I never made it past the stick figure stage of drawing, but I love hearing from illustrators (and seeing how their books come alive). I loved how David Weisner (Flotsam) said that "stuff is in there waiting to break out and get used." It made me feel more patient about all the stories I want to write.
I've been wanting to hear Karen Cushman speak ever since reading Catherine, Called Birdy when I first started writing for children. She had so much good advice (starting with the caveat to not listen to advice). She told us to do more of what feeds our creativity, encouraged us to read voraciously, and talked about how publication is only one of the reasons we write. "We write because we're writers," she said. I agree! Later she said, "as soon as you learn to trust yourself you'll know what to write."
I adore Ellen Hopkins (Crank) in person as well as on the page. Ellen said, "Don't look for the easy way to the top. Be prepared to work hard." She also talked about acting like a professional even before publication (she published dozens of nonfiction books before Crank came out). "Writers and illustrators who love and respect children are indispensable," she said.
Illustrator Dan Yaccarino (Zoom! Zoom! Zoom!) talked about how he challenge himself to try new things and always takes advantage of unique opportunities--like creating animated TV shows. He also showed us how he does a lot of artwork for himself that fuels his paid work. "Do what you love. You'll find your audience, you really will," he said.
I've become a huge Holly Black (Spiderwick Chronicles) fan after hearing her speak--she's so nice! Holly also told us to read A LOT. "All writing is a conversation of what happened before," she said. I really appreciated hearing her thoughts about the fantasy genre and I'll be adding more of it to my reading list. In a later session about career planning, she said, "You shift what you think when you have a goal." I think that applies not only to writing, but life.
Author Ingrid Law (Savvy) read us a story that served as a metaphor for the writing life. About her own writing she said, "I'm not going to judge it or worry about who will like it or who won't." She simply writes what comes to her. Great advice!
Kathleen Duey (Skin Hunger) capped off the conference with a talk about what to do after a conference. Her most important message was to stay in touch with the people you meet. "The contacts you make become the backbone of your career." Here are a couple of photos of me with my conference friends!
The Class of 2k9:
You can read more about the 2009 SCBWI conference at www.scbwi.org.