Links Galore

Lots of great links to get you through the week:

Blue Shirts, First Chapters, and Naps for Writers: the 2013 NESCBWI Conference

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My info packet–and coffee, of course.

In her keynote speech at NESCBWI, Sharon Creech mentioned, “Words generate words.” She was talking about the act of inspiration, and how ideas come to you, but I think this is also a good lens with which to look at rest of the weekend. Enthusiasm sparks more enthusiasm, creativity creates more creativity.

Which is one reason I like going to conferences like NESCBWI. When you put a bunch of writers and illustrators in a room, our excitement and dedication and talents are amplified, which is a pretty cool thing to be a part of. Writing can be a very solitary business and even though the internet has made it easier to connect with like-minded people, you can’t beat the feeling of gathering in one place for a weekend.

Last year was my first at NESCBWI, so I didn’t really know anyone and was afraid of not having anyone to talk to. This year, I felt like I kept seeing people I knew, both from real life and from social media. I wasn’t just someone at a conference; I was part of a community, a vibrant community that supports its members.

Of course, I got to experience lots of great panels and workshops and speeches from awesome writers and illustrators. A few conference highlights:

  • Great keynotes by Sharon Creech and Grace Lin. I want to take a poetry class with Creech, who quotes Rilke and Robert Frost and Walter Dean Myers in her speech. Creech also mentioned the importance of taking naps for inspiration–duly noted! And Grace Lin was so dynamic and enthusiastic. Not being an illustrator or picture book author, I didn’t expect to connect with her speech as much as I did, but she was honest and thoughtful and energetic. Between her humor, her spirit, and her talent, Lin’s one of the coolest people ever. (And she dresses snazzy, too!)
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Lauren and Julia show off our awesome shirts.

  • My critique group got matching t-shirts to celebrate member Tara Sullivan’s upcoming publication of Golden Boy. We rocked the guerrilla marketing.
  • Very cool panel about the review process. Leila Roy of bookshelves of doom represented, which made me go all fangirl. Her blog has been a favorite since back before I knew I wanted to focus solely on writing YA. Also, very glad to hear that professional reviews really want to love every book they start, and that they want to find ways to connect books with potential readers.
  • Workshopping first chapter/pages with Nova Ren Suma. She led a great session, and the other workshop attendees were all thoughtful critiquers. (Lots of us are trying to keep in touch online; can’t wait to see how all those first pages end up!)
  • Great session on writing characters outside of your culture. It’s something several future novel ideas of mine involve, but I want to make sure I represent these characters and their backgrounds accurately and thoughtfully. One suggestion I liked was not to be afraid to go beyond the “romantic” parts of a culture, like holidays and folk traditions–get into the messiness of real life.
  • On the social media side, one session about connecting with book bloggers (something I need to prepare for in the debut process) and making videos (something I should be doing now). My goal is to start a regular video feature here, so get ready for some visual aid.
  • Getting to spend a weekend with my awesome critique group members, getting to see other friends and making new ones.

My critique group! Including one very new member who charms us with his smiles and tiny kicks. Image by Lauren M. Barrett.

Thanks so much to this year’s organizers for putting on a great conference. I’m already thinking of next year when might book might be out, too. Eee!

For more conference recap goodness, check out these other posts. If you went to NESCBWI this year and have a recap post/thoughts about the conference, please share in the comments.

NESCBWI: A Gif Interpretation, Part II

NESCBWI has so much conference awesomeness, I needed two posts to get in all the gifs. (If you missed yesterday’s post, check out Part I here.) More gif-ery below!

Going to the bookstore:

Getting your books signed:

The line for the ladies room:

When someone (especially an agent/editor/famous writer) thinks your book sounds cool:

When someone says they think social media is a waste of time:

Hearing about how even really successful writers still deal with lots of rejection:

When you find someone who also likes historical YA/sci-fi MG/picture books about otters:

Trying to find a place for dinner on Saturday night:

Talking to the person who doesn’t know how to stop trying to network:

Getting to vent with people who understand:

What it feels like to be around so many awesome people for the weekend:

What you feel like doing once you go home:

What you feel like on Monday morning:

But then you remember the good conference vibes and:

So are you going to NESCBWI ’14?

