Monday, May 19, 2008

Portland's SCBWI Conference

Saturday I went to a writer's conference here in Portland. I was supposed to get hyped up about revising and editing and eventually submitting the manuscript for my middle grade novel, and I did. But I was also kind of star struck being surrounded by some of my favorite authors, bloggers and industry professionals.

Here's what I mean:

We started off by hearing keynote speaker Wendy McClure who is an editor for Albert Whitman in Chicago. I originally discovered Wendy through her blog, which I loved for it's frankness. Wendy is pretty funny and I loved her talk on how to promote yourself online and other tips for getting noticed by an editor.

My first workshop was by Kirby Larson, author of Newbery Award winning, "Hattie Big Sky" which I, personally loved. I felt like a fan girl sitting in the front row, scribbling just about every word she said. Her class was all about the importance of "voice" in storytelling. She had a little exercise where we used a few techniques she'd demonstrated to improve a boring sentence, "Dad's dinner was horrible." She asked for people to share what they'd come up with and to my shock and surprise, I raised my hand. Of course I'd waited until the very end when more and more people were gaining confidence and she was only able to take one more sentence and I didn't get chosen. Sigh. But I totally raised my hand!

Second workshop was an editing class taught by Ruth Musgrave, who writes non-fiction for children in National Geographic for Kids. Even though I'm focused more on fiction writing, her gig didn't sound too bad: regular contract work that pays the bills. She had some great editing tips.

After lunch I went to another class on revision/editing by Lisa Schroeder, author of a great YA book called, "I Heart You, You Haunt Me." It's written in verse, which may sound off-putting to some, but trust me, it works.

Lisa had some great revision tips. Many, many tips. I'm glad she had a handout. The tip that really stuck out to me though, was that in dialogue, you should really just stick to "he said," and "she said." This was surprising to me and I know that in my novel I will be looking at this closely because I distinctly remember trying to come up with lots of different ways to tag dialogue: He remarked, she exclaimed, he pointed out. Ouch.

I was very curious about Christina Katz's "Write Short and Get Published" workshop in which I basically learned that I'd sold my soul to Associated Content for $5 an article. Actually, I was able to talk to Christina after the workshop and she had some great suggestions for turning some of the more popular articles into something that will actually pay. And of course writing for Associated Content was great practice and I learned a lot.

Back to the ballroom for two final, amazing speakers. Lisa Graff, editor, author and blogger (and blogger) had a highly entertaining presentation on how to "Write Like and Author, Revise Like an Editor." She most definitely has a new fan. I've already requested her two books from the library, "The Thing About Georgie" and "The Life and Crimes of Bernetta Wallflower."

The last speaker was Harold Underdown, a freelance editorial consultant. He covered trends and not trends. The pirate trend has passed, but there is a YA boom, although the expectations for high quality have gone up too.

Overall, a great experience, very motivating and inspiring.


Catherine said...

Thanks for the review. That sounds like a good conference.

I've heard the he said, she said advice before. It's funny to go back and read an old school Nancy Drew book with this in mind. Nobody ever said anything. They giggle, observe, gasp, and remark, but nobody every says.

megan said...

Sounds like you had a great time. I wish I was talented enough to write a book.

Heather said...

Wow, sounds very interesting! I was surprised by the comment about "he said, she said." I can see the debut of your first novel now!! What does SCBWI stand for, though?

Afton said...

Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.