synthroid kidney


You are currently browsing the archive for the Events category.

I just spent a lovely weekend in Montpelier, VT for the VCFA Children’s Writing MFA mini-residency. Did I mention it was beautiful? No? Here’s a shot of their cute little capital building (“cute” and “little” are perfect adjectives for Montpelier, the smallest state capital and the only one without a McDonald’s, as six different residents, yes, six, told me):

Isn’t it gorgeous? We had a relaxing weekend of hanging out on the veranda at the Inn at Montpelier, mingling with the locals, meeting current VCFA students and alumna/ae, listening to readings and pitches, and otherwise drinking in the creativity of this little hideaway town.

One thing that struck me about the program is how dedicated the students and faculty are. (Hanging out at the Saturday BBQ were Walter Dean Myers, Tom Wynne-Jones, Coe Booth, M.T. Anderson, and more…what an amazing roster of talent!) But I did notice something that bugs me about MFA programs, and about establishing a writing habit in general. This is something I saw much more in my MFA program, and I don’t know to what extent it exists at VCFA, yet this weekend did get me thinking…

A lot of alumni coming back to Vermont felt liberated, as if they could think, breathe, create again. For them, their time at the program was such a richly creative time, and one where they were pushed by their advisers and classmates to really put in the work and get some writing done. Apparently, some of them stopped writing or wrote less or felt less driven after graduating.

The same thing tends to happen to people who can only write between 6 and 8 a.m., or people who can only use a certain computer, or people who can only go to such and such coffee shop, or sit in this one seat, or wear those pajama pants. Having writing habits and a writing ritual and ideal circumstances for creative work…that’s all good and fine. In fact, having these habits and requirements is much better than having no writing practice at all.

But there’s also a hidden danger. What happens when you leave the MFA program? When your seat is taken? When the dog eats your pajama pants? I know perfectly wonderful writers who have been driven into a serious block when their (self-created, mind) requirements aren’t being met. Which brings me to the idea of creativity as this fleeting thing, and my disdain for the idea of writers having some temperamental muse.

No. Here’s what you do: you sit down and you write. First, you pay attention to what your mind is saying are your requirements (this mug of coffee, that chair, these pants). But what’s more important is that you establish a daily practice of writing. When something goes wrong and your coffee shop closes because they’re resurfacing their floor, you don’t go into a creative tailspin…you go home or go to the library or sit outside and you keep writing. When you graduate from the MFA program, you don’t go into a creative funk, you rally your former peers into a new critique group and you keep going. (VCFA people: please know I’m not talking about you…if anything, I’m thinking so much more about my own MFA experience!)

When you start showing up for work without these obstacles (self-created, again) weighing you down, without a checklist for the Ideal Creative Environment that the world must meet before you can write, that “muse” (your work ethic, actually) will start showing up, too. You will, in effect, train yourself to show up creatively every time you show up physically to the page.

Just write. Write when it’s easy. Write when you don’t wanna (I didn’t wanna blog yesterday, so this entry is a day late…we can’t all be perfect). Write when it’s raining. Write when everyone else on the freaking planet is at a picnic and you can’t go because you know you have to write. Don’t rely on that program or those pajamas or this coffee shop. Rely only on yourself. Practice discipline.

Always evaluate your writing habits and try to determine whether they’re helping you in the long term or hindering you. Keep an eye on what you think you need and what you really need. Rally yourself. And when yourself is feeling cranky, rally a community around you. (May you all be blessed enough to create the kind of peer group that they have at the VCFA, truly an awesome thing to behold!)

The writing life isn’t a simple thing, but the good thing is humans can be taught, and creativity can be trained to flow, as long as you make yourself available to it and focus your work ethic.

Speaking of which, here was my community for the weekend:

(l-r: Sam McFerrin, editor at Harcourt/HMH, Julie Scheina, editor at Little, Brown, Kristin Daly Rens, editor at Balzer+Bray/HarperCollins, me)

Thanks to the VCFA for hosting us and for all the hard-working MFA students! Now send me your stuff! 🙂

Tags: ,

As you probably know, I teach webinars for Writer’s Digest. I did two general session ones and now I’m zeroing in specifically on picture books! I’ll talk for an hour and a half about the craft of picture books, answer questions, and include a critique of your full picture book manuscript (up to 1,000 words) in the price of admission.

