Pondering SCBWI Summer, 2012 ---Drinking from a Firehose

Pondering the Possibilities of  Drinking From a Firehose

Or What I Learned from the Summer 2012 Society of Children's Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) Conference



Did the Society of Children's Writers and Illustrators http://www.scbwi.org
Conference in L.A. help me with my writing?  

I am writing--attempting to write--my first fantasy novel, Clare's Crow

The truth is, I'm a newby writer, and there was a lot of   information at the conference.  I overheard someone saying it was like  trying to drink water from a fire hose. 

There are so many ideas I am still processing from the conference, but here are some take-aways  I am ready to share:

The SCBWI  gave me a wide-angle view of  the  children's writing community.

 It gave me a closeup of published authors sharing their struggles and  successes.  

 I  got to zoom in on the experience of  top-flight editors looking to find a great story.

 I took away new strategies I need to make my story better.

 The SCBWI conference gave me a welcome community.  I   met  people, like myself, who love children's  books. 

I attended Ari Lewin's breakout session on Writing Fantasy.  Ms. Lewin is an executive editor at GP Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers.    She helped me think like an editor looking for a good story to publish.   

With Lewin's help, I  imagined myself an editor about to find that elusive manuscript.  I'd  be reading the manuscript of  THE GOLDEN COMPASS  or  ARTEMIS FOWL. They'd be a  pleasure to read for so many reasons. They wouldn't rush me into the magic.  Instead they'd carefully draw me into their worlds through strong narrative and vivid characters. They would build the suspense, not giving anything away.  They would be real page-turners.

I also attended  the breakout session led by Matthew Kirby,  award-winning author of The Clockwork Three, Icefall, and book five of the forthcoming Infinity Ring series, http://matthewjkirby.com/kirbside.  (I am reading and enjoying The Clockwork Three right now.) 
Kirby took the time to share his  hard-won insights on writing.  He gave a presentation on Voice to an overflow audience. Two takes-aways for me were:

Voice is Language intersecting with Character.  You cannot  attack voice directly.   

 Voice emerges organically. You have to create a space for your voice to grow, like a garden.

Voice is connected to concise vocabulary: the choice of regional dialect, the rhythm in the text, The  fit of the vocabulary with the type of story.

Finally Kirby gave us heartfelt encouragement:

Give yourself the right to treat writing as a career and it will create a shift in your thinking.


 That's me in the blue getting all excited about the The Golden Kite Luncheon Staff Introductions
  (--not really...but I was there  too, getting just as excited, only not in the picture).


Pondering The Joy of Writing Groups and Ray  Bradbury

A gathering at the first World Science-Fiction Convention in 1939. Julius Schwartz is the gent with the glasses in the back at left. Ray Bradbury is in the front row at far right. The man at far left in the front row is Forrest J Ackerman.

      We all have a need to be understood and maybe that’s why we seek out the camaraderie of other writers. I meet with a group of writers.  We  call ourselves the Saturday Morning Coffee and Critique group (SMCC).  We have all gotten to know  my character, Clare, and her Crows over time as her story unfolds.  I am constantly awed and inspired by their feedback.

     In 1939 Forest J. Ackerman invited 19 year old Ray Bradbury to join him and his fellow science fiction writers  at Clifton’s Cafeteria in downtown Los Angeles.    Ackerman  recognized a  talented wunderkind in Bradbury, who would make a great addition to the L.A. Science Fiction Society.
      I like to imagine Bradbury, “the kid,”  sitting with the other writers around the cafeteria table; a long formica table, littered with overflowing ashtrays and all-you-can-drink limade. He's engaged in deep conversation with the likes of Emil Petaja, Fredric Brown, Henry Kuttner, Leigh Brackett, Jack Williamson and Robert A. Heinlein  --Robert A. Heinlein for God’s sake!--
     Ray Bradbury loved to write, he loved the creative process, he loved science fiction, and he loved science fiction writers.  I know this because my middle grade years were shaped by Something Wicked This Way Comes, The Martian Chronicles, Ferhenheit 451 and The Illustrated Man.  I also know this because I heard Bradbury talk at Santa Barbara City College,  in the late seventies.  He was so  authentic and enthusiastic.  I believe he wanted to pass on the flame just like Forest J.Ackerman had passed it on to him in  Clifton’s Cafeteria. 

     It makes me feel good that Bradbury attended a writing group.  


     I believe it is worth searching for the right group. Many kinds of  writing groups are all over the place.  Meet-Up  http://www.meetup.com/about  offers  many local writing groups worth checking out.  You can even try starting your own Meet-Up group.  Professional organizations often have resources too.  I joined the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators,   http://www.scbwi.org  and learned that they could refer me to member writing groups. 


    I'd like to quote Stephen King from his book, On Writing.  One of his biggest influences was none other than our man,  Ray Bradbury, http://www.raybradbury.com/ .    A fellow SMCC member, used the quote from Stephen King on her blogsite Signs are Everywhere (http://pikeplace1.blogspot.com/) and that's how I found it.  This is how I feel about a good writing group:

"Having someone who believes in you makes a lot of difference. They don't have to make speeches. Just believing is usually enough."