Conferences

Missouri SCBWI Conference Recap, Part 1

I attended the Missouri SCBWI conference on Saturday. I drafted a single post with my key takeaways, but it was too long, so I’m splitting it into two. You’ll get Part 1 today and Part 2 tomorrow.

The first keynote speaker was the very entertaining David Harrison, a prolific author who’s been publishing since the ’60s. Here are a couple of quotes that stood out to me.

“What’s the best part about writing? Falling in love with this idea.”

He expanded further on this during his breakout session. He developed a whole book out of noticing he was losing his hair and another after reading a Far Side cartoon. It’s funny how one little thing can be the starting point for a story.

“Six years and 67 rejections later, I sold my first book. It was easy.”

Ha! And he was submitting in a much less glutted publishing marketplace, but what was true then is true today. I’m not at six years yet, but I’ve definitely received more than 67 rejections :).

The second keynote was by editorial consultant Emma Dryden, who spoke about the digital landscape. Ms. Dryden went through an alphabetical list of companies/trends that are affecting the industry. One that stood out to me was the iPad. I’m not sure I got it all exactly the way she said it, but here’s what I wrote down:

“The iPad put the capability of digital reading into the hands of millions of readers who didn’t know they wanted digital reading.”

Think about that for a minute. It really makes sense. The Kindle came out the same year, and it offers the same reading opportunity, but the iPad is different because the e-reader is just one part of the device. I don’t know the statistics, but I’d guess a small percentage of people originally bought it for reading, but a large number of people who bought it for other purposes now use it for reading. I know that’s been the case for my husband.

Ms. Dryden spoke about publishers getting into apps and bookstores figuring out how to stay relevant. Publishers have to re-imagine their business models. Bookstores are no longer the main customer. Publishers also need to go through Apple, Google, and Amazon and even direct to the consumer. Another interesting note was that enhanced ebooks are not as lucrative as publishers expected them to be. She said they’re only worth it if there’s extra value in the enhancements, and that’s not usually the case with fiction.

Thanks to YALSA also happening in St. Louis on Saturday, we had a panel of YA authors do a Q&A during lunch. They included Beth Fehlbaum, Jo Knowles, Deborah Heiligman, Selene Castrovilla, and Shannon Delany.

The first question to the panel was: How do you write about something true? I didn’t keep a good record of who said what, but the basic answer was that it’s a mistake to keep the story too close to what really happened. Instead think about what could have made the situation better. Take yourself out of the story and make it the character’s story instead. Then the story can take flight.

I did take down some other quotes. Most of these are related to how and why the authors incorporate character details and quirks.

“What do we remember about a book? We remember moments. We remember little things.” Selene Castrovilla

“Listen to the characters. Even when we don’t know where they’re going, they do.” Shannon Delany

“The characters that you love most in fiction, you can probably name things about them.” Deborah Heiligman

“You can’t just add quirks. Characters need to have a reason for them. They have to have a purpose.” Jo Knowles

So, I hope those quotes give you something to think about as you’re imagining characters. I’ll definitely keep them in mind.

Check back tomorrow for Part 2 of my recap. If anyone else was at the conference, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Writing

Where Do You Get Your Ideas?

It’s interesting to hear where writers get their story ideas. My first novel was a conglomeration of a bunch of different things I liked to read. I couldn’t nail down the genre, and that’s a big part of why it ultimately didn’t work. The second one came out of a dream that wouldn’t leave me alone.

Then there’s the current novel I’m querying. I can’t pinpoint exactly where I came up with the idea, but it had something to do with two middle grade series I read last year – Lindsey Leavitt’s PRINCESS FOR HIRE series and Jacqueline West’s THE BOOKS OF ELSEWHERE. In one, the main character magically becomes different princesses, and in the other the character jumps into paintings. So I started with a question: what if you could go into a piece of music and become a character in its story? Since I play the violin myself, the character had to be a violinist.

Now it’s time for something new. A week ago I had no clue what I was going to write next. Nothing in my idea file or dream journal (I write down the crazy ones) jumped out at me. What finally gave me an idea was a conversation with some friends about their fears. One of them was pretty crazy, but I wondered if I could make a story out of it. Then I was watching an episode of “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse” with my kids, and it led to an idea for the story’s framework. I’m not going to give any more details at this point since I’m still figuring it out, but I’m excited to start something new. And it’s all thanks to a random conversation and Mickey Mouse. It’s amazing where inspiration strikes.

So I’m curious. Where do you get your ideas?