Monday, April 4, 2011

SCBWI Spring Spirit 2011 Wrap-up

I attended the SCBWI Spring Spirit Conference in Rocklin last Saturday, bringing my neighbor Judy who also writes for children. We enjoyed a day of great speakers who enlightened our writing, made us exercise our skills and added knowledge to our writing journey.

Bruce Coville, Author
The keynote speaker was the energetic and prolific Bruce Coville, author of 95+ fantasy books for children. In his fast-talking style, he entertained as he leapt on the stage, sat on the back of a chair or stood on the seat while he passed on the following wisdom:
  • Read 100 picture books and pick the ten best. From those ten, write each story out by hand to learn structure and rhythm.
  • Writing is the art of choosing details.
  • Force your character to make a serious moral choice.
  • We write because our hearts are filled with thoughts and fears.
  • Glue yourself to the chair.
Eve Adler on Voice
Editor at Grosset & Dunlap in the Penguin Young Readers Group, Eve Adler, outlined what is voice using Nancy Deans' five elements of voice:
  • Diction—Choose words with meaning and connotation consistent with characters and story.
  • Detail—Put reader in story; facts, incidents, observations, reasons; create mental picture.
  • Imagery—Show, don't tell; revealing aspects of character and story not available otherwise.
  • Syntax—Technical aspect revealing feeling/personality: grammatical structure, sentence length, repetition, etc.
  • Tone—Sets relationship between writer and reader (chatty, distant, funny, dramatic, etc).
We read several opening paragraphs from books with strong voice and were asked to speak out what we got from the passage about the voice. Voice provides the emotional pull that draws the reader into a story. It's like the personality or heart and soul of the writing.

At the end of her session, Eve had us do three writing exercises about a character on a school bus: a kindergartner, a middle grade kid and the school bus driver. Several attendees read their exercises and received feedback.

Quinlan Lee, Adams Literary
Mid-day we heard Quinlan Lee of Adams Literary address issues of agenting—how to attract one, why we need one, and what to look for. Out of 300 agents, Adams exclusively represents children's authors and artists. In addition to knowledge of the industry, the agency prides itself on passion and commitment to their clients' work.

Greg Pincus on Marketing Yourself
The day wrapped with a session on social marketing with Greg Pincus, social marketing guru. Greg's message was lightening fast (I couldn't write notes fast enough). He based his social marketing success on the PFFT system: Prepare (have a plan), Find your home, Filter vs. search (use google alerts), and Talk (blog, give-aways, create events and establish expertise). Bottom line: pick a few favorite social networks (Facebook, a blog, Twitter) and work them to connect to people who connect you to more people.

As always, attending a conference gives you more tools and ideas to make your writing (and all that is connected with writing) a success and this years Spring Spirit Conference didn't disappoint.


  1. Great post, Chris. My head is still spinning from all that I learned. Like you, I couldn't take notes fast enough. I could've spent all day listening to Bruce Coville.

  2. Thanks, Jenny! Patty and Erin do a spectacular job bringing us top authors, illustrators, agents and publishers. Worth it! Now go glue your self to the chair. :^)

  3. I"m glad you had such a good time, Chris. Sounds like the instruction was high caliber.



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