The webinar is Thursday, July 28th at 1 p.m. Eastern. Even if you can’t make that time, it will be recorded and you can listen to it after the fact. You will still get a critique from me and the valuable information all about picture books that I plan on divulging during the presentation.

Register for it by clicking here and tell all your PB friends! For those of you who are writing for older readers, I’ll be doing a special YA webinar in September, so keep your eyes peeled for that!

If you want a bundle of great information on writing for kids and teens — including access to one of my previous webinars, the CHILDREN’S WRITERS AND ILLUSTRATORS MARKET book, issues of Writer’s Digest, and craft books — check out the Writer’s Digest July Kit of the Month, available only while supplies last!

Tags: ,


I’m interrupting our workshops for the week to give you some housekeeping notes. July on the blog will be a little bit different, thanks to the fabulous students and faculty at the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA in Children’s Writing. Sheryl Scarborough offered me the opportunity to feature some MFA student articles as guest blogs. Since I love the VCFA MFA program (and I’ll be at the weekend mini-residency this year, July 15th through 17th!), I jumped at the chance. So every Wednesday, starting this one, the 29th, and going for the next five weeks, I will let the talented MFA students tell you about issues we’ve discussed, from reading like a writer to the objective correlative to, yes, show vs. tell. I’m really excited for this opportunity to feature some craft-intensive voices. Workshop #5 will go up this Friday, July 1st, instead.

Also, check out editor Deborah Halverson’s book launch starting on Wednesday for her new book WRITING YOUNG ADULT FICTION FOR DUMMIES. She’ll have seven days of events, interviews, and giveaways on the blog. And don’t forget about LitWorld, which I featured on Friday.

Finally, you will have two opportunities to see me in July. One is for VCFA MFA alumni and students only, it’s the weekend mini-residency up in Montpelier, VT, and I couldn’t be more excited. The other is the Harriette Austin Writers Conference in Athens, GA on July 22nd and 23rd.


Speaking of travel, I just got back from the week-long WIFYR conference in Utah last weekend. This is one of my favorite conferences in that it brings an awesome teaching faculty together with some NY publishing professionals and gives writers a week of total craft and marketplace immersion in beautiful Sandy.

Here was a sampling of the faculty this year, including Kathleen Duey and Holly Black, with some attendees mixed in (many from my client Kim Reed’s fabulous critique group: VaLynne, Emily/Wingnut, Brodi, Sarah), fabulous New York editors Lisa Yoskowitz and Alyson Heller, our fearless organizer Carol Lynch Williams (with right-hand man Rick Walton), and me in my cute hat:

I love these people. WIFYR is one of my favorite conferences and I highly recommend it to everyone, even if I won’t be there next year (gotta give some other agents a chance…grrr). This year’s shenanigans included a fake kidnapping plan, of which we have the following photographic evidence:

Our aim was to freak Carol out. Since Carol freaks out about everything, I thought we had a very easy sell. Not so. She wasn’t buying it. But it did make for a great entrance for my keynote (all about creativity). Yes, I danced to some Lady Gaga. Don’t know what I’m talking about? Come to WIFYR next time. 🙂

We also went to a lovely potluck at local superstar indie bookstore, the King’s English. Here’s me posing with a copy of Bethanie Murguia’s BUGLETTE, THE MESSY SLEEPER, out from Tricycle Press/Random House. Everyone go buy it!


Speaking, again, of travel, I am typing this from beautiful (and sultry-hot) New Orleans, LA, one of my absolute favorite American cities. I’ve been here since Wednesday for ALA and for general shenanigans. My mom is a fine art painter, so I’ve been hanging out with her gallery staff, who are like family, meeting some new locals, shooting a gun for the first time (long story), and greatly enjoying the food and the visiting publishing people who have descended on the Crescent City. It’s pretty surreal to be walking down Canal Street and run into Jeff Kinney, say, or Mo Willems.

I’m also thrilled to report that Disney-Hyperion editor (and rock star) Lisa Yoskowitz and I have added a fifth state to our unofficial Tour of Awesome. Lisa and I first met in Wisconsin in the fall, then lunched in New York, and have recently been to two more conferences back-to-back: Indiana and Utah (see above). It’s like we’re itinerary twins. We just had to meet up in Louisiana and have a good laugh about it.