See you in Springfield, fellow NESCBWI-ers!

NESCBWI: A Gif Interpretation, Part I

Ways you can tell it’s spring in New England–the trees are in bloom; you’ve sent your wool coat to the back of your closet; and you’re headed to Springfield, MA for the annual NESCBWI conference!

Last year was my first NESCBWI conference, and it went super well. I listened to awesome speeches, took part in cool workshops, and (best of all) met my amazing critique group. I’m excited to go back this year, knowing a bunch more people from real life and the online kidlit universe.

I’ve done some “conference advice” posts before, so instead of rehashing that advice, let’s go through the emotional scope of NESCBWI via my favorite method of communication–the gif.

How you feel as a newbie:

How you also feel as a newbie:

How you feel going your second/third/forty-fifth year:

Trying to figure out which room you need to be in for your first session:

When a totally famous author makes eye contact with you during the keynote:

When someone asks a question that is only related to their very specific experience and benefits no one else:

When someone asks a good, thoughtful question that will benefit everyone:

Getting retweeted by other conference attendees:

Your attitude towards coffee:

During a query/manuscript critique with your dream agent:

Meeting a someone you know from #kidlit/#yalit in person:

When you see an illustrator’s business card:

When someone gives a really moving and inspiring keynote/workshop/panel:

When we all talk about how wonderful and important it is to create books for children and teens:

More conference gif fun continues with Part II tomorrow!

Links Galore

A few more links for today:

Blueberry Fields Forever

Last weekend I packed up my computer, bathing suit, and best blueberry-picking bucket and headed to Maine for the Blueberry Fields Writers Retreat. It was my very first writing retreat and it was a blast. Since time was devoted to actual writing, I ended up getting a lot of work done. Of course, I could take a random Saturday and do the same thing in my apartment, but I think there’s a lot to be said for going somewhere with the specific purpose to write and knowing that this is your only responsibility.

Also, it was a fantastic chance to connect with other New England-based writers. I hadn’t officially met any of them before this retreat, but everyone was so welcoming that I felt comfortable right away. And even though writing is thought of as a very solitary activity, it’s so important to connect with other writers. It’s invigorating, and it’s helpful to hear about the general ups and downs of everyone’s careers.

I posted a preview on Monday, but now here’s a more extended glimpse at life at Blueberry Fields:

Art projects get the creative juices flowing.

I should probably stick to writing.

Sunlight on the blueberry fields early Sunday morning. Check out the bee boxes on the right!

Picking tasty Maine blueberries!

There were SO MANY!

I’m so glad I had this opportunity. It was the best weekend, and reminded me of how awesome YA/children’s writers are. In all honesty, I was a little nervous heading into the weekend; it was my first retreat and I didn’t know anyone else involved all that well. But I am so glad I attended. I left Maine on Sunday feeling so inspired and psyched to get working on my latest project. Another reminder that it pays to get out of your comfort zone and try new things.

Special thanks to Julie Kingsley, Meg Wilson, Cameron Rosenblum, and Susan Casey for making this all come together so beautifully.

More recaps of the retreat:

SCBWI Summer Conference and That Lovin’ Feeling

The 2012 SCBWI Summer Conference is fast approaching. If you’re headed to LA and want to get pumped, or staying at home (like I am) and want to feel that conference-y goodness, check out these pre-conference interviews from the SCBWI conference blog. In Martha Brockenbrough’s interview with agent Jill Corcoran, Jill talks about what she’s looking for in YA romance and why that’s hard to find:

“Maybe it is difficult to recapture the innocence and wonder of first or even second love. Of crushes and unrequited love. Of waiting for that kiss, that touch, that moment when you no longer think straight and lose a part of yourself–for the good and the bad–to the person you ‘think’ you love. Of discerning between love and lust towards another person, and towards you. Of truth and lies. Of wanting to believe and not trusting your gut…it is about characters–soul-searching, groin-yearning, heart thumping, heart breaking, fast paced, laugh out loud, cry out loud, make me want to be your character ROMANCE!”

