SCBWI Summer Conference Day 2 (August 4, 2012)

Saturday, August 4, 2012

I got there a little bit earlier on Saturday, so I managed to purchase some books at the SCBWI Bookstore.

SCBWI Bookstore

My book budget was spent on three illustration laden, wonderful books:

Day 2 of the SCBWI Summer Conference began with the same enjoyable fanfare: Steve Mooser told us the second version of his story “How I injured my wrist”, Lin Oliver made some important announcements, drew the name of the lucky door prize winners and finally introduced our first keynote speaker for the day.


Keynote 1: Karen Cushman “Courting Surprise”

Newbery award winner Karen Cushman


Published at age 50, Karen Cushman is a great example of how success in writing can come at any age.  Her talk was chocful of hard earned wisdom and inspiring quotes.  She shared many contradictory writing rules and gave us two of her own rules:

Write with Passion

Tell the Truth.


Some of Karen’s most memorable quotes:

* Attain your heart’s desires so you can help someone else attain theirs.

* Ask questions about your story.

* Read a thousand books like the ones you want to write.

* Read what you love and ask yourself why you love it.

* Lighthouses don’t go running around for boats to save, they stand there and go on shining.

* Fairytales are true not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.


She ends with one important advise, and one command: Take yourself seriously as writers. We are worth it, and our stories are worth it. Go remake the world, God knows it needs it.


Editor’s Panel: Finding Your Voice in Publishing with Jordan Brown, Elise Howard, Neal Porter, Farrin Jacobs, Tamar Brazis and Laura Godwin

Editors Jordan Brown, Elise Howard, Neal Porter, Moderator Lin Oliver, Editors Farrin Jacobs, Tamar Brazis and Laura Godwin

 Moderated by Lin Oliver, the Editors Panel discussed Voice in publishing, the positive attributes of a successful author and the things authors should avoid doing.

Jordan Brown, senior editor at Harper Collins – Balzer & Bray imprints, looks for great characters and strong voices in his authors. He wants to find the next RL Stine in literature and craves old stories told in new ways.

Elise Howard, editor at Harper Collins looks for books with enduring quality and characters that she can spend hours with.  She loves MG & YA and books that bring her to new worlds.

Neal Porter wants to find books that seduces him.

Farrin Jacobs, also at Harper Collins, loves commercial teen fiction and dark literary stories–all with great characters.

Tamar Brazis is the Editorial Director at Abrams Books for Young Readers. She loves Picture books above all else, but she also works on MG, YA books and nonfiction books for kids. She loves novels with coming of age and friendship themes.

Laura Godwin is Publisher at Henry Holt Books, one of the oldest publishing houses started in 1866. She loves picture books and books with authentic voice.

Agents Panel Memorable Quotes:

* Laura Godwin –  Voice makes an author unique, and is often equated with style. Style is a reflection of who you are. You hone your voice as you get to know yourself better.

* An openness towards revision, ability to revise, and ability to write about universal themes are some positive attributes of authors.

* Neal Porter – Please yourself. Create something that genuinely pleases you. Don’t try and publish for the market. Do what you love.

* Tamar Brazis – Good readers become better writers.

 Workshop 1: Tony DiTerlizzi “Sketching a Story”


Tony DiTerlizzi Sketching a Story

Tony explains how art and writing go together when he works on his stories. He took us through his entire process of story-making, beginning with his concept, and ending with revision and publishing.

He showed us several illustrations he worked on for his book Wondla, and even passed around a copy of his manuscript draft, complete with revision notes.

Tony showing us a copy of his manuscript

Some of Tony’s memorable quotes include:

* It starts with a concept, go back to the books you like to read.

* Don’t forget who you’re writing your stories for.

* “Kids don’t know about bestsellers. They go for what they enjoy. They aren’t star chasers and they don’t suck up. It’s why I like them” – Maurice Sendak

* My philosophy: What am I proud of?

Keynote 2: Clare Vanderpool “Writing in the Crossroads: Where Craft & Creativity Meet”

Newbery Award winnder Clare Vanderpool

Clare started her writing journey in the midst of being a stay at home mom. Though she found herself often exhausted when she had her first baby,  she found time for writing. She would think up story ideas while waiting at stoplights or making dinner, or even while watching Sesame Street with her child.

Now, a little bit older and with four teens, she still finds herself constantly looking for writing time. She showed us a video of her daughter singing her head off, as an example of what she has to deal with as a mom.

Clare Vanderpool’s Memorable Quotes:

* Winning a Newbery is the same as having a baby–if you didn’t know you were pregnant.

*The universe is made up of story. Pay attention.

*Where craft and creativity meet is the sweet spot.

Keynote 3: Deborah Underwood “The Power of Quiet”

Picture Book Author Deborah Underwood

Picture book author Deborah Underwood admitted that the creative process is indeed a mystery, but authors need to understand where they get their ideas.

Deborah Underwood’s Memorable Quotes:

* If we don’t understand where we get our ideas, we won’t have control over the success of our everyday work.

* Imagine an accountant riding in an elevator thinking, “Man, I hope I remember how to domMath today.”

