SCBWI NY: Jacqueline Woodson, Libba Bray

You know when you go somewhere and have a mind-blowing experience and then you get back home and you try to tell others about it and everything you say falls short of what you experienced?

Yeah. That’s how I’ve felt about blogging about Libba Bray’s and Jacqueline Woodson’s keynote addresses at the SCBWI 2010 Winter Conference.

This is Amy > o.o

This is Amy after hearing Libba Bray and Jacqueline Woodson > O.O

Doesn’t quite do it, huh?

So I’ve put off writing these posts for a week. A whole week! And all the while the task of trying summarize these amazing messages grew to mythic size in my mind until I found myself paralyzed at the thought of even trying.

A kind of writer’s block, if you will. Silly, I know.

So I’m just going to jump in and try to recap what they said, all the while knowing I will fall short of their awesomeness.

Libba Bray

Libba talked about writing as an extreme sport. Here are her words of wisdom:

  • Avoid cliché; when writing, the first place your mind goes is the last place you should write
  • Sit at the table with your characters and get to know them; spend time with them
  • It doesn’t pay to fall in love with your characters, because you won’t see their flaws
  • Just say no to the hot, pterodactyl boyfriend; don’t follow trends just to get read
  • “First you jump off the cliff, then you build the wings.” ~ Ray Bradbury
  • There is nothing without the leap of faith

Jacqueline Woodson

Jacqueline Woodson reminded us to close the door and write. Here’s what she shared:

  • Our writing begins with what came before, what we’ve read and observed
  • We have the right to tell our stories
  • We have to close the doors on the world so we can write
  • When we write, we should go back to who we were as young people
  • It makes us better people in the world to do our art
  • We were put here to make change through art; if we don’t do it, we’re not doing our work, not making any change
  • Fear stops us from our work; lock the door on fear and keep moving
  • Writing is emotionally autobiographical; if we don’t feel it as we write it, it’s not working

I am reading Libba’s Going Bovine right now and it is such a fun, wild ride. And I bought Jacqueline Woodson’s Show Way to read to my kids, and each time I read it, I cry, and when my kids ask me why I’m so choked up I can’t even answer.

If you get the chance to hear either of these women speak, go hear them. And in the meantime, read them. You won’t regret it.


There. I did it. I blogged the overwhelming blog and survived.


Thanks for reading. 🙂

Next up, some observations from Rob Bell’s Drops Like Stars. Some posts on writing. Some posts on art. Some book reviews. Some random weirdness and whatnot. All good stuff.