While on the floor at ALA, I got the fun opportunity to be there when they laid out the WILDEFIRE ARCs, and to enthusiastically hand-deliver them to a throng of librarians. WILDEFIRE by Karsten Knight is the first novel on my list to be published, and it comes out July 26th!

ALA is definitely one of my favorite expos. Not just because they had it in New Orleans this summer, but because there are a lot of books on the floor, there are tons of authors walking around (I got to see the lovely Sara Zarr and Carrie Ryan, who I don’t often have the opportunity to hang out with), and many great publishing colleagues are getting excited for Fall 2011 and beyond together.

Now it’s off to the last day of the show and then I’m hanging around and eating some more delicious Cajun food. After all this traveling, it’s time to take it a bit more Big Easy. Look for the first VCFA MFA guest post, “Pushing the Boundaries” by Tim Martin, on Wednesday!

Tags: , ,

Yesterday, I woke up at noon, having slept for 13 hours. That should tell you all you need to know: it was BEA the week before. And this was an easy one, compared to the last two years. I deliberately tried to go slow and skip all the meetings I could, and still, the expo crawled into my soul and took root.

This year’s BEA was…strange. There weren’t a lot of books on the floor, an odd sight compared to 2009, when I ran around like a kindergartener on a Pixy Stix high, grabbing ARCs and pressing them to my chest in a delirious rush of paper. I only filled up one bag this year, which was good for my shoulders but put me in a funky mood. (ALA was a much better haul, and I hope I’ll be reporting the same about the expo in June in New Orleans.) Not that I want to rob booksellers and librarians of their ARCs but…I need to stay on top of new releases, too…or so I tell myself to sleep more soundly.

There was a lot of talk about digital…a lot. The day before the expo floor opened was all about digital publishing and social networking and all of that. My colleague Laura Rennert was on a panel about new publishing models. You can read more about that from my KidlitApps post, here.

I wanted to run around and post with pictures of upcoming book ARCs, but Random House, the publisher of BUGLETTE, A MESSY SLEEPER had a very small footprint on the floor (though I suppose it’s better than when they had no presence at all), and S&S didn’t have ARCs of WILDEFIRE available. I did manage to find an ARC of MERCY LILY by Lisa Albert at the Flux booth, and pose with it, so the tradition remained alive. Here’s hoping to even more smiley shots at ALA.

The Buzz Panels this year were great. Lots of exciting books. You can read a write-up of the YA panel here, and the MG panel here. I’ve already tucked into THE APOTHECARY by Maile Meloy, which I’d heard about originally from Jen Besser, the editor, at a meeting in the fall. It’s really good so far, and I can’t wait to see the whole package with all of the art. Also in my suitcase this weekend were DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE by Laini Taylor and AU REVOIR CRAZY EUROPEAN CHICK by Joe Schreiber from the YA buzz panel. I’m really happy we had a MG panel, and hope that tradition continues.

There were also some hotly buzzed ARCs at the expo. If it had been my first BEA, I would’ve gamely waited in line to get them. This year? Feh. But if someone wants to send me THE FUTURE OF US, the new Jay Asher/Carolyn Mackler juggernaut, I will happily provide my mailing address. Yes, it is an ABLA book. No, I did not get an ARC. No, I am not above begging. There’s also an adult (gasp!) book that was getting all the buzz at the expo…THE NIGHT CIRCUS. Anybody got that lying around?

My favorite things about BEA weren’t in the official BEA program. They were run-ins with agents, editors, authors, and other publishing friends on the floor, as always. They were late-night NYC adventures with out-of-towners who just neeeeed, in my opinion, to have an enthusiastic tour guide show them what the view from the Brooklyn Bridge is like in the middle of the night. They were afternoon drinks after the last expo day with people as exhausted as you are, who just want to stare at a wall, mouths slightly ajar. Oh, yes, and also going to the Teen Author Carnival to cheer on my client, Karsten Knight, whose WILDEFIRE is coming July 26th! You can see us here, debuting our ridiculously good-looking glasses (and Karsten in his apron that’s stuffed full of bookmarks for the book).

On Friday night, I was out in the languid summer heat, BEA a fuzzy memory already, enjoying a beer or two at the Frying Pan, a barge/ship/dock/beer garden-type thing on 12th Avenue and 26th Street. I turned uptown to get out of the wind and my eyes fell immediately onto the shimmering black jewel that is the Javits Center. No joke, my blood pressure spiked and I whirled back around. It was good having you in town, BEA. It looks like it’ll be a whole year before our paths cross again. Somehow, I’m okay with that.


