by Karol Ruth Silverstein
With my debut YA novel Cursed on bookstore shelves, there was no way I was going to miss SCBWI Annual Summer Conference this year. Attending as a published author for the first time was definitely a different experience.
Here are my 5 takeaways:
1. If you have the wherewithal—treat yo self (to a hotel room)!
I’d been to the Summer Conference six times before but had never booked a hotel room. After my initial shock at the cost (and enlisting roommates), I was all set. On night one, my roommate and I celebrated with a decadent room-service dessert of brownies, ice cream, and sorbet
2. Attending as a published author is fun!
Not only did I get to hand out Cursed bookmarks and zipper pulls (maybe you saw them dotting the conference on other conference attendees’ nametags?) but I was finally on the published-author-end of the inevitable conference question, “So, are you published or pre-published?”
P.S. The term “pre-published” is 100% sincere. If it could happen for me after being an SCBWI member for 20 years, it can happen for you too. This year it was my turn to be encouraging to every pre-published conference attendee I met. What a pleasure to give back in that way!
3. The PAL Member Book Sale ain’t what it used to be—it’s SO much better!
My memories of previous PAL Member Book Sales were somewhat dismal—a huge, mostly empty room, with lonely authors stationed at tables lining the walls. This year, the room was MOBBED. I sold out in less than 30 minutes.
4. The Saturday night costume party is WAY more fun when you’re actually in costume
Due to my disability, a quick change into a costume in the ladies’ room was never really an option. At conferences past, the most I could do was wear a party themed t-shirt. This year I went all out—tricking out my scooter and myself for the Woodstock West party and had a totally groovy time.
5. There are always more lessons to be learned and endless ways to be inspired
Of course the conference itself was chock full of invaluable craft tips, publishing business information and endless inspiration.
A few observations and favorite quotes for me:
- Think of your opening as an invitation to your readers. – Ann Whitford Paul breakout, Picture Book Openings that Grab With Less That 50 Words
- Characters need to want/yearn for something that feels just out of reach; they should inhabit worlds where they are in some way disempowered. – Tiff Laio breakout, Straight From the Heart: How To Make Readers Fall In Love With Your Characters
- Identity doesn’t define, it informs. Thoughtfully read 100 books that include the identity in your WIP and ask yourself, “Am I erasing anyone?” Reading counts as writing time. – Cynthia Leitich Smith breakout, Writing Across Identity Elements
- Meg Medina’s entire closing keynote, where she explained the concept of clavé (a term from Cuban music)—an internal beat we all have and consistently return to in our writing. Your personal clavé will help you decide where to put your time and attention.
- And finally, I’m convinced the world would be a much better place if only Mem Fox could read us all bedtime stories every night!
What were your favorite moments and gems of wisdom from SCBWI’s 48th Annual Summer Conference? Let us know in the comments!
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Karol Ruth Silverstein writes all genres of children’s books and screenplays. She serves on the board of SCBWI-Los Angeles and is a member of the Writers Guild of America, West.
Photos provided by Karol Ruth Silverstein.