I spent last weekend at the NJ SCBWI conference. It was the first time that I attended this event and I must say, they throw a good party. From the cocktail party Friday night all the way through the closing keynote, the experience was fantastic. If you have any interest in writing kidlit at all, and can get to Jersey next June, I highly recommend it. Here are some of my highlights.
I met so many great people at the cocktail party Friday night that it would take a whole other blog just to talk about them. I do want to single out the small group who ended up closing down the hotel bar that night. We had some great discussion about the current state of kidlit. It’s even possible that we solved some of the worlds problems. But I was tired and forgot how we were going to do it. Saturday kicked off in with the incomparable Peter Brown’s keynote. It is no wonder that he is one of the rock stars of modern kidlit. He had all 300+ attendees cracking up as he discussed his process and how he got to be where he is. Three great quotes:
“Picture books are a cross between poetry and film.” – Peter Brown
“Are you uncomfortable with a grown man using the word ‘mommy’?” – Peter Brown
“I get my ideas from living.” – Peter Brown
My Saturday sessions were great. There was First Lines with John M Cusick and then Visual Literacy with Marietta Zacker. Marietta’s love of books is amazing, as is her desire to share them with others. One of the best sessions of the weekend.
I followed this up with an awesome session on evergreen picture books with Ame Dyckman. She highlighted some really good books that I now need to go back and read. Books like:
Library Lion, Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, Miss Nelson is Missing, Corduroy, There’s a Nightmare in My Closet, Harry the Dirty Dog, Good Night Moon, and Ferdinand.
Ame’s energy is infectious. I think she could stand up on stage and talk about paint drying and her audience would get amped about it listening to her. I can’t wait to see what she discusses next year.
I finished my Saturday sessions with Betsy Bird’s Common Picture Book Mistakes. It was great to hear about picture book problems from a librarian’s point of view. Decisions on how/where to shelve a book. The worst color for a book. Hint: If you want people to check it out, don’t make it brown. She shared some great stories about books that have come through her library and a few on upcoming titles. Great information.
Saturday night I had the great pleasure of hearing some of my favorite kidlit folks sing karaoke. And I met Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen, who kept me laughing for hours. Literally.
Sunday I started off with fellow S&S author Tara Lazar’s session on social media, where I realized how poorly I use it. So much to learn, so much to do, and I’m running out of time.
Then it was off to Sudipta’s killer session on Believable Contemporary Characters. I’m not just saying her session was fantastic because she made me laugh for hours, or because she mentioned drunk monkeys. For someone who doesn’t write stories that contain typical protagonists, or antagonists, this session was a real eye opener. If I write a future story with any kind of strong character, Sudipta should get some credit. Like a quarter or some chocolate.
The conference finished with a closing keynote by Lauren Oliver. The highlight of which was this quote:
“Writing every day helps you build up a tolerance for it. Kind of like drinking every day.” – Lauren Oliver
All in all I had a fantastic time. I met so many more people than I could list here and I loved every moment of my time with them. Such creativity and humor. I have some great new ideas and had a chance to clean up a few old ones. It was an experience that will stay with me for a long time. And that’s a good thing.