This past weekend I spoke at the excellent and first ever YA A to Z conference. While the Writers’ League of Texas has been connecting writers to the publishing industry and helping them reach their goals for 30 years, this YA-centric conference is just beginning. If this first year is any indication, I know it will be around for a long time, and you should all look out for next year’s. It was really well-organized, had a great roster of faculty (if I don’t say so myself), and got some really fabulous writers to the show.

I did three panels, some consultations, and still had enough time to explore amazing Austin, see some bats, catch up with an old writing friend and meet some new buddies (including the fabulous ladies from PR By the Book and the Erin Murphy Literary Agency, who were in town on an agency retreat), explore the food scene, play some midnight piano, and get into a little worthwhile trouble. 😉

Speaking of worthwhile trouble, one of my esteemed agent colleagues and friends who I got to hang out with this weekend is John M. Cusick of the Scott Tremeil Agency (whatever bad joke you’re thinking about the name, he’s heard it before…I tried all of them, much to his fascination, I’m sure). He’s also the author of GIRL PARTS (an excellent book) and the upcoming CHERRY MONEY BABY, both from Candlewick Press.

Now, I know you come to my blog to hear me say brilliant things on a mostly regular basis. And I appreciate that. But I’m not the only one who says brilliant things (shocking, I know). On one of my panels on Saturday, this one about Agent Secrets (dun dun dun), my new BFF John said something wonderful and I wanted to share it with y’all (still getting the Texas out of my system). We were talking about character development and relatability, and John said:

Relatable doesn’t mean generic.

Wise words! Storytelling in the Middle Ages would’ve laughed Mr. Cusick out of Ye Olde Hyatt ballroom. A lot of their traditional “character development” included naming some poor shmo John Everyman and then getting all allegorical on his ass. The character was basically a cipher, a blank screen that readers could project themselves onto in the watching of his or her tale.

Now it’s the opposite. Or at least it should be, for the tastes of me and my fellow agents on the panel. Specificity is the key to good fiction, and generalization is where fiction goes to die. The best characters, the ones that stick with me, are the ones who have very specific quirks and characteristics. I am not going to relate to a character because they are very much like me. That’s boring. I know myself, spend all day in my own head, and sometimes just want to get out…that’s why I crack a book. I relate to a character when they are thoroughly fleshed-out and unique, just like I am thoroughly fleshed-out and unique as a person. When I feel like I know their quirks and their particular outlook on life because the author has made those elements really comprehensive. We don’t just love people who are like us: we love loud, larger-than-life, authentic characters. (At least I hope so, ‘cuz that’s what I’ve pretty much been basing my entire personality on for as long as I can remember.) Those are the ones we remember in books and movies, and the people who spark our imaginations when we meet them in real life.

So aim for a really complex character, someone who is exactly who they are. That will pull a reader in so much more than trying to reflect and please everyone with your literary cipher. An example is this: I was reading either a book or a manuscript a few years ago. In it, a character was cooking something while home alone. Some food dropped on the dirty counter and, even though the character knew she was home alone, she glanced over her shoulder before succumbing to the guilty (and, for many people, gross) temptation of picking the food up and slipping it into her mouth. This taught me so much about the character and was so specific that I remember it all these years later. I can’t relate to the shame of eating counter food — I don’t care about the 5 second rule — but it’s so dang human that I could really see a person doing it in real life. And that’s what grabs me in a good character. Well said, John!

Also, I am in love with Carrie Ryan, and with a dude name Jeremy, who chopped all my hair off on Saturday. You like?

Tags: ,

As many of you know, I did the Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers conference in Utah last summer and had an absolutely amazing time. I’m back at it again this June, with an amazing faculty that includes Holly Black, Allie Condie, Kathleen Duey, Kevin Hawkes, Mike Knudson, and many more!

To spread the word about the conference, the organizers are having a first line writing contest for picture books, chapter books, MG or YA novels. That’s right…see if your killer first line stands up to the judges! One of the prizes is a query critique from me. The deadline is April 2nd. Check the contest out here, especially if you live in Utah and are planning or thinking about going to WIFYR! It’s one of my favorite conferences and I highly, highly recommend it.


