Oh. My. Goodness.
He was fantastic. And don’t you just love it when a presenter says exactly what you need to hear exactly when you need to hear it? Yeah. That was my experience with the amazing E.B. Lewis.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me start off with Friday night and how great it was staying on site at the Bishop Claggett Center now that the Christiana Inn is open. Not that it was a deal driving to the conference while staying in Frederick, but boy was it nice being able to walk right from my room to the dining area for dinner! (Which was very yum, by the way.) It added such a higher level of camaraderie, being able to socialize with other attendees and presenters.
Speaking of socializing, a major thank you to Sarah Maynard for putting together a fantastic Kidlit Trivia night! Us blogger gals had some ATEB business to take care us so I didn’t attend but from what I heard, it was a blast. Congrats to the winner!
After a great breakfast on Saturday morning, we headed over to the conference area where Sue Peters kicked things off with some announcements and faculty introductions. Kathy MacMillan, our new PAL Coordinator, spoke about upcoming events for PAL members such as the Gaithersburg and Baltimore Book Festivals. (For more info, contact Kathy at firstname.lastname@example.org.) Our Illustrator Coordinator, Rebecca Evans talked about the Annapolis Sketch Crawl on May 30th as well as other opportunities for illustrators.
Sarah Maynard then announced our upcoming ABC Event featuring the lovely Susan Detwiler on April 19th at the Howard County Library where Susan will speak about her path to publication and her experience as an illustrator. (We will be posting more on this later!)
After the announcements came what we were all waiting for … our keynote speaker, E.B. Lewis! Talk about amazing. Some of my favorite presentations have been given by illustrators, (hello? Floyd Cooper, anyone?) and E.B. most definitely now ranks among the top. And like I said earlier, it’s fantastic when you hear exactly what you need to hear exactly when you need to hear it. Lately I’ve been working hard identifying my true self and reinventing my career for the hundredth time. So it hit home when E.B. used this Mark Twain quote…
The two most important days of your life are the day you’re born and the day you find out why.
…before going on to share (and my apologies for not remembering this word-for-word; if someone has a better recollection, please share,) an analogy of somebody standing at the end of a cliff, looking up to a group of people standing on top of the mountain above him. He asked them, “how did you get there?” to which they responded, “We jumped.” Meaning, in order to reach higher goals and climb to the top of that mountain, you must first take a risk and jump instead of just talking about jumping.
Afterwards, attendees were able to choose between three breakout sessions:
- How to Build Your Brand: For Illustrators by Heather Alexander, an agent with Pippin Properties
- Crafting Come-Alive Chapter Book Characters by Aladdin Books editor, Amy Cloud
- and Revising Our Views on Revision: How to Learn to Love Revision Our Novels by Kate Angelella, a freelance writer and editor.
Since I’m now revising a mid-grade novel, I chose Kate’s class. I’m so glad I did! Although I’ve gone to many, many classes on rewriting a manuscript, Kate offered tons of fresh input plus a checklist of things to ask yourself before doing a second draft that is now loaded into my Scrivener novel template!
If anyone has any general thoughts to share for the other two sessions, please leave them in the comments below. For the second breakout session, attendees were able to choose between:
- The Importance of Narrative in Nonfiction by Emily Feinberg, an assistant Editor at Roaring Book Press
- Beyond the Query Letter: Finding an Agent Through Conventional, and Not-So-Conventional Methods by Carrie Howland, an agent with Donadio & Olson
- and Using Crowdfunding to “Kickstart” Your Career as a Writer or Illustrator by illustrator Travis Keller.
Rather than attending one of these, I decided to spend some quiet writing time seeing as how Kate’s revising advice was swirling in my head. So again, if anyone would like to share a brief recap, please do!
After lunch, (man, I seriously indulged this weekend–those brownies, oh my gosh!!) we had four first of two afternoon breakout sessions:
- All About the Graphic Novel, with Carol Burrell, Freelance Editor
- Writing with Pictures: Exployring the Visual Language and How it Relates to Illustrating Picture Books by E.B. Lewis
- The Arts from a Legal Perspective with Razvan E. Miutescu, MD Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts
Once again, I opted for writing time which is very unlike me but Kate was still on my mind. (That sounds like a country song, right?) I did attend one of our final breakouts:
- Writing My Way to a Better Life with author Fred Bowen
- Finding Your Marketing Voice, by Susan Raab, president of Raab Associates, Inc.
