Friday, August 3, 2012
This year’s SCBWI summer conference was held at its usual place – the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Century City. Having attended last year’s conference, I knew exactly where to park and where to go to get my registration packet.
Registration lines were arranged according to surnames and I got lucky again this year as there were no lines at the V-W section.
After grabbing a quick cup of some pre-conference tea, I made my way to the main ballroom and found a seat.
At 9 AM, the opening ceremony began. Stephen Mooser, founder and President of the SCBWI welcomed us all to the conference. He pointed to his bandaged wrist and proceeded to tell us the reason behind his injury—the classic slipping on a banana peel stunt.
SCBWI President Stephen Mooser
When he passed the mic on to Executive Director and co-founder, Lin Oliver, we learned that the SCBWI was starting its own version of the radio show “Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me”. So over the next three days, Steve would be telling us different versions of how his injury happened and we’d have to guess the real story.
According to Lin, this year’s conference was attended by 1234 members from 15 different countries. Out of the 1200+ attendees, 948 were women, 171 were male, and 122 were apparently undecided.
As a testament to the diversity of SCBWI’s membership—Lin read some of the career titles the members had listed in their application. Aside from the usual teachers, clerks, and librarians, there were among us a lawyer, a bonsai artist, a literary Olympian and a Director of Fun.
Lin reiterated that being part of the SCBWI was like being part of a big family—a Tribe.
As a nod to the 2012 Olympics, Lin lit her very own SCBWI Olympics “torch.”
SCBWI Executive Director Lin Oliver lighting the SCBWI Torch
After that, this year’s Faculty made their entrance into the hall. Each of them gave us their one word for the conference. While everyone gave out inspirational words like Determination, Passion and Creativity, some made use of fun words as well as naughty words—like Sonya Sones, who after shouting a 5 letter anatomy word into the mic, made a quick getaway.
SCBWI Conference Faculty
Keynote 1: Arthur Levine “Timeless”
Arthur Levine, Publisher and Editor of the Harry Potter US Edition
Arthur Levine, VP and Publisher of Arthur Levine Books Imprint, AND US editor of the Harry Potter series–was the first keynote speaker. In his talk, appropriately entitled “Timeless”, Arthur listed down the various elements that gave books a timeless, enduring quality.
He used several titles that he’s published as an example for each of these timeless traits. Some of the books mentioned were:
When She Was Good by Norma Fox Mazer, a story of how hope outlives brutality;
Good Night, Gorilla by Peggy Rathman , showing how great writers use anticipation more commonly than surprise;
and Harry Potter & The Sorcerer’s Stone – the ultimate narrative of the boy who lived, and how he survives the tragedies of his childhood.
My favorite line from his speech, was one his friend Nick had told him:
It’s when a story is able to capture a moment of intimacy between a reader and an author that the story is timeless.
Keynote 2: Tony DiTerlizzi “Never Abandon Imagination”
Author and Illustrator, Tony DiTerlizzi
Tony DiTerlizzi, Caldecott winner for The Spider and the Fly, and illustrator of the famed Spiderwick Chronicles, was our second Keynote speaker, and absolutely rocked the stage.
He was one of my favorite speakers, throwing out lines that made us laugh, and also inspired us.
He began by showing us some covers of his “new” book ideas, as a testament to his wonderful imagination.
According to Tony, imagination has to be instilled at a very young age—as far as he’s concerned, as soon as they pop out.
As a child, Tony wasn’t interested in reading books. Instead, he was interested in comic books and movies. Oral reports were the worst possible torture for him—until one of his teachers told him to do an illustration for his book report instead. Tony set to work re-reading the same book he had found boring in the beginning, but this time he was reading it as if it were instructions for how to draw his illustration.
The world of books then opened up to him. His love for stories was indeed a product of boredom, and living in Florida gave his imagination a lot of opportunity to grow.
There are only two things in Florida: Old people and Giant Lizards. I’m convinced the old people moved to Florida and turned into giant lizards.
Tony shared with us a picture of his bookshelf at home, containing a lot of his childhood toys.
He says he keeps them around to remind him of what it feels like to be a kid, and to constantly remind him to answer the question:
What would 10 year old Tony want, that adult Tony can make?
Towards the end of his talk, Tony introduced us to his new book series Wondla. He showed us illustrations from the book, as well as the inspiration for the story itself.