* Mind wandering is important for  a creative mind. Take a warm bath, and long walks.

* People who daydream more score higher on tests that measure creativity .

 * We don’t owe it to ourselves to make time for quiet, we owe it to the kids who will read our book.”

 Workshop 2: Lissa Price “Publishing Is Not Dead: The Roller Coaster Ride of the Really Big Sale”


YA Author Lissa Price showing us a foreign copy of her book 

 Lissa Price gave us some insider secrets in her talk. She told us of her long journey to publication and of how she got started writing.

She also gave some some really great tips for finding agents, and even tips we can use after we get published.

Lissa Price’s Memorable Quotes:

* Don’t write the next book in a series, until the first one gets picked up.

* Write the next manuscript as soon as you finish the first one.

* Be nice. Publishing is a small world and word gets around.

* Make your query letter short.

* What’s right for one writer may not be good for another writer.

* Write the best story you can.

Keynote 4: Ruta Sepetys “You Can’t Break the Broken: Writing Emotional Truth”

 Award winning author Ruta Sepetys

 Ruta was one of the most inspiring speakers I heard during the conference. She told us of the story behind her novel, Between Shades of Grey.

Her father, a military officer in Lithuania, knew that Stalin was coming for him. He and his wife escaped and made it to a refugee camp before the Soviets got to them. Then in 1949, they made it safely to the US.

That was all Ruta knew about her family’s history. On a quest to find out more, she flew to Lithuania to meet some of her father’s relatives. There, she discovered that when the Soviets came for her father and discovered he had escaped, they took 12 members of their family and deported them to Siberia as punishment. Only one of the 12 survived. Her family’s freedom in the US came at the expense of their relatives who were left behind.

Ruta also told us of her own experience with brutality. Because she wanted to write about the experience of the Lithuanian’s in the Soviet prison system, she needed to do some in depth research. In order to experience for herself what those prisoners had gone through, she went to a Latvian prison for a simulation–against everyone’s advice. There she was beaten and imprisoned for 24 hours.


Ruta Sepetys’s Memorable Quotes:

* I wish I could say I was beaten for weeks or days or hours. But it was only a few seconds of beating. I discovered I was a coward. It’s so hard to learn who you are.

* Ask yourself the hard questions. What are you longing for? What do you hide? What scares you, causes you pain? What do you wish would go away?

* In the dark, I heard a man say, “don’t cry American lady. I’ll help you.” That show of kindness amidst the cruelty taught me so much. I wanted to marry that man.

* Share the truths behind your fiction so you can make it better for another human being.


Keynote 5: Deborah Halverson “An Up to the Minute Survey of Market Needs & Trends”

Author Deborah Halverson

 Included in this year’s conference packet was a treasure trove of information: the 2012 SCBWI Market Survey, which Deborah Halverson wrote.

Deborah summarized the 16 page market survey and gave us some valuable information on what editors and publishers are looking for in each of the following children’s book categories: picture books, nonfiction, middle grade,  and young adult.

Deborah’s talk was full of helpful information and I found myself with 5 pages worth of notes once she was done.

Some Highlights of Deborah Halverson’s Talk:

* Concept books are selling well.

* For Picture Books, shorter character driven stories are on the rise.

* Paranormal, dystopian and zombie books will be around for a while, although there is a rising interest in Sci-Fi, Mystery, Ghost stories and Thrillers.

* Middle Grade has a stronger growth potential

*Young Adult is more successful than ever.

The Hippie Hop Poolside Party

After all the awesome keynote speeches and wonderful workshop sessions, it was time to let loose and party.

I had so much fun meeting new friends and catching up with old ones, that I didn’t even have time to take pictures this year!

I did manage to take a quick (and fuzzy) shot of the awesome Flash Mob SCBWI members planned in honor of Steve and Lin.

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9 Responses to “SCBWI Summer Conference Day 2 (August 4, 2012)”

  1. Ciara Knight says:

    I’ve been looking at dropping RWA and joining SCBWI. After reading this, I’m leaning even more in that direction. My stories have changed to less romance and more young adult. Thanks for such an informative post about the event.

  2. L.C. Frost says:

    Hey Nutschell, thanks so much for the detailed events of the day!! Always love hearing authors’ stories. (Especially Ruta. Wow.)

  3. Thank you for sharing your wonderful experience. I’m a big fan of Tony DiTerlizzi. I love The Spider and the Fly. Those illustrations are amazing.

  4. It was great to read about the conference and the talks people gave. There are some really interesting quotes here!

  5. Wow, thanks for typing that all up! Definitely a lot to be inspired by in this. Sounds like an awesome conference.

  6. What a great event… it looked awesome. I’m so jealous. Thank you so much for sharing with us:)

  7. Melissa Bradley says:

    Wow, Ruta’s story blew me away. And her quotes are simply astounding.

  8. Nick Wilford says:

    A prison beating is some hardcore research. I’m amazed! Thanks for sharing with us and all the great quotes. My favourite is: “The universe is made up of story”.

  9. Karen Strong says:

    LOVE Karen Cushman. I didn’t know she was 50 years young when she first published. Thanks so much for this overview. :)

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