My impressions of the second day of the annual SCBWI summer conference. Rough notes from five of the keynotes/workshops I attended.
Karen Cushman talked about how writing rules often contradict one another, so we should either ignore rules or write our own. Let your writing surprise you, “oonch” that extra something to the surface in your manuscript. Be honest with your readers, emotionally as well as factually.
The editors panel featured (left to right) Jordan Brown (Walden Pond Press and Balzer + Bray), Elise Howard (Algonquin), Neal Porter (Roaring Brook Press), Farrin Jacobs (HarperCollins Children’s), Tamar Brazis (Abrams), and Laura Godwin (Henry Holt), with Lin Oliver moderating. Their presentation covered voice (during which Farrin admonished us not to be “too voicey”), what the most positive attributes the editors found in their most successful authors (a unanimous vote for flexibility and professionalism), the climate for children’s books (generally positive, even regards the printed book), characteristics that make a book or story enduring (core stories/experiences, universal themes), and the one thing each editor would tell the audience they should and should not do (finish the book! and please yourself rather than following trends (but be aware of the market too)).
Illustrator Bryan Collier gave a moving inspirational keynote about dreams being seeds for our aspirations. He described how he saw things no one else saw, how words sounded different to him. His dream took 7 years of pavement pounding to come to fruition, but his persistence paid off. He also told us about how the book Dave the Potter, a gorgeous picture book about a slave potter who made 40,000 pots in his life, came to be.
Ruben Pfeffer’s talk, Digital You, gave us a overview of where digital is today and where it might be going. It’s certainly a trend (e-books, enhanced e-books and apps) that will continue to evolve. He presented 7 macro trends, including the explosion of the children’s/YA e-book market (an increase of 475% from Jan 2011 to Jan 2012) and the exciting (frightening to some?) reality that new technology will create new content.
Finally, Christina Diaz Gonzalez presented her talk on writing multi-culturally. Every culture/ethnicity has insiders and outsiders. While one doesn’t have to be an insider to write a multi-cultural story, outsiders must research to be accurate. More publishers are showing interest in multi-cultural books, in large part because we are at a tipping point where more than 50% of those born in the U.S. are non-white (they’re Hispanic, Black, Asian, and other non-white ethnicities). That multi-cultural market is growing.