Saturday, August 6, 2011

Update from the SCBWI Conference

I'm here in Los Angeles for the first day of SCBWI's 40th Annual Summer Conference and man, am I tired!  It has been an exciting, eventful day.  I left the house (thanks, Dana, for letting me crash at your place!) at 7:15 a.m. and just got home at 10 p.m.

While I feel exhausted, I also feel inspired, motivated, and rejuvenated as a writer. In fact, if I had more energy, I'd start working on revisions of my book right now.

Bruce Coville commenced the conference with a great keynote speech, listing 13 pieces of advice for writers.  I took notes.  I think I'll type them up and post them to the wall for motivation.  Of course, I've already messed up his first piece of advice:  Marry rich.  But I'll keep it in mind for my second husband (kidding, honey!).

Publishers gave us a sense of the writing industry right now for children's writers and as expected, there is a lot of change happening due to the surge in ebook sales and self-publishing.  However, middle grade and young adult books seem to be holding steady in regular book sales - at least compared to adult literature, which is reassuring (at least, for now).

I've written down the names of upcoming books that editors/publishers are excited about and can't wait to read them as they come out in the next year.  Some mentioned were:  A Fault in Our Stars by John Green, The Disenchantments by Nina LaCour (her already released book Hold Still got a shout-out, too), All the Earth, Thrown to the Sky by Joe R. Lansdale, and the upcoming Ghost Buddy series by Henry Winkler and Lin Oliver (the Fonz is rumored to be a character!).

Libba Bray's presentation was a survival guide to writing.  She was AWESOME!  She is an incredibly dynamic, funny, and inspirational speaker.  And I was lucky enough to get a picture with her! (Pics of me with her and other authors to follow soon).  If you are not familiar with her name, she wrote the Gemma Doyle trilogy (really good!), Going Bovine (which I just purchased and had autographed today), and Beauty Queens (which I am currently reading).  She reminded us that everyone - EVERYONE - can write badly sometimes.  That's why they're called drafts.  It's okay to "suck," as long as we work to make things better.  It is good to know that even famous authors struggle with the same writing dilemmas that the rest of the world face.

Her speech was the last I heard before going into my dreaded, yet anticipated manuscript critique.  She helped me laugh my nerves away.  Bless you, Libba!

My critique was with the vice president of a publishing house.  I couldn't have had a better mentor.  She knows the business and her comments, advice, questions, and suggestions gave me a sense of relief and new direction and motivation.  I know my book has the makings of something good, and she helped clarify to me the ways I need to get there.  In a few sentences, she was able to simplify issues that I have been tackling for months.  I'm so grateful!  She also said that I am in the "strike zone," which I guess means that as long as I keep my novel moving in the direction she thinks it is - with strong characterization and a unique plot and setting - that I have what publishers are looking for.  I just need to do it.  This means, lots and lots of revisions, but I'm ready for it!  Bring it! ;)

Armed with a huge load of newly purchased books (Garrett, please don't kill me - it's a sickness!  Book addiction!), I entered the autograph room and got autographs and pictures with Laurie Halse Anderson, Libba Bray, Bruce Coville, Denise Fleming, Esther Hershenhorn, Lin Oliver, and Henry Winkler.

The published members of SCBWI had a cocktail reception at the end of the evening, which I also attended.  I would have really liked to browse more of the books being showcased, but I ran out of time and frankly, my feet were killing me.  It's been a long time since I've worn heels for any length of time!

To end the night, my friend and writing colleague from Las Vegas, Carly, and I had dinner at the hotel's restaurant.  It was the first time we'd relaxed all day.

Tomorrow, the fun begins again and the night will end with a pajama party (although, I am really hesitant about wearing pjs in public!)  Now, it's time for bed.

If  you're interested in more details about the day, check out SCBWI's blog:

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