Write Up – SCBWI Spring Spirit Conference 2014

It’s been a while since I had attended SCBWI Spring Spirit.  I think the last time was when Tekla White, now retired, was in charge.  But this year I signed up because my Lee & Low editor Louise May was a main speaker.  Here’s pictorial proof:



Yes, that’s me, Louise May, and April Chu all proudly holding Summoning the Phoenix, the book that we have brought into this world.  A rare photo op!  It’s funny when you meet someone in person for the first time after working virtually with them.  I’m always a little surprised when my mental image (sometimes I don’t even realize I have one) of someone collides with the reality.  When first I met April, I was surprised at how tall she is.  When I met Louise, I was surprised at how petite she is.  And I love her East Coast accent.  Thankfully, she’s a hugger, like me.  So exciting!

For the the conference scavenger hunt, the first item on the list was the autograph of a published author.  So I signed Item 1 for April Chu, Cynthia Mun, and Jenny Pessereau.  It’s still a bit of an outer-body “Is this really happening?” experience for me to give my author signature.  What a creative way to get to know people!

Beyond Race: The Universality of Story
My day started listening to Nikki Grimes sharing her philosophy on storytelling & reading her powerful poetry.  Can I just say that starting your day listening to fabulous poetry is one of the best things ever?  I’m devoting an entire blog post to this session tomorrow.

KEYNOTE: How to Sell a Book in Twelve Years…Or Less
Jay Asher is a New York Times Best Selling Author with his first book Thirteen Reasons Why.  Many consider him an overnight success, but he disproves that misconception with his excellent talk, so wonderfully illustrated with slides depicting pop culture icons of the 1980s.  Pretty awesome.

Revising Dialogue
My Lee & Low editor Louise May and Deirdre Jones of Little, Brown gave an informative talk chock-full of good examples of bad dialogue techniques.  Then they encouraged all of us to write bad dialogue.  Here’s my example of truly bad dialogue, overpopulated with adverbs and run-on sentence, and info dump:

“Hello little girl,” the wolf said seductively.  “Where are you off to?”

“I’m supposed to stay on this path and never stray and never go away from what is supposed to be the right thing to do, according to my mom and my grandma, who I am visiting right now and I hope that she’s home because if I don’t see her, I will be extremely pissed off for carrying this heavy basket all the way through the woods.”

She took a breath, and during that breath the wolf noticed the luscious curves revealed underneath her red cloak.  She was not so little after all.

“I know a short cut,” he said smoothly, “Why don’t you join me?”

Trade vs. School & Library: how to Target Your Book for Each Market
Deirdre Jones & Tricia Lawrence discussed the differences between trade and school & library markets.  Basically the publishers own copyright for school & library writing while the authors own copyright for trade books.

It was so wonderful to catch up in person with author Mike Jung, whose funny Tweets often make me laugh out loud, and it was especially hilarious to Tweet at each other in the same room, sometimes sitting right next to each other.  Like, I asked him if he wanted a piece of chocolate on Twitter instead of in person.  Oh, how the internet has affected social interactions.  Mike and I were some of the last people to arrive in the main room for lunch, and we wandered the entire room, bouncing from table to table, as if we were back in middle school, until we found one that actually had two free seats.  It was a table near the front with the always warm and friendly Linda Joy Singleton, Dana Smith, and Linda Whelan.  Also seated at the table was another familiar face Jeannette, whom I had met at SCBWI Golden Gate, and she asked me to sign her copy of Summoning the Phoenix!  Luckily I had my chop with me in my car, so I had an informal impromptu signing during lunch.  Thanks to Mike Jung for the photo:



Another unexpectedly joyous lunch-time experience occurred when I bumped into Nathalie Mvondo, Kim Zarins, and Amanda Conran and we had a wonderful discussion how to improve diversity in children’s literature.

The Dating Game
Cheri Williams was an emcee for The Dating Game, where agent Tricia Lawrence interviewed three editors Louise, Deirdre, Chad.  I took these photos mostly because of the fabulous decorations.

SCBWISpringSpirit-Cherie-Tricia SCBWISpringSpirit-DatingGame-Editors


Creating Characters Readers Want to Read About
Louise May shared great examples from several picture books and emphasized the importance of language.

Structure and Plot
Deirdre Jones outlined the structure and plot of one of her first and favorite books that she edited: What We Found in the Sofa and How It Changed the World by Henry Clark.

KEYNOTE: The Poetry of Patience
Nikki Grimes recited more of her amazing poetry and shared her story of getting published.  One of my biggest take-aways is that her editor “tricked” her into writing a novel, one section at a time, and one of her novels was sparked by a poem.  So cool.  She shared her own struggles with writing novels, which was reassuring that she felt the same insecurities as I often do.  But what brought me to tears was her ending:

“Give yourself permission to take the time to write it well.  Don’t be in such a rush when you settle for good when your story has a capacity to be great.  Great books are what young readers deserve.  Great books are what we should strive to give them.  And a primary key to doing that is patience.”

When writing a book,
the difference between good and
great is patience.

Spring Spirit was such an information-dense day, and because it was sold-out there were so many people to meet and reconnect, like Mike and my own Region’s leaders Naomi Kinsman & Lea Lyon, as well as the amazing Kathy Shepler.  It was nice also to meet new-to-me attendees like Mira Reisberg and Stacy Heather Lee.  The only down-side to such a packed day was that I didn’t have the opportunity to truly catch up with everyone, and I wish I could have spent more time conversing with authors like Erin Dealey, Bitsy Kemper, Deborah Davis, Annemarie O’Brien, Cassandra Whetstone, Linda Boyden, Tekla White, and many, many more. Some of them I hadn’t really spoken to in years, and I was sad to have missed them.  Well, it’s a good excuse to return to Spring Spirit next year.

Thank you, Patricia Newman, Catherine Meyer, Cheri Williams.  You did an outstanding job in creating a welcoming, inspiring, fun-filled day!

Spring Spirit renews
my creative energy,
inspires stories.

One thought on “Write Up – SCBWI Spring Spirit Conference 2014”

  1. I loved your roundup of the conference. I see we went to all the same workshops. Louise May was so down-to-earth and I LOVED her tips. Very practical! I’m a Shen’s/Lee & Low author as well. Next time we will have to connect in person. I love your book!

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