Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be over here doing the coffee shop outlet stretch.
A few good links for today:
- The second episode of Crossover Appeal is now up! This week we’re mashing up British tv drama fav Downton Abbey and epic fantasy classic Lord of the Rings. Find us on iTunes, Soundcloud, and Stitcher, and on all your favorite social medias.
- Fascinating look at documenting Hawaii Sign Language.
- Major props to the creator of all the BSC handwriting, and other fun Baby-Sitters Club trivia.
- And you can read like your favorite BSC member.
- Mapping out Yoknapatawpha.
- Some necessary middle school reading.
- Remember: if Tyra Banks can write a novel, you can write a novel.
- Loved this post on how to keep writing when your book doesn’t sell.
- Psyched for these forthcoming ebooks about Hogwarts.
- And speaking of the Wizarding World, Zoë Kravitz has been cast in the Fantastic Beasts movie.
- And apparently I need to start planning a trip to the British Library.
- What is the social responsibility of a writer?
- I already have way too many mugs, I need this one.
A few links I’ve been saving:
- A 9-year-old saves his allowance money to donate books to a prison library.
- The hard truth about book sales.
- Great list of cover reveal resources.
- Steampunk reading suggestions.
- Elizabeth Wein on framing stories, boy/girl books, and pathetic fallacy.
- Famous writers on plotting and pantsing.
- My fabulous agent, Taylor Martindale Kean, on developing voice.
- Writing advice from Laini Taylor.
- I’m very on board with these book suggestions based on your Hogwarts house.
- How to build a bestselling book.
- Using the three-act structure to add drive to your story, scene by scene.
- Don’t quit. Don’t quit. Don’t quit.
All the links I’ve been saving:
- Sometimes you need the hard truths.
- Like what it means to actually be a writer.
- Allison has a great post on motherhood and writing.
- Need a trombone? Want to join a coding club? Check your local library.
- Even Judy Blume hates the first draft.
- And Isabel Allende’s first draft can be a struggle, too.
- A few simple tips for writing the biggest bestseller ever.
- It helps it it’s something the same but different.
- On the importance of prison library programs.
- How to be a teen in a novel for adults.
- Crit partner and awesome writer Tara Sullivan on the best advice she’s ever received.
- Some awesome Shakespeare trivia for my fellow English Majors.
- And which Shakespearean play should you see?
- And maybe introduce your kids to Shakespeare.
- On the singular ‘their.’
- Wise words by feminists of color.
- How the Pulitzer affects your sales.
- Love some bookish haiku.
- “There’s no rap battle like a rap battle for 1,300 11th-graders.”
- Being an advocate for your writing career.
- Publishing myths and legends.
- I can totally get behind this casting.
- Anna-Marie McLemore on magical realism and where our magic lives.
- “Next, remember that writing is what you do, not who you are.”
- How to cope with rejections.
- It’s okay if all your reviews are four or five stars.
- Fictional dragons are my jam.
- Batman Returns…his books to the library!
- Diversity and geek culture.
At the annual NESCBWI conference, surrounded by writers and illustrators and editors and agents, it’s easy to think about community. Writing can feel like a solitary job, and it’s good to spend a weekend with people who really get it. And being around people who get it was just what I needed.
Due to scheduling and budgeting, I didn’t get to go to any writing retreats in the last year, and I didn’t realize how much I needed that time with my writing community until I got to Springfield. There’s something about being surrounded by people who share your passion and by setting aside time to remember that, no matter what the struggles, you are a writer.
A few favorite moments from the conference:
- Getting to spend time with my critique group, including two members who no longer live in the New England area and make the trip out for the weekend.
- Showing off our love for The Bitter Side of Sweet by crit group member Tara Sullivan.
- Wendy Mass‘s touching and hilarious keynote, including gems like “It’s easy enough to write what you know. Write what you want to know about,” her giant scroll of rejection letters, and how she takes magic lessons.
- Also, Wendy Mass’s blueprinting/outlining method that might legit change my writing process for the better.
- Tara Lazar on how picture books need to be the more exciting narrative roller coaster.
- Patrick Carman’s keynote about being inspired by Evel Knievel and how we are all entrepreneurs.
- Amitha Knight and Padma Venkatraman‘s thoughtful and engaging workshop on writing disability, with tons of helpful resources and frank discussions about things like how “sympathy is not a positive attitude.”
- An awesome panel about working with booksellers and educators, including shoutouts to graphic novels as legit reading.
- Winning a copy of Jumping Off Swings by Jo Knowles in her fabulous ‘improv’ writing workshop.
- Seeing The Chance You Won’t Return in the conference bookstore alongside so many wonderful books (and so many wonderful books by friends!)
- Spending time with lots of my favorite local writers and illustrators (even though there were still people I somehow didn’t run into all weekend).
I headed into May feeling inspired and rejuvenated and ready to write. No matter what you’re working on now, I hope you can find a chance to connect with your fellow writers and remember what we’re all in this together.
One of my favorite annual conferences, NESCBWI, is this weekend, and I’m so psyched to see lots of wonderful writer and illustrator friends for a weekend of bookish inspiration. But only a few years ago, I was a total NESCBWI newbie, and was headed to Springfield equal parts excited and nervous.
