Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Conference Pictures and Notes

I hope you've had a chance to go through the conference notes that have been posted on the Chinook Update. If you begin here and scroll down, you'll get most everything. So fun to catch up with old friends, Lois Brandt, Jeanie Mebane, and Allyson Shrier.

And it was great to meet the Blueboarders (sorry, no pictures) and see Diana Greenwood modelling her new book, Insight.

I also made a new friend -- Sabah. We had a great time relaxing during the wine and cheese reception and sharing stories about our families.

I do have some writerly thoughts to share :) I went to a nonfiction intensive led by Lionel Bender and Jim Whiting and although I've done a fair bit of work-for-hire, I didn't realize how many books are made by book packagers -- about 30% of the children's market, I believe. So, if you like to work on a team and write market-driven books (fast!) consider not only approaching publishers but also book packagers. Jim's notes are excellent and I enjoyed hearing how Lionel became a book packager.

Deborah Wiles spoke about writing from the head, the heart and the gut -- what you know, what you feel and what you can imagine (or cannot bear to imagine). I went to her workshop on revision and she pointed us to George Ella Lyon's Where am I From? Powerful stuff. Deborah said that when you are stuck, write your own poems like Lyon's because the better you know your own story, the better writer and reviser you will be. Here she is with Peggy (more about her later).

The two agent talks I went to -- Tina Wexler and Sarah Davies -- were both extremely organized and informative about the books they like, including the heart-stopping factor. Years ago Tina (then duBois) had contacted me after I won the YA writing contest, but I was not ready to even think about an agent. I was doing a lot of magazine and work-for-hire and my novels were unpolished. I'm glad I didn't send her anything then. Five years make a difference. And Sarah Davies ought to write a book on writing. She's a marvelous storyteller herself and I found myself thinking of Ian McEwan while she told her grandmother's story. Lucky for us, she keeps a blog where she shares her knowledge unstintingly.

I loved Holly Black's keynote on plotting. She was funny and I saw how useful it is to *talk* out a novel. I'd never done this until my recent one and it's the best one so far because my partner, Jen Heger, keeps me honest. "Nah," she'll say, "your character wouldn't do that." Holly also talked about weaving subplots and it was great fun to have a demo together with Holly and E. Lockhart on a dragon story. Good stuff.

Dan Santat was so honest and vulnerable. He made us all cry. I see so many parallels between him and my son, who loves art. And here I am, the typical immigrant parent, thinking, he needs to have something practical to fall back upon. I truly hope that I'm the kind of mother who will nurture his talents. My sister and I were talking about this very topic, and how both of us gravitated towards the arts, even though we were the practical sort (out of necessity, of course). Follow your heart, your calling.

I was beyond thrilled to see Peggy King Anderson recognized for her years and years of hard work and dedication and nurturing writers. She was my first writing teacher and she told me very early on that I was a novelist hiding behind the short story. She's right. There are some stories you simply cannot fit into the short form, and so I am learning to write bigger books. She has taught me so much and I will always be grateful for all she's done for me. It was lovely to go to Palm Sunday Mass with her right after the conference; the perfect way to end the conference, bringing the focus back to Jesus, His Passion and why I am here in the first place. I missed saying goodbye to many folks, but we really did have to shoot out of there after Holly's keynote.

I could write loads more; I have an entire notebook filled with my chicken scratch, but I'm sure you've had enough. I'm so blessed to be part of such a vibrant regional SCBWI chapter. Thank you all for your hard work in making the conference such a wonderful experience.



MollyMom103 said...

Oh, thank you, thank you for sharing this, Vijaya. You are awesome. So awesome. I so wish I could have been there. My heart feels squeezed like it's growing just reading this.

Marcia said...

I love vicarious conferences, and this one sounds like a goodie. Adore all the pictures.

Teacher007.5 said...

Ahhh, good memories!!

Vijaya said...

Thanks for visiting, Teacher! It was great to spend some time with you. I still need to do my conference subs, but haven't gotten around to them.