I’m back from the island of misfit toys (aka: the 40th SCBWI LA Conference!) where kidlit authors and illustrators gathered to learn, dance, and dream. I’ve got a notebook filled cover to cover with scribbles as I attempted to jot down the wisdom of kidlit giants like Judy Blume, Gary Paulson, Laurie Halse Anderson, Jon Scieszka, and Bruce Coville (only to mention a few)! Yup, SCBWI doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to turning 40!
As I’m furiously typing up my notes here’s a few quick take-away’s to give you a glimpse of this weekends wonders:
1. Children’s book writing is about responsibility and engagement, said author Bruce Coville in his opening keynote address. He went on to quote the Broadway play Into the Woods in saying “move a finger, say the slightest word, something’s bound to linger, be heard. No one is alone.” Write with purpose and heart.
2. “Writing holds our DNA, our bones, our blood. It is a part of ourselves. When writing, don’t write what you think we want to hear. Tell us what is so intolerable to bear alone that it must be a story!” – Author Libba Bray
3. “Social Media only works when it is genuine to who you are. Don’t force yourself to blog and tweet.” – Editor Julie Strauss-Gabel
4. “24 hours a day is MORE than enough time to meet the demands in your life! You have more control over how you spend your precious time and energy than you want to admit.” – Author Laurie Halse Anderson
5. “Life is a shit-storm. When it begins to rain the only umbrella we have is art.” – Quoted by illustrator David Small
6. It took Judy Blume (yes, the amazing Judy Blume) twenty-three drafts and three years to finish her novel Summer Sisters.
7. Libba Bray suggests that whenever you get stuck with your writing that you always go back to this one central question: What does my character want? Start there, dig deep!
8. Agent Marcia Wernick suggests you treat writing like a business. Create a business plan of goals for your writing. Make good goals like: Deliver a new book in six months, get 300 new Facebook friends this month, or make contact with your local newspaper. Be realistic and stick to it. Give yourself annual, bi-annual, and monthly reviews.
9. In our media-saturated society it’s important to teach kids media literacy. This is exactly what author Jon Scieszka is trying to do with his Spaceheads series. The objective is to get kids to access, analyze, evaluate and create media in a variety of forms in order to be media literate.
10. “The number one element I see missing in manuscripts today is not enough interior monologue.” – Editor Krista Marino
11. “Art disturbs the Universe! We are here to continue the revolution and make it grow.” – Author Laurie Halse Anderson
12. “We need to speak to the head and the heart of the child. Just because a child can read Dostoevsky – read the words – doesn’t mean they understand it. We need to be sure the emotional needs of the child are nurtured.” – Editor Beverly Horowitz
13. When illustrating every visual element needs to feel essential to the telling of the story. It’s a portrait of rain and a portrait of lightening. – Illustrator Jerry Pinkney
14. Jump! Risk when you are writing! You may crash and fall or you may grow wings. No jump. No wings. – Bruce Coville