It’s easy to get caught up in the daily grind, the frustrations, the stress, the meetings, the slush, the traveling, the constant flood of emails, the endless readings of my work sometimes. Especially on cloudy days like today when it seems like the future stretching out in front of me is one long To Do list. Moments of inspiration come in the form of a brilliant project from one of my clients or from a potential future client, good news about a book that’s been sold (like, yanno, Hollywood calling for my most recent sale, THROUGH TO YOU!), charming emails from my super-smart colleagues, moments with friends, really good books that I’m reading.

I’ll have to add to the list the Friday and Saturday symposium portion of the Teen Author Festival last week. I heard several dozen authors, many of who are friends, speak about various issues important to YA fiction today. From hard issues like abuse and family, to a showcase of debut authors, to the thrills and tensions of young romance, as you can see in the picture below (l-r: Sarah Mylnowski, E. Lockhart, Terra Elan McVoy)…

…to influences and one’s literary inspirations, as you can see in the picture below (l-r: Adrienne Marie Vrettos, Maryrose Wood, Libba Bray, Susane Colasanti, Lena Roy, Carolyn Mackler, Barry Lyga)…

…to the struggle against the dark side, the internal and external darkness in a character’s world (l-r: Robin Wasserman, Lisa McMann, Maggie Stiefvater, Kim Harrington, and David Levithan)…

…to a brilliant panel on LGBT literature of the past, present and future with very special guest Michael Cart (l-r: Nick Burd, Jacqueline Woodson, Patrick Ryan, Michael, David Levithan, and Jack Martin).

Not only is it inspiring to sit and hear writers talk about the craft, but Saturday afternoon especially, with a focus on LGBT YA, where it’s been, where it is now, and where it’s going, really helped me with some much-needed perspective after a stressful winter. The books that these authors (and many of you out there) are writing are essential. They’re very often a young adult’s fondest memory, their closest friend, their most trusted confidant, and, as I say every time I speak about YA, they really do have the power to change lives.

We can see this in most powerful YA books, especially those that take risks, feature characters who are marginalized, characters battling with some essential darkness, or otherwise being brave and strong and heroic in their lives, whether they’re in a contemporary school setting or aboard a spaceship and hurtling toward the unknown. In other words: characters who are being themselves.

The best YA books (and MG books, and picture books) are a lens through which writers focus their world…both for the sake of the artist’s creative journey, and for the sake of bringing clarity and understanding to readers’ lives.

My often-mentioned and very favorite quote about children’s books comes from Ursula Nordstrom:

The writer of books about the real world has to dig deep and tell the truth.

You can tell I love this quote because several of the posts I’m about to cite repeat it. Over my blogging “career,” I’ve gotten frustrated with questions like “Can I swear in YA?” or “Can we feature sex in YA?” or “How many words exactly, and in what order, make the perfect query letter?” (an exaggeration, obviously) and whatever else mundane things people obsess over.

I know I talk a lot about publishing rules and guidelines and that I answer a lot of questions on this blog along those lines, which I’m very happy to do, but it doesn’t hurt every once in a while to be reminded that we’re all here for the sake of art and for the sake of teen readers. And that creativity and truth are the highest pursuits served by any artist, especially one reaching out to kids and teens. (For some really great soundbites on creativity, check out this lecture by Lady Gaga, who visited the Google campus in Mountain View, CA yesterday.)

The Teen Author Festival panels really reminded me of our true purpose here, at the end of the day (you can see the full schedule for the festival here, and I urge you to come next year if you can), and I’m grateful to have been inspired!


A very interesting conversation happened in one of my workshop groups during this past weekend’s Big Sur conference. One participant had painted a character very vividly in his particular high school environment, to the point where everyone in the group knew exactly where this character belonged on the social ladder. But that wasn’t the unique part.

The refreshing thing was that this character never lamented his nerd status, he never described his clothes in a way that hinted to us that he was (let’s face it) a loser, he didn’t go into any detail about how out-of-reach the popular kids were. He just went about his business, thought his thoughts, and through the author’s scenework and his interactions with others, we got perfect context for where he lived in the high school hierarchy. But never once (in my recollection) did he come out and tell us exactly where he did or didn’t fit in.