- and The Arts from a Legal Perspective with Razvan E. Miutescu, MD Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts
Since I’m also in the process of trying to figure out what my brand is (as well as reinventing my entire writing career–I’m a busy gal,) I couldn’t miss Susan Raab‘s session. (By the way, after being asked, “You’re the runner, right?” and having people tell me they read some of my crazy race recaps, I’m thinking about going with crazy writer/runner as my brand. Works, huh?)
After I had filled some notepad pages with Susan’s great input, it was time for our final session, a panel discussion with presenters.
But first, our fabulous co-blogger and Critique Group Coordinator, Shelly Koon talked about ways for members to join a critique group! For more info, head over to our regional website.
Then came some announcements by our Blog Coordinator, Susan Mannix and yours truly! Susan spoke about our AWESOME AMAZING FANTASTIC new monthly themes for contributing to As The Eraser Burns! We want your submissions, y’all, because this is not the Laura/Susan/Susan/Shelley blog. This is the SCBWI MD/DE/WV blog!
(Oh, and for those of you who said you’ll send something in? Yeah. Prepare to be nagged if you don’t. Just saying.)
It was then my turn to announce our new First Friday Social Media Blog Link-up that starts tomorrow! My apologies for sounding jumbled – I was nervous and wanted to hurry since I knew everyone was anxious for the panel discussion. But I also quickly announced how we are bringing back MAY MID-GRADE MADNESS! Yes, it’s true, because writing a mid-grade in 72 hours is a crazy, insane, and overly-ambitious endeavor, we just couldn’t say no when Kara Laughlin inquired about it. We’ll be posting more details soon but until then, we head on over to the May Mid-grade Madness Facebook page Kara has created!
So, where was I? Oh yeah, the panel! How awesome was that? Our gal Shelley did a great job monitoring it and the attendees asked some fantastic questions. There is one more question that I’m just dying to ask, though:
Fred Bowen, just how did you get to be so uncommonly handsome?
(You had to be there, folks, for that to make sense.)
Afterwards, we headed to dinner, (the mini-cupcakes, oh my gosh!!) and then to the Inn where Sarah hosted a Round Robin Story & Art followed by a Mix & Mingle Social. Some of us also joined E.B. for wine and a viewing of one of his favorite movies, The Book Thief. (After we spent about forty minutes trying to get the media to work, that is.) How appropriate was that film, considering the strong message at the end that we–as writers–need to share our stories with the world?
For those who attended on Sunday, we had four intensives to choose from:
- Giving Ordinary Objects Extraordinary Meaning: Learning to Use the “Objective Correlative” with Kate Angelella
- Mind the Gap: Make Your Illustrations and Text Just the Right Fit by Emily Feinberg
- You Only Get Ten Pages to Make a First Impression with Carrie Howland
- and Master Class: New Rules of Media Engagement by Susan Raab.
Once again, I went with Susan Raab who had us digging in deep to figure out our brand, the message we want to give the world, and how to market our books. Somewhere in the middle, I started to wonder why none of my characters are runners. I mean, running is a major part of my life. And you know what they say … write what you’re passionate about. So I pondered on it a bit and BAM, an idea smacked me right in the forehead and the first three chapters laid out perfectly in my head. And then I started thinking about something Shelley and I were talking about the night before, and double BAM, another character and story idea popped in my head.
See? Going to conferences is good.
We then had lunch, (more brownies, cupcakes, and cannoli’s, oh my!) All in all, it was a fantastic conference. I had a great time and came away learning a lot. So if you’re a pre-published author, (I do not dare say “aspiring writer” after reading an amazing blog post by Kristen Lamb–you must give this a read!) and you have the opportunity to attend our next conference … GO! You won’t regret it.
And again, many thanks to our fabulous presenters and dedicated volunteers who made the conference a success:
- Sue Peters and Sue Poduska, our fearless co-regional advisors
- Loretta Carlson for doing a bang-up job with critiques
- Linda Jeffries-Summers for taking care of registrations
- Sarah Maynard for coordinator our evening activities
- Kathy McMillian, PAL coordinator
- Rebecca Evans, Illustrator coordinator
- Susan Mannix, our blog coordinator who gathered all our pre-conference interviews
- Shelley Koons, ATEB blogger and critique group coordinator
- Moi and Susan Detwiler, ATEB bloggers
Thanks also to those who helped with morning registrations, timing critiques, presenter transportation, and whatever else was needed! And a MAJOR thank you to the gentleman in charge of Bishop Claggett – I don’t know your name, but you were such an amazing help!
I hope everyone had a GREAT conference and we’ll see you next year!