I hadn’t missed my local conference since I started attending writing conferences in 2007, but this year I contemplated not going. I’d been really frustrated with my last couple of conferences, getting very little out of them. It’s only because of my mom (gotta love moms) that I ended up going, and I’m really glad I did! This year was “big”! NESCBWI was celebrating its 25th consecutive conference, and did so in style with a great line up of keynote speakers that included Tomie DePaola, Stephen Mooser, Lin Oliver, Harold Underdown, and Jane Yolen.
Saturday started off with Jane Yolen’s great keynote on rejection. The highlight of the speech for me was that we have to remember that rejection isn’t personal, and that even though we (as writers) have left our heart and soul on the pages we submit, the editor only sees the words and is only rejecting novel, not us. I also picked up a few “writer” acronyms that (I’m not sure how) I didn’t know about! My favorite being BIC or Butt in Chair! Something I need to do more of right now!
I wasn’t too enthusiastic about my Saturday workshops when I signed up for them, but I ended up really liking them. I got some good information and the speakers were very good. I ended up taking two nonfiction workshops: Research Techniques for Nonfiction and Using Photographs in Nonfiction. Both were taught by Loree Griffin Burns (who’s a great speaker) and I walked out of the workshops knowing more than I did going in—that’s the best kind of workshop!
The third workshop I took was by Tami Lewis Brown called Levitate Your Fiction. She talked about seven “magical” tools for levitating your fiction. Note: I can’t list all of them here with explanations because we were asked not to repost presenters’ work without their permission, but I can highlight a few of the points that really spoke to me. The first thing we need to do as writers is find the incredible (the “beyond belief”) element in our novels. It is our job to make the unbelievable element real. We have to ask ourselves what element is “beyond belief” and how we will make it “credible.” If you can convince the reader this element could be nothing but “true,” it will levitate your fiction to the next level. The other point that really stayed with me was that we need to “hire a skeptic.” We need someone to ask the hard questions, create obstacles, and raise doubts. And it doesn’t just have to be your reader; it can be in the form of skeptical character.
Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning we were privileged to hear Lin Oliver, co-founder and Executive Director of the SCBWI, and Stephen Mooser, co-founder and President of SCBWI, speak. I knew nothing about the history of SCBWI and how it was founded. Lin, Stephen and Jane Yolen started the first SCBW, the “I” was added soon after when illustrator Tomie dePaola joined. It really was a treat to hear all four keynote speakers talk about the history of SCBWI.
I also submitted a very rough draft first chapter of Avrina for a critique. I’ve never written science fiction before, and I was hoping just to get some feedback that would help me as I wrote the first draft. My critiquer, Stacy Whitman, is WONDERFUL. I have never had an editor take so much time and put so much effort into 10 pages of mine. She gave me lots of useful feedback that has already given me ideas for how to reshape the first chapter and pull her comments through the entire novel. Sunday I had a two-hour intensive workshop on World Building with her that I really enjoyed. I’m definitely on the right track with my world building, and I have a renewed passion to keep writing Avrina now. This was what I wanted, but had been missing from past conferences—that desire to write! I’m so glad I didn’t skip this year. I’d have missed out big time!