Tuesday, August 16, 2011

SCBWI Summer Conference: highlights from day two and three

Saturday’s line up was as exciting as Friday’s. Lin Oliver, Steve Mooser and the rest of the SCBWI team really did put together an incredible program.

Donna Jo Napoli discussed writing about unpleasant things. I’ve discussed this topic in the past with friends and fellow writers. The question is always the same: is a specific subject right for a children’s book. But the thing is these books help children who are living through rough lives in ways those of us that had good childhoods might not understand. They might show a person they are not alone or help others see warning signs from people they love. These books might even save a life. And for those in good homes, it allows them to gather an understanding of what others may go through without having to live through it themselves. It helps these children grow up to be more sympathetic adults. In my book, that is a wonderful thing and hats off to all the authors who tackle issues such as abuse, suicide, living with an alcoholic parent, and so on. The world needs you.

Does your website load quickly? Making sure your page loads fast was only one of the musts Verla Kay mentioned in her breakout session. I’ve always been a fan of her website and the community of writers that are members of the Blueboard, so it was a pleasure to hear what she had to say about promoting books on the internet. I’m still working on my website, but I now have a list of things to check as I create the different pages.

It was fun to hear about Judy Blume’s career. One of the tips she shared with the audience was to start your book on the day something different happens. I also had the pleasure of running into her in the lobby. She is as wonderful as I always thought she’d be.

And I can’t forget about the poolside gala where we all changed into pajamas and danced the night away. 

Sunday Gary Paulsen shared the story of his childhood and what led him to a career as a writer. He had a hard childhood and I’ll admit I got a little choked up when he said his only regret was not being able to thank the librarian who gave him his first library card.  

Harold Underdown and Emma Dryden reinforced the need for an author to have an on-line presence in their breakout session on social media. Helpful tips included owning your own domain name and having an author’s page on Facebook.

One last comment about the conference: the agents and editors I heard speak all look for sample pages with a great voice. It’s that little something that makes a submission stand out from the rest. I wish I could say they included a formula for creating great voice in a novel. But alas, this is something we all have to figure out on our own.

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