SCBWI Recap #7: Gennifer Choldenko on Writing for Today’s Kids

Gennifer Choldenko, author of Newberry Honor winning Al Capone Does My Shirts, gave a great keynote address during the Summer 2010 SCBWI Conference. Her talk was full of inspiration and advice for both kidlit authors and writers in general.

Here’s a summary of her key points:

  • There will always be a market for stupendous work.
  • Suit up and shut up.
  • EB White killed off Charlotte; don’t be afraid to dig deep for the truth in your work.
  • What you experience while writing, your readers will experience while reading.
  • Keep a notebook with you at all times. Eavesdrop. Take notes. People watch.
  • Build a world and make it your own.
  • Look for the doorway in your story and walk through it.
  • If you’re not totally engaged with your work, something is wrong; go back to where you were engaged and start from there.
  • Once you have your first draft, reread it to see what you’re avoiding.
  • Give yourself space to take risks.
  • “Next time, fail better.” Samuel Beckett
  • Take care of your writer self.
  • Focus on quality, not quantity.
  • Push your protagonist to do something the reader would never do.
  • Realize critique groups aren’t for everyone.
  • Write books worth promoting.
  • Revise ruthlessly.
  • Trust your gut.
  • Rejection happens. Get on with it. Get over it.
  • Don’t take yourself too seriously.
  • Think of the one kid who needs your book.

Throw your heart over the edge and follow.

Pour yourself into your work. The writing is the real thrill.