Mills College SCBWI

I always come back from conferences with a list about a mile long, and that doesn’t include laundry, dishes, groceries and cleaning the entire house. Tim Meyers, author and all-around good guy, said it best, “You are all feeling completely overwhelmed and like you can’t wait to get started.” (Not on the house cleaning, but on the other stuff.) Tim also told us to “take time to notice the sun.” He lifted our spirits at the end of the day by emphasizing the importance of what we do for kids. Thanks, Tim. We needed that.

Mills College, a beautiful, all-female campus where bathroom graffiti is mermaids, sits in Oakland, California. Volunteer Anne Reilly and I arrived before the sun came up to hang up SCBWI signs in the rain in the hopes that members wouldn’t end up at one of the other multiple events on campus. We watched the day open and members arrive ripe with anticipation. It struck me how it takes a village to throw a conference.

There were two sessions to choose from and speakers moved between both tracks. One track focused more on older YA/middlegrade and the other on picture books. In a stroke of brilliance, sessions were staggered to keep hallways, bathrooms and the snack table less jam-packed.

I was in the main session. All the speakers brought unique offerings. Joe Cepeda started the day with a look into his creative process and prefers to “make it up” rather than copy. He says if you can’t remember what it looks like, close your eyes and remember what it “feels” like.

Agents weighed in. Caryn Wiseman (Andrea Brown) discussed specifics of the market—where it’s been, where it’s going. Joan Paquette (Erin Murphy Literary Agency) talked about the writing process and what needs to be in a manuscript.

Editors gave insight. Kaylan Adair gave a look inside Candlewick (Boston). She covered the 5 W’s of the publishing company and by the time she was done, I felt like I had been there. Lisa Yoskowitz talked about what to make sure is in a manuscript and also announced that she is moving from Dutton to Hyperion (both are in New York and fairly close to each other) and will only be able to receive agent submissions there. (Both very nice editors and instrumental in helping me get out of the Mills College campus when my nav system got thoroughly confused by errant locked gates.)

Authors Pam Turner and Ginger Wadsworth covered the world of nonfiction, including matching photos with manuscript. (Kimxa, did you save the original PMS photos? I might know what to do with those now.) Both seem to love where the world of nonfiction takes them, physically and mentally.

Perhaps the most hysterical speaker of the day was Bruce Hale. I think he should hold workshops and teach writers how to present. If he does, I’m signing up! (Think Toastmasters on crack.)

So many synchronicities happen at these events. For example at Mills, I met a new friend named Angie (an SCBWI newbie). Turns out her best friend was my 23-year-old daughter’s 4th grade teacher in Manhattan Beach where I also taught. Random? I think not. SCBWI synchronicity reigns once again!

SCBWI Pioneers Come to Cottonwood

If we define pioneers as those individuals who go out and explore new lands then Co-Regional Advisers, Erin Dealey and Patti Newman, proved themselves SCBWI pioneers today. They made the trek from Sacramento (two hours south) and landed at North Cottonwood Elementary School’s multipurpose room, a perfect venue to meet local members and children’s book writers and illustrators.

Due to my ongoing camera issues, my camera died immediately after my first shot so I’m lacking on photo support here. In this picture is Patti Newman (left) and Maggi Milton, first timer talk before we get started.

The day began getting to know each other. Beginning, pre-published authors to veteran multi-published authors were represented. Each shared where she is in the process. And it is a process. Nobody learns this stuff in a day. It’s encouraging to hear other’s stories. It makes us realize there are so many paths to publication.

We covered some points from the Big Momma LA Conference like what editors are looking for, how to get your manuscript publisher-ready and how to get to know your character’s voice. Ahh, the mystical voice.

Erin did an awesome exercise on listening, something we can so easily forget to do. She put a bunch of ojects in the middle of the floor and asked people to pick one. My personal favorite was the rainbow-colored mohawk head mask. As you listen to your object, you find voice. (Lou, the bulldog in this picture, was not there, but if you want you can practice with him. He lives at my doctor’s office.) One of the most fascinating parts of this exercise was to see how two different people hear such different story from an object. The point: your voice is unique. Find that.

Erin and Patti represent 33 counties in Northern California, and since Cottonwood sits over two (Shasta and Tehama) they can knock a few more off their list. Thanks, Pioneers. We appreciate your pilgrimage to the great North-North.