Tuesday, August 5, 2008

21 Great Things I Learned On My Summer Vacation (or more accurately, at the SCBWI 2008 Summer Conference)

Me and The Disco Mermaids - Hi Robin! Hi Jay! Hi Eve!

Me and Bruce Coville and Greg Pincus - Hi Bruce! Hi Greg!

Me and David LaRochelle - Hi David!


So much wisdom packed into 4 days!

It reminded me of those old game shows where they put some adrenaline-hyped up winner (the poor sap) in a glass tube filled with dollar bills, then they turn on the fan below her and as the bills whip and flash through the vacuum-charged air, and she's trying NOT to remind everyone of that famous photo of Marilyn Monroe on the subway vent, she has 10 seconds to catch and thus keep as much money as she can.

Of course, I missed most of the cash, but here are some of the harder gems that knocked me in the head and that I managed to remember to write down:

Laura Rennert, Agent, on elements of successful picture books. They...

"Render the ordinary extraordinary."

Margaret Peterson Haddix, Author, on your character doing things that move your plot forward. But,

"Your character doesn't know there is a plot. Why are your characters doing that?"

Stephen Malk, Agent, giving advice...

"Have a career model. Do a case study of a career."

Arthur A. Levine, Editor, in his keynote on the surprising health of the picturebook market, poking fun at the alarmist narrative of it's demise (you have to do your best to imagine his "Mr. Bill" impression)...

"Oh Noooo!"

David Gale, Editor, on the amazing picturebook "And Tango Makes Three" by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson, illustrated by Henry Cole, which is the true story of two gay penguins at the Central Park Zoo and the baby penguin they raise as their own...

"For the last two years, it was the most challenged book in America."

and on Tango's huge success

"It has followed a different sales model" than any other picturebook - spiking in sales after each challenge!

David LaRochelle, Author, on how to write funny

"Think about what makes you laugh."

Lin Oliver, Author, following that point up

"You can't be funny in someone else's way."

Sid Fleishman, Author, on other people's judging his humor

"If I laugh at the typewriter, that's enough for me."

and then, someone in the audience called out,

"What's a typewriter?"

Rachel Cohn, Author, on treating your characters

"Don't smother - that's (s) Mother your characters and have them make better choices."

And then Rachel shared Gail Giles' advice on writing for teens,

"'I've had characters remind me that consequences are meaningless at that age and immediate gratification takes too long.'"

Bruce Coville, Author, on writing fantasy. Go for a...

"Touch of Destiny. Kids want to believe in fate, in specialness."

and from the same talk, this one

"Strive for a sense of the numinous"

(an unexplainable sense of a larger, sacred fabric of the universe being around you.)

Adam Rex
, on his background before becoming an author/illustrator...

"I got my B.F.A."

while on the screen behind him, this definition flashed:

BFA |be ef a| abbr.
Barrista of the Future,

Leonard Marcus, Children's book historian and Author, quoting the legendary Ursula Nordstrom:

"'Is there any prettier sight in the world than someone sticking out their own neck?'"

Sara Pennypacker, Author, on school visits...

"Kids love their authors, but it's a savage love."

Alan Katz, Author...

"Clip Clop is someone's else's writing to describe the sound of horses. How do your horses sound?"

John Rocco, Author/illustrator

"When you talk to one librarian it's like talking to 400 kids."

Sara Pennypacker, Author

"The Beginning of your book is a promise, and you spend the rest of the book delivering on that promise."

Susan Patron, Author...

"Yearning is a part of all art."

Susan quoting Mark Teague...

"We - our books - are doing good in the world. And that is a fine thing."

Lin Oliver, Author and Executive Director of SCBWI, to the more than 1000 authors, illustrators, editors, agents, art directors and other kid lit professionals, in the final goodbye moment of the conference main session,...

"I hope you're feeling like part of a tribe, because you are."

And I do. I really do.

Thank you to everyone above and Thank you as well to so many others that I got to meet and chat with - and please know that if I didn't talk about a gem from you, it doesn't mean you didn't throw handful after handful of beautiful baubles at me - I just didn't manage to catch those! And, of course, there were a couple that I have to save for later.

For now, I'm full of ideas, and joy, and a sense of Tribe, and I say to you all...




Anonymous said...

These are great quotes, Lee, thanks so much for sharing them! I would love to know more about John Rocco saying, "When you talk to one librarian it's like talking to 400 kids."

Lee Wind, M.Ed. said...

Hey Lisa!

John was talking about how "librarians are your best friends when getting kids to read your books."

I jotted down those two great quotes during his great presentation on "The Tactical Art of Promotion, Before and After Publication." It was super interesting, and his work is wonderful.



David LaRochelle said...

And here is one of the gems I learned from YOU, Lee: Good intentions are all fine and dandy, but taking action is how change occurs. You demonstrated it earlier this year when you sent out a stack of queer-positive books to a library in a school district that was in dire need of some enlightenment, and you demonstrated it again at this conference.

And of course it is something every writer needs to remember over and over again: we don't create books by thinking about them; we create books by doing the work of writing them.

It was a true honor meeting you in person this past week,


Anonymous said...

John was talking about how "librarians are your best friends when getting kids to read your books."

Yay! I have to agree. I know some authors argue that kids will refuse to read any book recommended by an authority figure (parent, teacher, or librarian). I'm sure that's true of some kids, especially more rebellious teens, but at the library I talk to soooo many kids and parents who want reading suggestions, and I love to talk up good books! If I know about a local author's book, I am that much more likely to talk it up to patrons.

Disco Mermaids said...


Like I said before, I'd like for my next book to have that title.

I feel silly gushing about you in the comments section of your own blog....but...

I spent a good portion of the ride home expressing how wonderful you are as an author, friend, mentor, innovator, and general good, kind soul.

I really hope to see you more this year. Talking with you always fires me up to do good things. Your enthusiasm for positive change is palpable and contagious!


Rita said...

What a great, great recap post! I love it!

Thank you, Lee, for sharing your collection of conference gems. I love your analogy to the glass tube of dollar bills. Ha! And then we all open our hands afterward and show each other what we got.



Stephanie J. Blake said...

Loved seeing your bright and shiny face!