Monday, September 13, 2010

A Weekend With The Pros

I spent last weekend visiting one of my favorite cities, Boise, Idaho, for our regional SCBWI conference.

Our speakers included Scholastic Books editor, Cheryl Klein, Jill Corcoran from The Herman Agency, as well as authors Chris Crutcher, Kelly Milner Halls, Amy Cook, Sarah Tregay, Laura Bingham, and me.

Cheryl Klein talked about seventeen revision techniques. One that I'm going to use: List the first ten significant things each character says or does in your novel. This gives you a quick snapshot of that character. You may discover that your character needs to be softened a bit, or maybe you could use a bit of humor, etc. I would've seen that a certain character in my WIP didn't do much of anything at all!

I also liked how Cheryl emphasized that editors value quality over speed. I think so many writers rush home from conferences and submit their work that week. Take the time to think about what you've learned and apply those lessons to your novel. You can find out more about Cheryl at

Jill Corcoran spoke about writing query letters. Over and over again she emphasized that query letters are business letters. Be professional, not cute! But do make a good first impression with clear, concise, yet interesting writing. If agents aren't requesting your manuscript, something might be wrong with your query letter. Workshop your query letter just like you'd workshop a manuscript. To find out more about Jill check out her blog. She's absolutely passionate about the authors she represents!

I loved Kelly Milner Halls talk about school visits--lots of great information. I also learned a lot from Kelly by sitting next to her at our pre-conference book signing at Rediscovered Bookshop (one of my very favorite bookstores!). She relates so well to kids, drawing them into her stories, talking to them with such respect--and she shows potential readers her passion for her subjects.

If you ever have a chance to hear Chris Crutcher speak--do it! I loved his talk about censorship (many of his titles show up on banned book lists). "There isn't something that we shouldn't write about," he said. He told stories about the kids he's known through his therapy work. "Censorship works against kids who don't have much anyway," he said. And those kids need books that show them that they're not alone.

Sitting next to Chris Crutcher at the book signing was inspirational. Avid fans brought beat up copies of his books--warped and worn with years of reading. Teachers, librarians, parents, and students all came to meet him. What an amazing accomplishment to write books like that!

So today I'm back at my desk, completely inspired, and ready to make my writing the best it can be!


  1. Great recap Sydney! Wish I was there. Good luck with your inspiration.

  2. It was a great weekend! And as always, so nice to see you!! :)

  3. Always nice to see you too, Amy. Thanks, Brodi--wish you were there too. Conferences are always fun when you're around!