Saturday, August 11, 2012

SCBWI Summer Conference

So many times I have thought about my blog. I’ve had fantastic ideas swirling around in my brain. I’ve had so many experiences worthy of a blog post. I guess the time wasn’t right. Now it is. I think with writing, as with anything creative, there are peaks and valleys. Times when words flow through your finger tips straight onto the keys on the computer so fast you can hardly keep up with them. Those times are fun and exciting. 
But there are also times of drought. The drought usually is because of outside circumstances: family, health, job. You know, life.
But when the drought is over, when the words come, that’s where the magic happens. We all love magic, don’t we!

August 3rd through 6th of this year I feel as if I’ve had a rebirth.
The SCBWI Summer Conference was here in Southern California. I had been looking forward to it for months and I’m happy to report that it didn’t disappoint. In fact, it did more for me than I expected. I taught me the craft, making me a stronger writer. It inspired me to write a book that the “younger me” would want to read. It reminded me that in order to succeed, you need to sit down and write, to finish the story. I love take home messages. You know, one liners. Here are some of my favorites that I wrote down in my notes. There were so many, and so many times I listened with my whole body, no notes taken. Those words of wisdom are stuck in my brain, sorry, I can’t share them. But here are some good ones:
Ari Lewin said explaining a world is boring. Use characterization to set up the world or the scene. A writer needs to convince readers that they want to go on a journey. Great advice, huh. Here’s another one.
Karen Cushman said that sometimes you need to climb inside you story, be receptive to inspiration, it may come even when you’re far from your chair. Two of her rules were 1. Tell the truth (connect with emotions) and 2. Write from your heart, with passion.
Arthur Levine said to find something in your story that’s unique, then he went on to answer many questions from the group with patience, clarity, and honesty.
Gary Schmidt gave the final keynote speech. I loved so much of what he said like to “give the kids more to be a human being with.” 
He had 5 words of wisdom:
1.Love words.
2.Love the world.
3.Ask questions.
4.Pay attention.
5.Does the writing serve?
Love, question, attention, and serve. This is what we’re giving our readers, the children that will pick up the books and go on the journey we create. They are who we write for, and that’s the most important thing to remember.

Lin Oliver has a way of taking 1,200 people in a hotel conference hall and making them a community, a tribe. I have spoken to her in the past and she is so real, honest, caring, and loving. Stephen Mooser was wonderful and I think I know how he broke his arm, but I’m not 100% sure.
The agents, editors, and accomplished authors were so available and willing to help us “pre-published” authors on our road to publishing. I love that, pre-published” ha- I guess that’s similar to when I was pre-med. Not a doctor yet, don’t let me do surgery on you-but I’ll get there. And I did with medicine. So, with hard work, a great story, and a little bit of luck, I’ll get to drop that “pre” one day, and get published.

I actually haven’t written about the most important part of the conference. The lectures were fantastic, that’s for sure. But I met some wonderful people. Writers that are like me. They have families and crazy lives too. They understand what it’s like to sit down in the chair and write for hours. They know how exciting it is to write a scene that is so good we want to jump up and down. They know rejection. They know that when people ask you what you do, and you say that you write, those people don't understand why. They know why. They have doubts if they’ll ever get published. These people are like me and I love them.
They are my writer friends. They are my community.
Throughout this year when I’m sitting alone and writing, I’m really not alone.
That’s what the summer conference gave me.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart.