Tag Archives: SCBWI

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?

51 — Writer’s Day Block

Yesterday was the SCBWI-LA’s Writer’s Day and the combined creative talent seated in that one room was enough to give little me writer’s block…and inspiration too, of course. Half of me wanted to hightail it to my desk and get to work with renewed fervor. The other, LARGER half, insisted I hide in humiliation and quit claiming I’m a writer.

Maybe that’s why Libba Bray, (yes! Libba Bray!) spoke about inner critics and advised us to make them take a hike.

But first, she wanted us to nickname those nasty ogres so that we could call them right back at revision time. Well, I have a good plenty of names for that unrelenting so and so, most of which are not mentionable outside the confines of my badly battered brain. As for asking Beater and Biter to take a hike…well, not so easy. Don’t think I’ve tried! We know who’s boss around here. Though, Libba’s hilarious and passionate speech did give me the motivation to try harder. Are you listening, High Priestess of Harangue?? Hmmm, I can’t even wipe the smirk off her face.

Here I am pleading with Libba to talk to the Wizard of Water Torture for me. No go.*

More of Libba’s wisdom — “Some days your writing will suck — that is OK!”

The wonderful editor Rachel Abrams from HarperTeen had so many tips on how to create that Wow! Factor in your novel:
About dialogue — “Sometimes what you don’t say speaks the loudest.”
About descriptions — “Fondle the details.”
About plot — “A good story is where bad things happen.”
And most of all, “Avoid adverbial speech tags,” she said, wisely.

Agent Jill Corcoran, picture-book author Lisa Wheeler, and middle-grade author Kathleen O’Dell kept us laughing and learning the rest of the day.

Best of all, was meeting so many other writers from our incredible region, old friends and new, who reminded me yet again, that I am not alone on this brain-battering, mind-expanding, mesmerizing journey.

Thank you all for being there, along with your inner critics.

*Photos of Libba Bray taken by Lupe Fernandez. Thanks, Lupe!