Category Archives: WriterRamble

64–SCBWI Turns Forty: Of Phantoms and Dragons and Phantom Dragons

Yes. SCBWI has turned a fun and frolicksome forty.

Before this year’s conference, I used to think children’s books were non-fattening.

That was before I ate a chocolate one.

If you can’t pronounce SCBWI, no worries, our founding parents, Steve and Lin, proclaim they can’t either.
In fact, they insist that its non-pronuncibility (pronounce that! OK, spell it first) was a major factor in the choice of that title.

A lot has changed with the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators over the forty years.

For one,

Steve and Lin don’t quite look the same.

Although they are still lollipop-sucking young at heart. That’s what children’s books will do to you!

The headquarters have changed too, from a non-descript shopfront that is now, yes, a dental office doling out loads of braces, no doubt…

…to a fancy building of our own!

Our membership has increased from a local handful to more than 22,000 international members reaching out all the way to Mongolia, where,

not everyone is totally delighted.

The faculty at the first conference would have gawked at this year’s panelists whose line snaked out the door of the conference hall.

All that brilliance under one roof.
People like Norton Jester, uh Juster, who’s just as funny in person as he is on the page in The Phantom Tollbooth.

Donna Jo Napoli with a smile as winsome as her book The Smile .

Gary Paulsen whose life as he tells it is far more exciting than Hatchet .

Laurie Halse Anderson who first stole my heart with her books, and then by calling me her “sister-friend!”

Forty years ago, lunch meant KFC on the lawn.

Lunch now is still chicken, but it’s decorated with exotics such as broccolini and served in a ballroom, no less!
We are a true Cinderella story,
though we are no fairy tale.

My critique group buddies Julie, Nancy, and Kathy.

But some things, never change.
Like the pearls of wisdom the faculty are so ready to share.

Bruce Coville’s advice to all children’s writers — Marry rich.

Oops! Where did that dragon bounce in from? Hmm. That can’t be good. I have a nasty feeling about this.

Maybe if I ignore that pesky green thing, it’ll go away.
Where was I?
Oh yes. Some things never change.
Like the heart-warming stories, the evocative illustrations…

Illustrator David Small with his evil cell-phone wielding publicist as he graphically explains the difference between signing books at a large chain versus an indie bookstore.

…and the pure joy of what we do that makes us break into song and dance spontaneously.

David Small and his wife, author Sarah Stewart, dance to “How good it is to be loved by you.”

Some of our members haven’t changed, like the ever young Judy Blume who dropped in on us as a surprise.

Yes. That really is Judy Blume and…

…yikes, the dopey dragon’s dragged in a fiendish friend.

Go away!
We have enough wild things at this party already.

And that’s another thing that will never change.
We will always party into the WEE hours of the night…

…even if it means sneaking out after bedtime in our pajamas.

Oh no.

Somebody train that dragon to behave before she beats up on all our illustrious faculty.

She’s gone.
Back to the party.

Whether we look utterly cute,

pretty in pink,

or downright classy.

Party we will…

…until the lights go out.

Thank you Steve and Lin and SCBWI for an amazing conference.
May we have many, many more!
And may the inspiration and motivation keep flowing to all children’s writers and illustrators everywhere.

The phantom dragon’s exiting the building.
Something tells me, though, we’ve not seen the last of her.
You let me know if a dopey dragon crashes your pajama party, ya hear?

#AmWriting…Just not on my Blog

Distil — To separate or extract the essential elements of

That’s what I’ve been struggling with in my manuscript these past months. When there are so many issues a protagonist is dealing with, so many story points the reader needs to know, so much happening in the plot…what do I choose to put down on the page. How do I distil the crucial points, extract the essential elements, to produce a streamlined gripping narrative that satisfies the reader’s appetite while ensuring my story’s progress.

One of the blog posts that has been a great help to me is:
The Stuff Between Scenes by Deborah Halverson

Now my story’s heating up, I can’t wait to see what remains when the winter air cools my distilled words.

54 — Here There Be Heroes and Giants and Men Made of Stinky Cheese


…would you find children’s writers who loom larger than life with titles such as National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, and think nothing of knocking you out of your chair with their straight-faced humor till you roll in the aisles holding your stomach, groaning with excessive mirth?

Jon Scieszka

Author Jon Scieszka delivers the opening keynote address for SCBWI 2010

…would you hear famous authors sing fictitious State anthems, in litanical form, so roguish in nature as to elicit a letter from said state’s horrified governor addressing said author as “buster?”

