Love, Grief, and Queries: the 2012 SCBWI Conference

Chris Crutcher, probably making us cry tears of sadness or laughter.

When I was in high school, I went to Young Writers Workshop, a summer creative writing program for high schoolers. We had workshops, readings, and general tomfoolery. Although I’d had friends who liked reading and writing, it was the first time I was in a place where that was everyone’s passion. It was exhilarating.

That was the same feeling I got from being at the SCBWI Winter Conference this past weekend.

I’ve been to other conferences or in other workshops before, but none of them have focused entirely on children’s/young adult literature. A room of 1,000+ people who are all deeply invested in the same kind of books I love? Yes, please!

Jane Yolen talks about what it means to be a mid-list author.

This was my first SCBWI conference, and I was initially kind of nervous about going. When I went to AWP, it was always with a group of fellow grad students. I never had to worry about who I’d sit next to in lectures. Fortunately, the SCBWI members are all extremely friendly and genuinely want to help each other. It was easy to strike up conversations with whomever was sitting next to me at a panel or during the cocktail party.

The SCBWI Conference blog posted about all the great speeches and panels, so make sure to check them out for a glimpse into the weekend’s events. They describe the events way better than I could here. A few more thoughts/fun moments/favorite quotes from me:

  • If you ask Chris Crutcher to give a keynote address, everyone will cry. And then laugh. And then cry again.
  • Crutcher, about banned books: “You ban those books, you ban those kids. You tell them their lives aren’t worth it.”
  • Cassandra Clare used Buffy/Angel references to talk about forbidden love. Swoon! A fun quote from her speech: “Never the twain shall meet because one is on at 8 and one is on at 9.”
  • These days, it’s not enough for an editor to love a book. The whole house (marketing, sales, etc.) has to be behind it.
  • Nothing is taboo in YA. You just need to approach the topic with a level of taste.
  • “If there’s a character you love, get them in trouble. Get them in worse trouble.”–Jennifer Laughran
  • “No one can hear you complain and whine about vampires in space.”–Chris Richman
  • “Your success is directly proportionate to your ability to take rejection.”–David Gordon
  • Some editors/agents don’t even look at the query letter and go right to the submission; yet another reason to make sure your opening really shines.
  • Kathryn Eriskine creates writing project playlists, too!
  • Getting books signed by Chris Crutcher (who asked about Queen of the Air and said “Nice title,” swoon!) and Cheryl Klein (who personalized my book with an Annie musical reference).

Kathryn Erksine helps us get FOCUS-ed.

My favorite quote from the conference came from the illustrator panel on Sunday. (I think the quote can be attributed to John Bemelmans Marciano, but I can’t remember exactly. If you remember who said this, please let me know!) The quote:

“Success comes to those who are generous and open.”

I think this really sums up SCBWI and the conference as a whole. We’re all talented writers and illustrators individually, but we’re better when we come together to learn from and support each other. Since a lot of writing can be very solitary, it’s wonderful to take this kind of energy back into the everyday writing life. I’m so glad I went to the conference, and I’m already looking forward to the New England conference in April.

I’m sure I’ll be posting more with references to this conference and what I learned there, since it’s too much to include in one post. Anyone else attend the SCBWI conference? What were your favorite moments?

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