Wednesday, April 25, 2012

NESCBWI from a Hoosier's POV

This past weekend, I got the chance to attend the New England Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Regional Conference in Springfield, Massachusetts. Overall, it was a great conference with lots of networking opportunities and chances to improve my craft. Most important, I spent three days with writers and illustrators who love kidlit as much as I do.

If you’ve just found my blog, you might not know it, but I like to list things out. And I don’t think I could encapsulate this amazing weekend without slipping into my go-to format. So… without further ado, here are the first five things I learned at NESCBWI.

1.       Contrary to popular belief, there is NOT a mob of angry Patriots fans waiting at the state line for unsuspecting Colts fans who happen to enter into their territory. (I still kept the Colts gear in the hotel room. Better not to tempt fate.)

2.       It’s an incredible thing to get a chance to hear someone deliver a TED speech, especially when you don’t have to pay $7,500/person. Kate Messner (pay attention, her name will pop up later in this post) was among some outstanding people to give a TED 2012 speech. If you don’t know what TED is, google it. Kate’s talk was about how dystopian/apocalyptic fiction shows us how not to build a better world and how kids need to be involved in solving the problems facing our world was so moving and encouraging that it literally brought me to tears. (I also learned that maybe, just may, I use the word literally too much.) For more information, check out {insert}.

3.       Micro-revisions and macro-revisions are not the same thing. In fact, micro-revisions aren’t even revisions. Not really. There’s a distinct difference between revising and editing. Revision is about cutting, slashing, adding to, rethinking, rewriting or even starting over. If that scares you, you’re looking at it all wrong. Revision is where the fun begins. After listening to Kate and Mark Peter Hughes (author of Lemonade Mouth), I’ve come to look at the revision process as a snow globe. You have this pretty, docile, boring world (let’s be honest, the final draft is always more exciting then the first) and you turn it upside down, shake it and let the pieces settle back into place. And then you do it again until you have a complicated jumble of conflict.

4.       The following things must be included in your writer’s toolbox: post-it notes in a variety of colors and sizes; colored pencils; a sharpener for the pencils; highlighters; pens in lots of colors, especially red; and really big paper. Not being a school teacher, I didn’t know the value of big sheets of paper, but believe me, I do now. Oh, and don’t forget the book Real Revision by Kate Messner. She makes revising seem like a hootenannie. 

5.       Frog and Toad tories aren’t just for kids. Turns out, there is some great wisdom for writers as well, and I want to thank Sara Zarr for opening my eyes to this and making me laugh like a child at her readings… no one can read a kidlit book like a kidlit writer. And no one can point out how messy and wonderful a writer’s life is, either!

6.       Meditation can take you deeper into your character and sometimes reveal missing elements of your story. As long as you aren’t afraid to let your character step into your body and lead you!

7.       You can spend a lot of money in the Conference book store and still gaze longingly at books you can’t take home with you.

8.       Apocalypsies ROCK! Don’t know who they are? I bet you’re reading them right now and if you’re not, you need to google A.C. Gaughen, Gina Daminco, Hilary Weisman Graham, Lynda Mullaly Hunt, and Diana Renn. Then, buy their books when they come out! (You can never have too  many!)

9.       There is a great need for a “Revision Drinking Game”! A list has been started, but feel free to add your thoughts in the comments section. I foresee a blog post on this in the not so distant future.

10.   NESCBWI Conference Planners and Volunteers did an amazing job! I was impressed by their never ending enthusiasm and willingness to take in a stranger, and that means something coming from someone who lives in a state where “Hoosier Hospitality” is a way of life.

So much happened at NESCBWI that I could go on and on, but in case you haven’t figured it out, I have a lot of revising to do! I hope those of you who attended had a great experience and those Kidlit authors who haven’t been to a SCBWI Regional Conference, find one! Until then, BE PASSIONATE about every moment you spend doing what you love!


  1. Great post! NESCBWI was so much fun I wish it could last an entire week. But I don't think my body could handle the lack of sleep! Hope we see you again next year!!

    1. I'm not sure if I'm going to be able to make it back next year, but I'm so glad I made the trip this year! I'm still trying to catch up on my sleep!