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!

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