I've never been to a SCBWI conference, or any writers conference before, so I didn't know what to expect. My experience started on Friday night with the hospitality room for conference-goers. Over M &Ms, almonds, and cheese puffs we talked about what we were working on, our successes, and of course, our learning experiences. I love meeting other writers. We all seem to share the same insanity--I mean passion--even though we come from different backgrounds and have different ideas. (Thank goodness, think how boring reading would be if all writers were the same!)
Because I got so much good information from the conference, (still trying to digest it myself) I'm going to spread it out over a couple of posts. My overall summary is that I came away from the conference with new ideas about the business of writing, and with inspiration to continue writing. It was definitely a worthwhile experience, and I would recommend a writer's conference for anyone who needs to recharge their writing batteries.
The first speaker on Saturday morning was Franscesco "Rocky" Sedita the Vice President and Publisher of Grosset and Dunlap and Price Stern Sloan. His presentation, entitled "You Do it Because You Love It," was funny, poignant, and inspirational. In the midst of stories from his childhood, (I'm exactly one month older than him), he reminded us all that we write because we love it. A message that doesn't always stay clear when writing becomes a job.
Here's a quote that Francesco put into the conference packets:
There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action. And because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique and if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and be lost. The world will not have it.
It is not your business to determine how good it is, nor how valuable, nor how it compares to other expressions. It is your business to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep open and aware directly to the urges that activate you.
Keep the channel open.
I love it! I can see why Francesco told us to hang it up where we write.
Francessco also talked about what he does at Penguin Young Reader's group. He gave me a whole new perspective on "mass-market" paperbacks, especially the kind of books that you find in the book orders kids bring home from school, (like a Strawberry Shortcake or Sponge Bob Book). He emphasized that these books aren't junk, but are an effective way to get kids to read. Find a character that they're interested in and they'll read the book. This interested me as both a writer and as a mother. "Mass Market" paperbacks not only a good way to get kids into reading, but they are a way for a writer to build their "list" and experience. (Something to file away for future reference.)
Claudia Gabel, (Senior Editor at Katherine Tegen Books) talked about another avenue for writers. Her presentation was called "Think Like a Packager." She talked about "Packaged" books, books that came from a concept, decided on by an "Intellectual Property" development team. With this kind of book an idea is developed by the team and then an author is hired to write the book. Books that were developed this way include GOSSIP GIRLS and THE SISTERHOOD OF THE TRAVELING PANTS. This is another interesting concept to a writer. Taking someone's idea and making it their own.
According to Claudia some of the things writers can learn by "Thinking Like A Packager" and looking at "packaged books" are:
- How to strengthen plotting and outline skills
- What a high concept idea is
- How to construct a three-act story arc
- What publishers and editors are looking for
- How to create a book that will thrive in a digital age
- They are for all ages (on :01's list there are novels for 5 year olds through adults)
- The brain process for reading a graphic novel is different than the process for reading a regular novel--you have are engaging more senses as you read and look at the illustrations
- There are some brilliant, original, graphic novels out there. She suggested THE PHOTOGRAPHER which I am adding to my "to be read" list.
To give all of us some time to digest, I'll write about the two fabulous workshops I attended and the rest of the speakers next Monday.