It’s easy to look down on romance, but it’s so hard to do well. I think Jill’s statement above touches on a lot of the very real, understandable feelings we’ve all experienced or wanted to experience. One of my YA favorites, Feeling Sorry for Celia by Jaclyn Moriarty, handles romance beautifully. Elizabeth experiences the pains of rejection and the hope of adorable first love. As Jill mentions, it captures that innocence and wonder of first/second love. (Plus it’s a hilarious and awesome book.) I’m definitely keeping Jill’s advice in mind for my romantically-inclined characters.
Make sure to check out the SCBWI blog for all the interview and more pre-conference info. Have fun in LA, conference-goers!

Tips for Writing Conference Success

Great post at YA Highway about how to enjoy and get the most out of your conference experience. They have very helpful suggestions like “bring snacks” (I’d also add “bring mints” because they’re perfect for sharing) and “talk to agents like they’re human beings.” My favorite:

Be cognizant of other attendees. During workshops, try to ask questions that apply to other attendees – not only your specific book. During group pitch sessions, don’t talk about your project the whole time – let everyone else have a chance, too.”

This is my biggest pet peeve from any kind of Q&A session. If you need to preface it with a very specific story from your very particular experience, it might not be a worthwhile question to ask during a group session. If you really want to go into something specific, wait until after the session and ask in private.

A couple of other suggestions I have for conferences:

  • Only going to conferences that have specific draws for you. If you want to talk to a particular agent or hear a particular writer talk, that’s a good reason to go. Attending a conference just because you like books in general might not be worthwhile. There are a lot of conferences out there, and they can be expensive.
  • Don’t get conference burn-out. It can feel like you need to see absolutely everything, but it’s okay to skip a session and take a walk, call a friend, or nap.
  • Get pumped on the writerly energy and actually write. Maybe wake up a little early and work on that outline that’s been frustrating you, or try a new writing exercise.
  • Don’t take more free materials and books than will fit in your bag. Seriously. You probably won’t read all of them right now anyway.

And remember, conferences should be fun and energizing. You want to act like a professional, but writing is also a really awesome profession filled with lots of awesome people. Take advantage of being around a bunch of cool writers and readers all in one place. Ride that wave of literary enthusiasm!

Second Novels

At NESCBWI, I went to a workshop about expectations for your writing career and your second book in particular. It was refreshing to hear Cynthia Lord and Linda Urban talk about their struggles writing their second books. Urban mentioned spending a lot of time working on one book in particular and how it was a huge, stressful project. Ultimately, she had to set it aside fro a while and move onto something else.

It’s hard enough to think about getting published and how your first book will do. Then you have to worry about the second one and if anyone will like that. It’s like the work and worry never ends! (Apparently it doesn’t.)

Still, Rachelle Gardner talks about how second book stress doesn’t mean the end of the world. If your agent/editor doesn’t love your next manuscript, that’s okay. Gardner says:

“It’s true, many writers’ subsequent novels fall short of the mark. The most common reason is that most authors work on that first novel, the one that sold, for far longer than the second one. They may have even agonized over it for years. The following novels, by contrast, are usually written much faster and under the pressure of a contract and a deadline, so they might not be as strong…If you wrote one great one, and your second one is not quite as good, the world’s not going to end. You just fix it. Presumably you’ll have the help of whoever told you it wasn’t good enough—your agent or editor. You’ll get notes for revision and you’ll get to work. Or you’ll be told to junk it and start over. (Hopefully not the latter, but it’s been known to happen.)”

I think it’s good to remember that a writing career isn’t all or nothing. Sometimes there are disappointments, but that doesn’t mean your career is over. It’s all a process and it never stops being work. But on the upside, just because you write something that might not be your next book doesn’t mean that your agent will leave your or your editor will hate you. Again, it’s more work, but it’s not the end of your writing career.