Last weekend, I got up at 5:30am, bought a giant coffee, and drove to Springfield, MA for the annual NESCBWI conference. Since my first time a few years ago, when I knew absolutely no one and spent breakfast thinking, Maybe if I tweet enough I’ll look popular, I’ve gotten to know so many wonderful writers and illustrators from the New England area, including my very own critique group. This year was a great combination of seeing friends, having thoughtful conversations, getting new ideas, learning about new resources, and generally feeling inspired.
- Being back together with the full critique group, including two members who have moved to other time zones over the last year. (Guys, anytime you want to move back to New England, you’ve got a spot in group.)
- Wearing t-shirts to promote crit group member AC Gaughen’s upcoming book, Lion Heart, and getting major props from other conference members. (We even got a shoutout during Jen Malone’s marketing workshop as an example of cool, alternative marketing.)
- Great conversations about writing diversity, including an excellent workshop with Mitali Perkins about writing diverse lives and asking the important questions, another with Ellen Wittlinger about LGBTQ YA books, and a dynamic panel including 2015 author Cindy L. Rodriguez. Favorite panel quote by Justina Ireland: “How good are the characters on your page already if you can’t write a diverse character?”
- Learning about picture book structure and how to use line breaks and page turns to build tension/build a joke.
- Listening to Newbery winner Kwame Alexander talk about the power of poetry.
- A powerful keynote from Jo Knowles about a quote from “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” books that can shed light on darkness, and her journey to writing YA novels about tough topics.
- Seeing old friends, making new ones, and reminding myself of the awesomeness of the children’s literature community.
Major thanks to the NESCBWI conference organizers, volunteers, and faculty for their hard work in making this such a successful and inspiring weekend. See you all in Springfield in 2016!