2014 SCBWI Kansas Conference

I just returned home from the SCBWI KS Step by Step: Advancing The Writer’s Craft Conference in Overland Park. I had a wonderful time hanging out with old frinds from the SCBWI community and learning tricks of the trade to apply to my writing.

The conference started for me with a one-on-one critique Friday night with Bloomsbury Editor Brett Wright. His praise for my writing was uplifting- but even more important was his criticisism of my synopsis. Since I am just beginning a new manuscrpt, it was great to get constructive feedback on elememnts of the plot that he felt weren’t working. His insights will be a valuable tool as I begin to shape my character ARCS and plotline.

Saturday kicked off with an uplifting and thoughtful message from award winning author Sharon Draper. She addressed the need for creating diverse literature. She stated that an authors purpose when writing should be to make sure that the kids that feel invisible-don’t. Other pearls of wisdom:

Remember that you are not creating characters, you are creating real people. If you don’t, we don’t want to read your books.

 Writers need to be patient. Things don’t always happen in a hurry-it’s a slow process-good things take time.
For my first breakout, I attended “Crafting a Standout Picture Book” by Andrea Brown Literary Agent Jennifer Mattson. She discussed incorporating the element of surprise in order to make your work standout. Some of her concrete advice:
1.Think brevity. PB are getting shorter and shorter, 250-500 words.If Nonfiction: its OK to have 1,000.
2.  Avoid the impulse to tell the illustrator too much, let them use their creative genus to help improve & compliment your story.
3. Try an unusual story structure: call & response, epistolary style, dialogue bubbles, irony, meta narrative.
4.On rhyming PB: don’t sound like Dr. Sues in a blender-strive for the unexpected. Don’t forget the use of refrains as a tool. (They work in nonfiction too.)
5. If your PB is character driven: the character must be out of the ordinary, distinct, larger than life, & franchisable. This holds true for NFC as well.
In my second breakout, led by brett Wright, we played with tip sheets and creating our own “handles’ to help us find out exactly where our books fall into the current bookscape.
In my final breakout led by author jennifer brown- we discussed ways to ratchet up the emotion, turn our characters into real people, and take our readers on an emotinal ride.
The conference closed with a panal discussio of some first five lines, an a closing keynote by Draper on the power of words.
Thanks to the generosity of the SCBWI kansas team, I was invited to join them for their facuty dinner at Jack Stacks BBQ One word: YUM! Insightful conversation and great company- the perfect way to end a perfect earning experience.
Next weekend; I’m off to learn more at the SCBWI Illionois Conference. Stay tuned for a recap!

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