November, 2013

2013 SCBWI-MO Follow Your Dream Conference

An agent who attempted to send the presenter panel into diabetic comas by providing them each with a Gooey Butter Cake. An RA waving a magic wand and wearing a sparkling crown. These are just two of the things you missed if you weren’t at Lindenwood University November 2-3 for the 2013 SCBWI Missouri fall Conference.

Despite weather issues in NY and the airport shutdown in LA, all of our presenters arrived safely on Friday, November 1. However, Illustrator Coordinator Katie Wools took Dan Santat and Lisa Yee on a perilous tour of the City Museum where, sources tell me, Santat was lobbing balls with deadly accuracy and Wools almost tossed her cookies on the rooftop Ferris Wheel of Terror. Lisa Yee did not escape unscathed: she suffered a minor scrap after a tumble in The Loop. Peepy was unharmed. Thankfully, they eventually arrived at the hotel for dinner with no further incidents.

Dinner was one of the conference’s magical moments for me. Conversation was lively and afterwards I had a chance to sneak off with Lori Kilkelly, an agent at Rodeen Literary Management, to discuss my WIP, a fantasy manuscript currently titled The Fifth Dragon. She was personable and sharp- I would be delighted if she eventually extended me an offer of representation.

The conference started bright and early the following morning. I’ll admitt to feeling a little bleary eyed-  incoming ARA Shannon Moore & I spent a few hours hashing out details for some of the events our team has planned for 2014.  Than goodness for coffee! I was thrilled when it was annouce d that one of my critique buddies, Suzanne Walker-Pacheco, won the 2013 mentership!  Next, Regina Brooks offered advice in her keynote “Tapping into your Inner Muse One Whisper at a Time,” and Krista Marino discussed “The Business of Publishing at Delacorte Press.”  Next up was Santat who had everyone giggling. This admission, “My fear of inadequecy kept me from wanting to give up anything,” resonated with me as I struggle to balance carving out writing time with my “duties” as ARA, OWP Youth Director, and editor of an upcoming MCB project: Word & Image: Prompts for Composing.

Breakouts came next. I’ve had an author crush on Matt de la Pena since I saw him speak at the ALAN Conference in Chicago several years ago. His session on writing dialog was fantastic. We considered things like: who gets the most dialogue in a scene? Why using “creative” tags is a no-no. How having white space on the page-ie dialogue- is inviting to readers. And how the action around the dialogue is so important.  Matt’s keynote, “Working Class Writer” was a huge sucess a s well. I’m looking forward to the release of his new novel, The Living, on November 12th.

Next up was the aforementioned Kilkelly who shared “Thoughts From a Literary Agent.” She was followed by Judy Young, who discussed “Counting Her Lucky Stars.” Lastly, Yee chatted about “Following Your Dream Without Falling on Your Face.”

Saturday’s dinner, with Joyce Ragland, Moore, Yee, Marino, Young, and Jennifer Jiang was insightful. Lots of insider gossip- but I can’t share, ’cause then I’d have to kill you!

My breakfast buddies both days were aspiring authors Erin Mos and Laura Moore from the KC area, as well as the RA and ARA from SCBWI Kansas, Colleen and Sue. Seeing friends from faraway places is one of the best parts of these gatherings.

Lastly, I attended Lisa Yee’s session, “Creating Compelling Bad Guys and Bullies” on Sunday. We discussed great literary bad guys and gals, role played, wrote and shared character sketches- I came away with a plethera of ideas for the bad folks in my WIP. Instead of reading PEOPLE, my usual guilty pleasure while traveling, I will be happily creating character sketches on my upcoming trip to CA.

I’m already looking forward to my trip to Boston and the ALAN Conference to scout out the a great faculty for future SCBWI Missouri Conferences. I’m also excited to be attending the national conference in NY in my new role as RA. And though it will be hard to top this year’s ‘Dream Team’ of presenters- I am proud to annouce the line-up for 2014: Editor Deborah Halverson, agents Nancy Gallt & Jody Sadler, authors Cecily White  & Steve Sheinkin, Curicullum Specialist Debbie Gonzales, and art director Guiseppe Castellani. We will shake things up a little by offering headshots by Davis Photography, a cocktail/coffee hour with presenters Saturday night, peer critique groups led by PAL members, as well as written critiques from Marino among others. We are also hoping to steal an idea from our cohorts in Kansas and Ohio by having a “First Five Lines” reading and a celebration honoring PAL members who publish work in 2014. Hope you’ll join us at this, or one of our other SCBWI Missouri events in 2014.

dan and katie Joyce


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