Monday, May 26, 2014

NESCBWI Conference 2014!!

We were 600+ people strong, all with the common focus of children's books, spanning from picture books to young adult. We were writers, illustrators, editors, agents, art directors, faculty, published authors and pre-published authors. We were there to learn, make friends and connections, and bathe in children's books from Friday afternoon till the last workshop was over Sunday at 3:00. We left limp but exhilarated and motivated anew.

Peter H. Reynolds gave the Saturday morning keynote address. Whatta guy... Supremely talented, humble and inspirational. I signed up for his fireside chat workshop after his keynote, just to drink in his presence and hear more in a smaller setting. I spoke with him afterwards, feeling akin to meeting a rock star, and had our picture taken together (made my day). I told him he was "my William Steig" meaning he's incredibly inspirational to me, and I think he was touched.

I also loved meeting Laurel Snyder whose keynote toggled between hilarious and inspirational. We'd have never known she'd been nervous over her first keynote if she hadn't shared that and more. Laurel is bare all honest, funny, and extremely charismatic.

Another stellar keynote presentation was "Pitchapalooza" by The Book Doctors: Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry. They rocked as did the contestants who had the chutzpah to go up and pitch.

Two of my workshops that were standouts: Patricia Newman's Six Steps to a Killer First Page and Anna Staniszewski's Don't Let Common Writing Missteps Hold You Back.

A tremendous thank you to all the organizers and volunteers for their countless hours. I volunteered for my first time and will certainly do so again. I'm tickled that Heather Kelly, whom I know as the sweetest founder of The Writer's Loft, will be co-chairing next year.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

I know I'm one of the last to join the party...

but I’ve recently become enamored with children's author/illustrator Peter H. Reynolds: both his ideology and his books. Such a generous heart, only wanting to nurture and grow each person's creativity, no matter how dormant. His website exudes the same giving spirit.  

I first read ish (and became an instant and forever fan), then the dot and I’m here quickly followed by Sky color and The North Star. Each one touched me. (Even his use of lower case for titles adds something for me.)

Yes, I love his artwork but I’m a writer, so I savor how he infuses simple language with richness and imagination. I love the sparse feel of his books, yet how powerful they are without ever preaching. They are, for me, emotive and inspirational.  

And I can’t believe the store he co-owns, The Blue Bunny Books and Toys, is right next door to me in Dedham. I'm there as soon as possible, just to poke around, buy books, and drink in the atmosphere.

His intro to The North Star choked me up. Some excerpts:

“Dear Friend, …The North Star is a story for all ages. Whether you are beginning a new journey, have decided to alter the direction of your life, or are starting out for the first time, this book is here to encourage you. …It is my hope that whatever The North Star may spark in you will continue to shine …as you navigate your very own wonderful journey. …This is my gift to you. Listen carefully and you will hear not my voice, but yours.”

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Who'd Have Thunk?

Tuesday evening, I was back at The Writers' Loft for my second time in four days. (I feel the start of a really good routine; again, what a welcoming writerly community.)

I was attending a Picture Book Dummy and Storyboard Workshop which was especially enticing to me because we'd actually make a dummy of our own picture book manuscript. Anna Staniszewski led an informative class, covering all the bases of dummy and storyboard benefits.

Some highlights:
- Dummies get one thinking visually. They show if there's too much or not enough action.
- Page turns affect story pacing/suspense, slowing it down or speeding it along.
- You test each page's emphasis by deciding what to illustrate.
- Explore the illustrator potential. Enough variety? The same setting doesn't have to mean the same action.
- Give the illustrator room to tell the story. (Don't we all love picture books where the words tell one story and the illustrations tell another, yet they sync perfectly.)

Now I previously knew that picture book dummies were supposed to be useful. But, in the back of my mind, I thought, "Not necessary for a writer," as I revised my stories again and again and again.

Here's what I learned from the act of actually making a dummy from my own manuscript:
- First off, it feels mahvelous to see your text as an actual picture book.
- Even when you can't draw to save your life, you can scribble the gist of an illustration and it will prove extremely helpful.
- Even when you cut every word you think you can, once the words are on the page, you'll be able to cut more.

So now I know, I'll still revise and revise, but in a much smarter way -- with a dummy.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

My Conundrum

But first, I’m taking the plunge: this is my very first blog post. Woohoo!

Why today? Because last Sunday I went to my first event at The Writers' Loft in Sherborn. I wish I had heard about them earlier. What a homey place, filled with an extremely welcoming writerly community. (Thank you, founder Heather Kelly!) As I entered the building, it was so nice to be greeted by Josh Funk, who oozed good vibes, gave me a tour and showed me the ropes.

The workshop was “Creating an Author Website” given by techie extraordinaire, Ray Brierly. (A top-notch class for a nominal fee? Ridiculous in this day and age but very much appreciated.) I took this workshop because, as a pre-published children’s picture book author, my fear is that I won’t be credible without a website. But what kind of amazing content do I have to put on a website? No colorful book covers, no accolades to tout, no MFA title…

Anna Staniszewski, author and writing professor at Simmons College, was there with encouraging words of wisdom. Even though everyone often blogs about the same types of things, just write about your journey, from beginning writer to professional author. Your journey is unique to you. Write about the workshops you take (I take many), the conferences you go to (I go to many), and anything else you experience along your writing path.

Now I’ve been taking classes and writing for years. And years. And going to conferences. And reading other people’s bogs. But I guess all the pieces have finally come together. So I’m finally jumping in and blogging. Which is pretty big for me.

Now back to my conundrum: as a pre-published author, do I take the bigger plunge and make a website – which I totally believe I could do, thanks to Ray’s class. Well, I’ve given it much thought and, for now, my first toe in the water will be a blog. All of my info will fit, with room to spare, on a blog. Down the road, a website... 

So one step at a time, as long as I keep taking them. And since I’ve been at this writing stuff for a long time, I might be running sooner than I think.