speak to without editing myself to 140 characters. I love you guys! Check out: Debbie Redipath Ohi (of Inkygirl Fame), Keirsten White, Lee Wind, Brian Ormiston, Ben Esch, Michelle Houts, Stephanie Perkins, Andrea Offermann, Emilia Plater, Kristin Otts, Amy Nichols, and Sarah Wilson Etienne.
4. Jay Asher’s Angels. Three all-star young adult authors dressed up as cupid’s angels at the Heart and Soul Ball. Who were those super stars sporting pink heart sunglasses and frilly tights? None other than authors: Jay Asher (13 Reasons Why), Carolyn Mackler (Tangled), and Rachel Vail (Lucky). Not to mention Gail Carson Levine (Ella Enchanted) busting a move on the dance floor. It’s the Kidlit party of the season, baby!
5. Tugging on the Heart Strings. When Julie Durango whispers that every book she writes is a message to her two boys, I couldn’t hold in the tears. When Rachel Vail sniffled, moved by her own characters, I reached for a box of tissues. When Marion Dane Bauer tapped into the emotion of story, we all felt the power that drives us to write.
6. Affirmations with Ashley Bryan. Say it with me! Bryan raises his arms like a prophet and calls the audience to help him recite a poem by Langston Hughes. With the reluctant drone of a church congregation the crowd starts, but by the end we are all chanting the words, feeling the rhythms, and alive with the power of poetry. What Ashley Bryan gives you is a gift, it starts in your throat, but as you give it voice, you open up like his arms and everyone together becomes one with the oral tradition, one with the act of storytelling, one with the artist that we each individually and collectively, are. (Here’s a video snippet of Ashley Bryan).
You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. You’ll make friends for a life time, and you’ll walk away inspired for the rest of the year. I know blogs like mine give you great info from these events, but nothing can replace the real experience. I heart you SCBWI!
Learn more at: www.scbwi.org