Happy late August to all of you; I hope your summer has been as pleasant as mine. Today I am pleased to offer you this guest post from our own Sue Poduska, Co-regional Advisor, who attended the 2015 SCBWI Summer Conference in Los Angeles and posted about it in her blog. Take it away, Sue!
LA – Worth the Trip
This is a little long, but it was a really great conference.
Knowing that not all of us can make the trip does not in any way keep me from getting excited when I go to the SCBWI Summer Conference in Los Angeles. The atmosphere is infectious, the people are wonderful, and I learn so much. Over 1200 writers, illustrators, editors, agents, and others gathered to learn and draw energy from each other.
I can truthfully say I enjoyed every single event I attended, though I did need to take a breath a couple of times. Keynotes included:
- Mem Fox, who not only was riveting with reading her books to us, but shared a lot about her process,
- Meg Wolitzer, who can do it all,
- Adam Rex, who knows how to make a picture book,
- Dan Santat (What can I say?),
- Jane O’Connor, a lively talk on creating characters,
- Varian Johnson on doing the work,
- Molly Idle, who says “Yes, and …?” a lot,
- Deb Halverson, who knows an awful lot about the market,
- Stephen Fraser, who shared many shining examples of great literature,
- Shannon Hale, who wants boys and girls alike to enjoy enjoyable things,
- Dan Yaccarino, and
- Kwame Alexander, who slam dunked it.
And then we all said “Whew!” and collapsed.
Seriously, though, I also attended wonderful breakouts by Kathleen Krull and Paul Brewer, Bonnie Bader, and Kristy Dempsey; intensives by Paul Fleischman and by Arthur Levine; a very informative discussion about LGBTQ issues; the marathon regional advisor training; and the sparkling and shining Saturday poolside party.
Here are some of the keys to the kingdom I gathered.
Mem Fox on picture books:
- “Great art communicates before it’s understood” (TS Eliot)
- A deep sense of rhythm can’t be taught. It must be caught.
- It’s only the comfort of the right words in the right place that bring children back again and again.
- It looks easy, but time is not the only consideration.
Kathleen Krull and Paul Brewer on adding humor to nonficition: Some subjects aren’t as funny as others, so you may need to work to find an angle to add humor. Sacajawea: Lewis and Clark would be lost without me. Sonia Sotomayor: I’ll be the judge of that. Lincoln was a funny guy and told jokes. The Beatles were hilarious in their interviews. Cultivate your own sense of humor.
Dan Santat on creativity:
- Think about why you like things.
- Study the fundamentals, but be flexible.
- Learn by imitation, but be careful.
- Start improvising.
- Immerse yourself fin life and culture.
- Think about craft first and foremost.
Varian Johnson on doing the work: Show up for work even if the muse doesn’t.
Stephen Fraser recommends the following middle grade novels as reference for various reasons:
- Charlotte’s Web (EB White) – Carefully crafted writing
- Stone Fox (John Reynolds Gardner) – Drama
- Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles (Julie Andrews Edwards) – Imagination
- The Clockwork Three (Matthew J. Kirby) – Inventive and mixes genres
- Heart of a Samurai (Margi Preus) – Bringing history alive
- Holes (Louis Sachar) – Take two years or more if you need it to write a great story and for its humor (Don’t be afraid to be funny.)
- James and the Giant Peach (Roald Dahl) – Having fun unapologetically
- Junonia (Kevin Henkes) – Writing to the emotional age
- Missing May (Cynthia Rylant) – Place can be a character
- Sarah, Plain and Tall (Patricia MacLachlan) – Make each word resonate
- The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett) – Let joy spill out
- Harry Potter (JK Rowling) – Don’t be afraid to write a long book. Good books can be enjoyed by all ages.
Kwame Alexander on taking the creative leap:
- You’ll never make it if you don’t keep shooting.
- Work harder.
- You must have a good game plan.
- Loss is inevitable.
- Grab the ball. Take it to the hoop.
- Real teammates cheer you on.
There was way too much at the intensives to even begin to share. I highly recommend them to attendees.
Hope you enjoyed this little peek at LA.
Sue Poduska, besides being MD/DE/WV SCBWI Co-regional Advisor, writes books for children and also loves to read them. She owns a suite of review sites for children’s literature, gradereading.net.