Spring: Nature’s Revised Draft guest recap by Sarah Maynard!

I hope everyone who attended our recent Spring: Nature’s Revised Draft conference had a wonderful time and that you went home inspired! I certainly did, so many thanks to the following planning committee ladies for making it happen:

  • Sue Peters and Sue Poduska, our fearless co-regional coordinators
  • Sue Detwiler, regional illustrator coordinator
  • Loretta Carlson, critique coordinator
  • Linda Jeffries-Summers, registration coordinator
  • Shelley Koon, critique group coordinator
  • Larissa Graham
  • Edie Hemingway
  • Susan Mannix
  • Lois Szymanski

Headshot-fullAs Sue Peters announced during the opening comments, we would love to receive more input from regional members to share on the blog. We will soon be posting submission ideas and guidelines but until then, we have guest contributor, Sarah Maynard sharing her summarized thoughts about the conference!

(For Sarah’s complete, four-part summary, visit her blog.)



by Sarah Maynard

What a great conference! I always feel so energized after a writing conference. Ready to sit down and shred on my WIP, write out a new idea and connect with those I met. So much to do and never enough time right?

One of our RAs Sue Peters starts off the morning. Photo by Sarah Maynard.

One of our RAs Sue Peters starts off the morning. Photo by Sarah Maynard.

IMG_3490We started off with an emotional, inspiring session by Lesléa Newman with her talk He Continues to Make a Difference: The Story of Matthew Shepard. I was so taken by her talk I didn’t take many notes. All I could do was listen. Listen and imagine a place where we could all live without feeling fear. What a place that would be?

Lesléa reminded us to “write about what you are passionate about.” To make “better lives through our literature.” I want to thank her for all the work she has done and continues to do for the LGBT community. Please recommend October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard to all the young adults in your life, gay and straight, that we might foster a culture of acceptance and without a feeling of fear.


Photo by Sarah Maynard

Photo by Sarah Maynard

Up next were the longer morning sessions and I was off to From Manuscript to Dummy for Picture Book Writers with Tara Lazar. I tried to soak in EVERYTHING! I have over four and a half pages of notes! And notes on her handout! And note on a current WIP! And I was gone for a bit for my in person critique!

Here are a few bullet points that I have circled in my notes:

  • You have 30 seconds to grab their attention. MAKE IT GOOD!
  • “Writing a picture book is 99% staring and 1% writing.”
  • Learn who YOU are as a WRITER.
  • If it’s not apparent by words you’ve written, add an art note
  • Don’t let your editor/agent guess

Though I had heard the rule of threes and the 4 Ws before, it suddenly clicked while Tara was explaining it. Maybe it was because I just realized how to fix my WIP. Maybe it was because I was really paying attention. But I think it was Tara’s awesome personality and her great examples.

Tara talked about using the 4 Ws(who, what, where, when) and getting the reader to ask WHY? I’m telling you Tara’s WHY?? is one of the best I’ve heard. Am I right attendees?

She had us rewrite the first sentence of our WIP and I LOVE my new opening. (I volunteered to read mine and got my very own Tara Lazar WHHHYYYY?? Whoot!)

Tara gave so many wonderful examples and if you ever get the chance to be in a session of hers I definitely recommend it. Definitely a big highlight of the day for me. (Even if we did forget to get a picture for 12X12.)


Photo by Sarah Maynard

Now about my critique, let me start first by saying:



I am so glad that I signed up for one and I was able to talk with the wonderful Alyson Heller, Associate Editor at Aladdin, Simon and Schuster Children’s Publishing.

I went into the critique reminding myself that this business is AMAZINGLY subjective and that hers is only one opinion. But one that I added a bit more weight to, if we are being truly honest. An industry professional’s opinion does weigh more on us then others. That being said, I tried to remember I didn’t have to agree with everything she said.

Except, I did. Thanks to her suggestions I am finally able to raise my story leaps and bounds above where it was. This one 15-minute session is going to elevate my story to a new exciting level. I can’t wait to get to work!

In the afternoon, I was scheduled to volunteer timing critiques. If you aren’t involved volunteering with SCBWI, I highly encourage it. You never know what opportunities await you by being more involved. And it’s a lot of fun. Which is a good enough reason for me.

I was thinking of attending the First Chapters session with Alyson Heller, since my critique with her was so awesome I wanted to hear more from her, but the room was PACKED! And since I going to need to scoot out, I left my spot for someone else.

And I went to Social Media 101 for Authors with Rori Shay, author, and Sara D’Emic, agent at Talcott Notch Literary. Hearing Rori talk about how she uses twitter was a great help to me. “It pays to have a bit of boldness on Twitter,” she said.

After timing critiques, I slid in for the last bit of Lesléa’s session In the Flesh: Fleshing Out Our Characters. Just as I entered she was sharing examples, in poetry and prose, of writers describing hands. She then asked us to take ten minutes and describe someone’s hands.

After listening to her read poetry earlier in the day and then again in her session, I was reminded of how much I used to LOVE to write poetry. I very rarely shared any of my poetry, but I think I would enjoy writing and sharing poetry with kids.

The afternoon wrapped up with a faculty panel where they answered questions from when it’s the right time to query (when your MS is as good as you can make it) to whether one should use a pen name (seems to really be personal preference) and so much more.

Photo by Sarah Maynard

Photo by Sarah Maynard

Debra Tess, Senior Editor at Highlights for Children, mentioned that Highlights is ALWAYS looking for new writers and illustrators. Unsolicited, so no need for an agent to submit to them. Definitely check that out!

Hope you enjoyed my summary of our SCBWI MD/DE/WV Spring Nature’s Revised Draft Conference. Maybe I’ll see you there September 20-21, 2014 for the fall conference!


Thanks, Sarah, for stopping by and sharing your experience at the conference! We appreciate it.

Happy writing and drawing, everyone! 🙂



About Laura Bowers

Laura is a writer, runner, reader, runDisney addict, blogger/vlogger at Write, Run, Rejoice and Joyful Miles, mom of two college boys, excellent chili maker, and obsessive list keeper. She clearly likes run-on sentences and adverbs. She also still thinks Spice World was an awesome movie and feels no shame about that.
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4 Responses to Spring: Nature’s Revised Draft guest recap by Sarah Maynard!

  1. Ginny Vroblesky says:

    Thank you for the recent posts. I submitted a manuscript to Schoolbox. I am at a phase in life when I cannot attend the conferences. Caregiving parents is a good time but thinking and writing provides a balance I need. So thank you. Ginny Vroblesky

  2. jsalleva says:

    Wonderful!  Thanks so much!! JeanneAs the Eraser Burns wrote:

  3. Thanks for taking the time to share. It’s always interesting to read another writer’s feelings about a conference you went to. I actually went to different sessions – so this post gave me a peek at what I missed!

  4. Michael says:

    Sent from my Verizon Wireless 4G LTE Smartphone

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