In case you’re a newbie to the writing conference experience, here are my tips for getting the most out of your weekend and having a blast.
Do: use the conference hashtag
Intimidated by how everyone seems to know everyone else? Joining in on social media can be a great way to connect with a lot of people at once, and it’s way easier to meet people in real life if you’ve already interacted on Twitter. This weekend, follow along at #NESCBWI16.
Don’t: be scared to talk to people
I know, it’s hard to be the new kid. But everyone’s there because they love the same thing you do, and that means you already have something in common. Ask what they primarily write/what kind of media they use in their art/what book they’re totally fangirling over/how their last session was.
Do: take notes
It’s easy to think you’re going to remember everything from that amazing session on outlining, but details get fuzzy a week later when you’re diving back into your WIP. Bring a notebook or your laptop/tablet and jot down a few helpful points in each session.
Don’t: stress about remembering everything that was said in every talk/workshop
The stuff that really resonates with you will stick with you. Sometimes it’s more important to be present than to feel like you’re going to have to recite the workshop verbatim next week.
Do: get your time and money’s worth
Conferences can be expensive and take you away from your other responsibilities for a weekend. (Sorry, laundry, see you Monday!) Take part in workshop exercises, listen to the keynotes, join in on open mics, get a critique from an agent or editor. This is your weekend just to be a writer, so you might as well get the most out of your time that you can.
Don’t: get conference burn-out
Getting the most out of your weekend is one thing, but you don’t want to be so drained by it all that you end up zombie-walking through your last four workshops. Take some alone time when needed, or hole up in your hotel room and grab an hour of inspired writing time.
Do: dress comfortably
It’s a writing conference, not a fashion conference. (Miranda Priestly will not be there to judge you.) Modcloth-cute outfits are appreciated, but you’re also going to be walking from room to room and floor to floor and dodging people to get a seat at lunch. Comfortable shoes are key, and a lot of people wear jeans.
Don’t: forget to bring a few essentials
I like to have a notebook, a few pens, my cell phone charger, some business cards/bookmarks/other swag to hang out with my name and book on it, cash for the bookstore, and a reusable water bottle. Your essential items list may vary, but I think these are good basics.
Do: ask questions that benefit everyone
Most sessions have time for Q&A, but nothing’s worse than someone taking up 15 minutes on a question that only applies to their very specific situation. Think about questions that might apply to lots of other people in the group. If you have a specific question and the workshop presenter is available to talk after, bring it up individually.
Don’t: network all the time
We’re writers/illustrators, but we’re also people. You don’t have to be pitching your book or bragging about your daily word counts all the time. Remember that your fellow conference-goers are also people who have families, other hobbies, favorite movies, etc. The best ways to connect with your colleagues are when you remember that they’re regular humans, too.
Do: have a pitch for what you’re working on
This one is still hard for me, too. At some point over the weekend, someone will ask, “What do you write?” Instead of mumbling “Oh something about people and feelings, but it’s funny” like I do, think of a one or two sentence pitch for each of your projects.
Don’t: feel bad if you leave a critique without an offer from an agent or book deal
I’m not gonna say getting signed by an agent or editor can’t happen, but instead of worrying about getting that contract, try to focus on what’s working in your story and what you should consider in revision. And remember that not every agent/editor is the right one for you–maybe the one doing your critique could offer helpful suggestions, but ultimately isn’t the one who’s the best match for you or your book.
Do: have fun!
Conferences like NESCBWI are a great opportunity to meet people and learn more about your craft, but they should also be a chance to enjoy yourself among your peers. Writing is hard enough, so when we’re all together for a weekend, we might as well celebrate.
And if you’ll be at NESCBWI this year, copies of The Chance You Won’t Return should be available in the bookstore. I won’t be doing an official signing, but if you have a book and find me around, I’ll totally sign it for you (and give you a hug/high five).
Other conference tips? Share them in the comments!
Lots of links I’ve been saving:
- I need Lego Amelia Earhart. (Thanks to Ginger for the heads up!)
- Can we expect to see lots of baby Katnisses in the future?
- Geeking out over this look at the punctuation of famous novels.
- Teen readers are reading, in their own ways.
- A necessary read about diversity and publishing.
- Finding family history in Special Collections.
- The bestselling YA books of all time are mostly awesome; good taste, fans.
- Great interview with the awesome Tara Sullivan about The Bitter Side of Sweet and not giving up.
- And speaking of not giving up, the motivating post you need.
- Lots of intense female villains on this list.
- So many writers start with fanfic.
- On imaginary books.
- Where to start your story.
- Excellent post on disability and convenient workarounds in sci-fi/fantasy.
- Get ready for National Poetry Month with these YA novels in verse.
- Famous authors and their aliases.
- Lots of great YA movie adaptations to add to your Netflix queue.
- All of a sudden, everyone’s using quotes from Shakespeare in everyday speech.
- I’ve got a thing for weird YA character names.
- For the lovely Rhode Islanders out there, some great bookstores to stop by.
- Even Lin-Manuel Miranda has people telling him what he should write about.
- Great post on fat shaming in YA.
- Marley Dias of #1000BlackGirlBooks shares some favorite reads.
- You are still a writer.
- Shakespeare + YA = my jam.
- JK Rowling, I will make all the cake for you if you ever want to come to book club.