Some of you reading are like: Yeah. We get it. Show, don’t tell. Right. But teenage social order  is a particular issue where “show, don’t tell” is even more relevant. The pecking order is present in every school, in every group of kids or teens, and, as one person from our group said quite well, everyone always knows, at a glance, what the deal is. Kids know their place and the place of everyone around them. It’s as innate to teens, as instant and unconscious as breathing. Now, this isn’t a blog post about whether that’s right or wrong or how damaging it is to the development of our social mores (for an example of how this reaches well into adulthood, check out one element of the whole #YAMafia kerfuffle (before anyone flames me for the joke, I am aware that this wasn’t the only issue at play)). The fact is: it’s true. So how do we reflect it in our YA fiction in a way that’s believable?

One thing I see in most manuscripts is a run-down of the social scene. This usually happens in the first chapter for stories set primarily in school and within the first 30 pages for stories that don’t immediately need to put us in a popularity context with the character’s peers. The character will be walking down the hall and commenting on

the Goths, with their black eyeliner, the emo kids sulking into their genderless thrift store cardigans, the cheerleaders puffing out their push-up bra-enhanced chests at the jocks, who are crushing soda cans on their foreheads and emitting caveman grunts…

Etc. Etc. Etc. I have read this list in probably every well-meaning YA manuscript and many published books. The thing is, most YA readers will know the high school archetypes. They don’t need some thirtysomething (and, lest anyone get offended, let me repeat, again, well-meaning) writer describing their daily reality in such detail. Most writers include this obligatory run-down for their own sake, to get the lay of their land and to put themselves back into the high school mindset as they write.

But how do we convey this atmosphere more organically? How do we sublimate it without the usual telling, without the list of the school’s cliques? I’d love to hear some examples in the comments of books that you think paint a social picture without being too obvious about it. One great exception to the tried-and-true high school hierarchy descriptions, fresh in my mind because I recently reread it, is BEFORE I FALL by Lauren Oliver.

The main character, Sam Kingston, is a popular girl, and a bitchy one, at that, but Oliver describes Sam’s unique take on the social hierarchy in a fresh and very voice-driven way. There’s also a lot of tension inherent in the story premise, so whenever Sam describes her peer group, there’s something working beneath the surface, also. So Oliver doesn’t necessarily get away without any telling, but this is one instance where it worked for me.

However, I’m also looking for your thoughts on books that avoid talking about the social structure altogether and yet manage to convey the character’s rightful place and all the longing and disappointments and hopes that the high school caste system inevitably inspires. Any thoughts on the subject, readers? Bueller?

Tags: ,

From now until forever, I am going to refer writers who ask me query questions to this quote. It comes from Andrea Brown, my brilliant boss and mentor, and it’s about query letters:

A query letter is like the perfect skirt: long enough to cover everything but short enough to be exciting.

I have worked with the woman for about two and a half years now and have never heard this gem. Where has it been all my life?

This Big Sur, I think, was my absolute favorite. Sure, it was at the Embassy Suites in Monterey (as our March workshops are) instead of the gorgeous Big Sur Lodge in Big Sur proper (as our December workshops are), and the weather spoiled on Sunday, but I think this mix of writers, faculty, and agency clients along for the ride was one of the best I’ve experienced.

A special shout out to Jamie Harrington and Pat Netzley, and to my wonderful colleagues. We missed two of our Jennifers (Mattson and Laughran) at this Big Sur. Fabulous faculty members like Ellen Hopkins, Eric Elfman, Mary Colgan, Anica Rissi, and Deb Wayshak shared their writing expertise with our group of just under a hundred attendees.

My two workshop groups inspired several blog post ideas which you’ll read in the near future. For right now, though, I’m going to catch up on my sleep after this exhausting weekend and start chipping away at my pent-up email. Today is a very exciting day for me in San Francisco, Berkeley, and the Napa valley, which all ties in to my secret new blog/professional project. Soon, my pretties, soon all shall be revealed! For now, delight yourselves with Andrea’s fantastic quote.

Tags: ,

Thank you so much for all your comments and love for yesterday’s post. I think the worst thing now is that, with the weather, the building is shifting and I keep thinking about Sushi’s distinctive, heavy, ungraceful footsteps. A fat cat all her life, she plodded along more than walked, to the point where we had our own goofy sound effects to sing, lovingly, of course, as she made her way across a room. I kept expecting her to come back last night and crawl her way onto the bed in her usual spot. Sigh.

