I spent my weekend at the 20th annual SCBWI Western Washington conference surrounded by local writers and illustrators and a brilliant faculty. It was the best conference I’ve ever attended. Part of that may be because I didn’t have a manuscript consultation so my nerves weren’t on edge. In fact, I went with a finished rough draft in need of drastic revision, and I got a million new ideas for how to make this story come alive and be what it is intended to be. But it’s hard for me to cover a whole conference, especially one with five break-out sessions in each of six slots and four keynote addresses. (And I forgot my camera–the lovely Dawn Simon took photos for me, so check out her blog for the pics I would have here!)
So rather than try to cover everything, I will refer you to our region’s blog, the Chinook Update, with a link on the right-hand column. Here, I will just give you a list of some words of wisdom that made their way into my head, heart, and notebook:
- Author Deborah Wiles gave what was, to me, the best. keynote. ever. I described it later as a “sucker-punch to my soul.” She said all stories come from three places: what you know, what you feel, and what you can imagine. She talked about her lists of words and things she loves, houses she’s lived in and people she’s known, and she didn’t shy away from the tough stuff. Her darkest moments mirrored those of my WIP’s characters and that of a close friend, and when I confessed to being so moved in her book-signing line, she gave me the biggest, warmest hug. I will remember her generosity always.
- Author Rosanne Parry talked about the need for characters to not just have funny quirks but deep flaws and struggles–sins, if you will. Her breakout session, “Character and the Seven Deadly Sins,” helped me get in touch with some of my characters, two in particular. She also noted that each sin can be turned around and used for good as well, along with the virtues our characters also hold at their core. In the major turning points, will our characters’ sins or virtues come out?
- British book packager Lionel Bender talked about book fairs and exhibitions, noting that they could be valuable opportunities to meet with publishers and get a jump on the newest things being published. Can’t wait for Seattle to host one of the biggest in 2013!
- Illustrator Dan Santat shared his struggle to find his own style, noting that it has to come naturally because otherwise it’ll look like you’re trying to find it and you’ll just end up copying everyone else.
- Illustrator Jesse Joshua Watson mentioned wishing he could go back to his first books and use the skills he has learned since, but said, “You’re only capable of what you’re capable of right now.”
- Editor Tim Travaglini talked about “high concept” teen fiction, noting that just because it is commercial it can and should still be of high quality.
- Agent Marietta Zacker encouraged us to find our own authentic voice that kept our audience in mind and trusted them to feel the emotions of our characters for truly memorable stories.
And now it is time for me to get to writing!