M. T. Anderson

Author M. T. Anderson sings his version of the Delaware State Song

…would you meet hordes of old friends and make new ones over quesadillas and drink tickets and bald patches of lawn at a party where the top names in publishing, agenting, writing, and illustrating for young people mingle casually, all outfitted in red?

Julia Shahin Collard and Friends

Julia Shahin Collard and her illustrator friends chowing down on Mexican food at the Heart and Soul Poolside Gala

Arthur Levine and I

The Grand Pooh Bah himself, Arthur A. Levine…with little ole me.

Nancy O'Connor

Critique buddy Nancy O’Connor savoring a heart cookie

Central Cal Gals

The Central Cal Gals set the night on fire

…would the photographer look more glamorous than the photographees?

Rita Crayon Huang

Photographer and schmooze coordinator Rita Crayon Huang elegantly documents the event for posterity

…would the Queen of Hearts have to win her crown by dancing across a stage handing out buttons to the crowd?

Tina Nicols Coury and Court

Tina Nicols Coury holds court as Queen of Hearts

…would the King of Hearts win yours with a story and a song?

Ashley Bryan

Golden Kite Winner Ashley Bryan reads from his beautiful picture book

…would the giants of storytelling and magic-weaving embrace newbies, encourage them with uplifting words, and bless them with a smile?

Gail Carson Levine

Gail Carson Levine enchanted the book I asked her to sign!

…would gifted writers do almost anything to encourage a child to read?

Gennifer Choldenko

Gennifer Choldenko holds up her book for my little friend Minori

…would friends from near and far meet to toast the future?

Nancy O'Connor-Debbie Ridpath Ohi

Critique buddy Nancy O’Connor and award-winning illustrator Debbie Ridpath Ohi toast our tradition of spending the last evening in the wonderful Rock Sugar restaurant

Fred and Stefanie

Fred Sisson and award-winning illustrator Stephanie Roth Sisson compete with YVL models on tour…and win!

…would award-winnng authors let you share in their victory?

Julia Durango

Julia Durango and her Golden Kite award-winning book spoke on 10 ways to bring your story back from the dead!

…would guardian angels really come true?

Lin Oliver and Me

The one and only Lin Oliver, star of the show, glittering guardian angel of all children’s writers and illustrators

SCBWI Annual Summer Conference 2010 will long be remembered!

Words Worth Repeating:

“Do congratulate yourself for being here.” Jon Scieszka

M. T. Anderson loves “those books that take us away from what we expect and allow us to see our own world as new.”
“That is the place where the giant brain rests.” M. T. Anderson…you had to be there.

Carolyn Mackler wants you to know your protagonist intimately. What does she keep hidden in her underwear drawer?

“As artists we need to fill ourselves to overflowing, then give it all back.” E. B. Lewis

“Be patient with your ideas. None of them are dumb.” Gail Carson Levine

“Research the edges of your subject. Stereotypes live in the middle.” Sue Bartoletti

“Don’t let form dictate content. Keep yourself open. You never know what you might find. Have faith in the process.” Deborah Heiligman

“Knowing how your character feels physically changes how you write. We write to live in the mind of another.”
“The scene you’re avoiding is a scene your book needs. You have to rub it like a bruise.” Rachel Vail

“Human beings need stories. We always have, we always will.”
“Look for the door in your story and walk through it.”
Gennifer Choldenko

“Wow! That’s a lot of red!” Rilla

Some related links:

SCBWI Team Blog

PW Article on SCBWI Annual Conference

SCBWI Southern California

Kite Tales

Dear Editor by Deborah Halverston
Deborah Halverston’s downloadable handout

Inky Girl-Daily Diversions for Writers by Debbie Ridpath Ohi
Debbie Ridpath Ohi discusses the comments the judges had on each of the images in her awardx2-winning portfolio! Very educational.

Stephanitely–Blog scribbles by Stephanie Roth Sisson

Arthur A. Levine Books

Pen and Ink Blog

Tammi Sauer

Susan Kaye Quinn blogs about the Conference

Greg Pincus and the Happy Accident

I’m Here, I’m Queer What the Hell do I read by Lee Wind

Alice Pope’s CWIM Blog

Ken Min Illustrator

Sherrie Peterson writes about the conference

Rita Crayon Huang’s photos of the conference

Marilyn Donahue

Julia Shahin Collard, Illustrator