In other less depressing news, I wanted to do a quick wrap-up of the SCBWI NYC conference which happened Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at the Grand Hyatt in Midtown. No SCBWI conference post can be complete without a link to Team Blog, which detailed the events of the show with pizazz. Led by Alice Pope, Team Blog features my two good friends Lee Wind and Suzanne Young (who did her own wrap-up with some pictures), and posts about every session of the conference. Since I missed some sessions, even I read it for recaps.

My big involvement in the conference was the Writer’s Intensive on Friday. We had two groups of writers, about 8 or 9 to a table, and 12 minutes each for everyone to read and critique a 500 word writing sample. This is the kind of hands-on workshopping that I love, and it’s what we do at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency’s Big Sur Writer’s Workshop (coming up in March, and I’ll be there, even if I’m not on the website, click here for more information). I feel like a big keynote session is great, but there’s nothing quite like getting to look at your own sample and other writing samples from real, live attendees.

I’d say my biggest note to all writers after those two sessions is: Where does your story start? Are you really starting it where it needs to begin? Across both sessions, I saw writers who started a story in one place and then, within 500 words, had either skipped over to another different part of the story or flashed back to the past. That’s not what I’d call grounding your reader. If you find yourself jumping around too much in the first 10 pages of your work, you haven’t chosen the right beginning yet.

After that, I was free to meet up with friends…

… like the lovely Tracy Clark (who is one of the first people I met at my first ever writer’s conference, when I went as an attendee!), Holly Thompson (SCBWI Regional Adviser for Japan, where I’m going in the fall, ABLA agency client, and author of the upcoming ORCHARDS, out from Delacorte/Random House), and frequent Big Sur attendee, Bret…

… or perhaps a lovely lady by the name of Ellen Hopkins? Ellen is an agency client, a bestselling author, and the dedicated RA for Nevada, where she runs an amazing mentor program. Not only did we hang out at the conference, but we caught a live taping of the Daily Show on Monday. That night’s guest? Bill freakin’ Gates. I feel so much smarter now that I’ve been in the same room as him…

… or maybe Sara Zarr and Sonia Gensler? Sara’s famous or something because I hear she wrote some books or whatever. 🙂 She’s been a Big Sur guest and we spent a week in Utah together last year at the WIFYR conference, which I’m doing again this year. Sonia is an agency client and about to be published! Her book THE REVENANT comes out from Knopf/Random House in April.

Another cool thing I did is a blog reader meet-up with about a dozen of my readers who happened to be at the conference. (Need I mention they were all brilliant and incredibly good-looking? :P) We didn’t have a cool Twitter hashtag like Team Blog did, but we did chat in the lobby for about an hour and a half on Saturday night. Thank you so much to all of you who came out:

Plus, I finally got to meet my smart, talented, gorgeous, and incredibly awesome client, Mandy Morgan!

I didn’t go to too many sessions this year because I was just so gosh darn busy socializing. I think expecting my cat to die at home really kept me out of the house this weekend, a good and bad thing. I did pop in to the workshop from Alessandra Balzer, from Balzer+Bray, an imprint of HarperCollins, and I made a childhood dream come true by seeing R.L. Stine’s lunch keynote on Saturday. As Stine is a horror writer, I truly intend to make a pun when I say that he killed it! He was so funny and warm and charming and he read some of his best “reviews” from kid readers who wrote him to say incredibly candid things. A wonderful keynote! Here’s my obligatory fan pic:

Other friends of note are Bryan Bliss and poor Mr. Jeff, who now knows never to meet me at an Irish pub, and the wonderful team from SCBWI Western Washington, who took me to a lovely lunch. A huge shout-out of thanks to Kimmy T. who invited me to the Writer’s Intensive in the first place!

Good thing the LA National SCBWI conference is coming up in August…I don’t think I can bear to be without all my wonderful kidlit friends for a whole other year! Any writers who are on the fence about going to either NYC or LA for one of the big SCBWIs, I think it’s something you should experience at least once in your writing life, if not once a year.


Speaking of the SCBWI, registration for SCBWI Indiana, where I’ll be speaking at the end of April, is now open. Click here to register and I’ll see you there!

Tags: ,

« Older entries § Newer entries »