Saturday, July 14, 2012

SCBWI MD/DE/WV Conference: An Overview

I spent the day today at the SCBWI MD/DE/WV regional conference. It's actually a two-day event, but I was only able to go to one day. That being said, though, I think I picked the right day to attend. I heard some amazing presentations by some kick-ass authors/agents/editors.

The conference theme was "Kindling the Imagination" and began with a presentation by author, Bobbie Pyron entitled "My Life as a Dog: A Year of Magical Thinking." Bobbie discussed writing her book, A Dog's Way Home, and talked about living as dogs do -- in the moment and through the senses. I think this is excellent advice -- especially for writers like me who sometimes get bogged down with logistics. Your reader does care about accuracy, but they also want to see an immediacy. As Bobbie read excerpts from her book, I really felt the voice of the dog, even though the dog never actually talked. Very cool

I attended three break-out sessions. The first was with Molly Jaffa from Folio Literary Management -- her presentation was about opening pages. More specifically, Molly focused on establishing stakes. You need to be invested in your characters. So do your readers. High Stakes + Caring about Characters = Higher Stakes, according to Molly. She mentioned a few books that she felt exhibited these kind of high stakes - The Fault of Our Stars by John Green, Okay For Now by Gary D. Schmidt, and AS King's Ask the Passengers. She also warned against beginning with a prologue that "fakes out" the audience and begins them with a scene that doesn't appear until later in the book.

My second session was with Stacey Barney, Editor at Penguin/Putnam . Stacey's session was called "How to Get an Editor to Fall in Love with Your Manuscript." She focused on a variety of different devices writers can employ to make their writing lovable. The biggest/longest discussion seemed to be about voice. She emphasized that a first person narrator needed to be authentic, while a third person narrator required intimacy without intrusion.

The last session was the editor's panel discussion -- the editors included Stacy Barney (above), Mary Kate Castellani (my editor!!!) from Walker/Bloomsbury USA, Rotem Moscovich from Disney/Hyperion, and Christine Peterson from Capstone, a non-fiction publisher. I have to be honest -- the questions that were asked weren't particularly helpful. I mean, we had four successful editors in front of us and people were asking if they should personalize query letters. I just felt that the time could have been better spent -- that kind of question can easily be answered through a google search.

Regardless, though, I am glad I went -- not only was I able to reconnect with some friends from last year, but I learned a great deal from the presenters. It reminded me that, no matter where you are in the publishing process, you can always use some extra tips to polish up that manuscript.

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