Tony reminded us never to abandon imagination, and to always think about what our ten year old selves would enjoy reading, whenever we sat down to write our stories.
Workshop 1: Lissa Price “How to Apply Screenwriting Techniques to Make Any YA Book Better”
YA Author Lissa Price
Bestselling YA Author Lissa Price explained that she made the switch from screenwriting to novel writing because with novels, you can write from anywhere in the world.
Lissa helped us define the meaning of high concept, and helped us identify whether our own stories were indeed high concept or not.
She asked audience members to share their loglines, as well as their first sentences, and helped them strengthen it.
Lissa also shared some tips on how to build our pitch, as well as some books she recommends we read such as:
SAVE THE CAT series by Blake Snyder, STORY by Robert McKee, THE SCREENWRITER’S PROBLEM SOLVER by Syd Field and THE WRITER’S JOURNEY by Christopher Vogler.
She also reminds us of these helpful screenwriting tips:
*Ask if your story has a ticking clock
*Remember that your first sentence is crucial
*End with a cliffhanger. Have a nice closer at the end of each chapter.
Keynote 3: Sara Shepard “Scandals, Lies, and Murders: How to Maintain Momentum in a Series”
Sara Shepard, Author of The Lying Game & Pretty Little Liars
I love watching Pretty Little Liars on TV so I was fairly stoked to hear Sara tell us the story of how she got started on her writing journey, and how she developed the story for Pretty Little Liars.
She started out as a ghost writer, but eventually got her big break when her publisher told her to develop her own book series.
Pretty Little Liars has become such a popular series–both in books and on TV. What started out as a four book series eventually became 8, and then 12.
She said she’s wrapping up the final books: “I’m sad it’s going to end, but I can’t torture these girls any more.”
She gives us some tips for keeping a mystery series going:
1. Know who your murderer is before you set out.
2. Always incorporate the red herring in your stories.
3. Leave a bit of the writing to chance.
Keynote 4: Patricia Maclachlan “Revising My Life”
Patricia Maclachlan, Author of the Newbery winner Sarah, Plain and Tall
Author Patricia Maclachlan tells us how she uses events from her life–both big and small–as inspirations for her own writing. She eavesdrops on her grandchildren and their conversations always give her something to think about, laugh about and write about.
I actually had fun listening to stories of her grandkids and of her life, and even laughed at some of her funny anecdotes.
Workshop 2: SCBWI Success Stories:How I Did It – Matthew Kirby, Eugene Yelchin, Pamela Wells and Jennifer Bosworth
Authors Eugene Yelchin, Pamela Wells, Jennifer Bosworth and Matthew Kirby
Eugene Yelchin received a Newbery honor for Breaking Stalin’s Nose.
He said that it isn’t enough to want to get published. Publication cannot be the end goal. He reminded us to write for ourselves, and not because we wanted to please people.
Pamela Wells began her writing journey with a bad break up. When she was in college, a boy she loved broke up with her and left her with a bleeding heart a desire to tell her heartbreak story. She met an editor at an SCBWI conference, then once she got an offer to get published, contacted an agent. Her book Heartbreakers is now being turned into a movie.
Pamela says, “write the book you would write for free, and you can’t lose.”
Jennifer Bosworth wrote her first novel 9 years ago, and it was about 800 pages long. She learned a lot from writing screenplays and used all that knowledge she gained to write STRUCK, her debut novel.
Jennifer says that one motto that has worked for her so far is, “Fake it Til you Make It.”
Author Matthew Kirby started out writing adult books, until it dawned on him that he actually enjoyed reading children’s books, and that his books always had kid protagonists in them. He was ready to quit after 7 years of rejection, when he got his big break at an SCBWI Conference, where he met his agent.
Matthew advised us to treat writing like a career, and not as just a hobby.
Keynote 5: Dan Gutman “How a Dumbass Like Me Got 100 Books Published”
Author Dan Gutman
Final keynote speaker for the day, Dan Gutman, made us both laugh and think. He gave us 13 tips on how to become successful as a writer.
Some of his best tips include:
12. Join SCBWI.
11. Be a boxer. Take punch after punch, and then get up and start again.
10. Try everything. If one thing doesn’t work, try a new technique.
6. Never write on an empty stomach- always use paper.
5. Break the rules. Do something nobody’s done before. Following rules perfectly is easier than breaking rules creatively, but being creative means doing things differently.
202 total views, 1 views today