SCBWI Summer Conference Recap, Part 4

This post was supposed to go up yesterday. Apologies. Long day. Long story. Today is a new and inspired day.

If you missed last week’s SCBWI recap posts, you can read them here, here and here.

From Norton Juster’s “An Accidental Author Tells All”:

What an honor it was to hear Norton Juster’s recounting of how he became an author. He was honest, sharing the good and the bad times with a room full of aspiring authors. His advice was direct and his opinions bold. Here is some of what he shared:

  • It’s good for children to be bored; boredom encourages improvisation (or in his words, “creative delinquency”)
  • The hardest thing for kids to understand is to listen to their own inner voices
  • The quiet kid probably has more thoughts in one hour than most have all week
  • Being out of context is one of the great creative/liberating forces in our lives; being out of context led to such discoveries as gravity and penicillin
  • As a writer, spend a large part of your time out of context
  • Keep kids out of context for as long as possible

From Beverly Horowitz’s “Forget the Trends: The Story Only You Can Write”:

I was impressed with Beverly Horowitz’s (Delacorte Press) answers during the publisher’s panel (read about it here). So I was interested to hear what she had to say in her breakout session regarding trends. She likened the publishing industry to gambling. Work is projected two years out, predicting what will sell, what the trends will be. Sometimes the gamble pays off, and sometimes it doesn’t. She says for authors what matters most is what is between the covers (i.e., write a killer book); but she also said as authors we can be aware of trends as indicators of particular needs in society. As most editors point out, she said if you’re writing the best book you can write, you don’t need to worry about trends and how far out you are from them.

Before the conference, Beverly polled her colleagues, asking what makes them respond positively to a submission. Their top five answers:

  1. Interesting overall concept
  2. Enchanting voice that pulls you in
  3. Appealing characters you remember
  4. Structure that works for the genre
  5. Clearly directed to a particular audience

She suggests you ask yourself (and ask others) if your book has these qualities. It’s a big mountain to climb, she said, but you can do it.

From Mary Pope Osborne’s “A Bridge of Children’s Books”:

Mary Pope Osborn delivered a beautiful speech at the end of the second day. Listening to her speak was like listening to poetry. I didn’t take that many notes, but rather sat back and just enjoyed what she said. Here are the few items I wrote down. I wish there’d been a way to capture the beauty of what she shared. I’m afraid these don’t do her justice.

  • Make the ordinary extraordinary
  • Be an observer; she writes details on notecards for use later
  • Choosing the right details “dilates the pores of time and lets us enter like oil”
  • She learned how to plot by reading children’s books
  • She feels like she’s always going after something and never quite gets there
  • God’s joy moves from cell to cell (Rumi)
  • Look at the work with a never-ending wonder
  • A bridge of children’s books can lead us to joy

More to come tomorrow…