Ah-ha Moments at the SCBWI Conference

Despite getting off to a rough start–my first train was 1.5 hours late, and so I missed my connection–my weekend at the SCBWI Canada East conference was awesome!
This was my first SCBWI conference, and it was definitely worth my while to attend. I learned so much, made friends, and got some contacts.

Beautiful environment

Beautiful environment

I was thrilled to be able to sit in on the Crystal Kite award presentation (for 2014). Winning the Crystal Kite is special, because it is voted on by your peers. Helene Boudreau won for “I Dare You Not to Yawn”. I confess that I had never read it before, but I understood why the book won after she read it. It is fantastic! Helene told us that she would be watching us to see if we were yawning during her book reading. She also told us that during her research she discovered that 55% of people will yawn within 5 minutes of seeing someone else yawn. I am one of those 55%! As well, she mentioned that even reading about yawning can make you yawn. So…are you yawning yet? (And yes, I did yawn more than once during her book reading.)
Did you notice that she did a lot of research even though her book was a fiction book? I remember reading last year in this Kidlit Summer School post about doing research even if your book is fiction, because it will enhance your character.
Helene also talked about having Ah-ha moments. So I wanted to share with you three Ah-ha moments I had during Saturday’s conference.

I confess I am sitting at the back again. Maybe next year I'll move closer.

I confess I am sitting at the back again. Maybe next year I’ll move closer.

1. During her session of “Picture Book Voice” literary agent Heather Alexander talked about dialogue. Maybe you have heard the debate about the proper use of dialogue tags. Should you stick to just “said” or should you use other tags such as “whispered” or “yelled”? Heather was of the opinion that you should just use “said”. Why? She mentioned several reasons, including the fact that said would not need to be explained like a word such as retorted would, thus slowing a story down. As well, she said if you use a dialogue tag such as whispered, you are doing more telling instead of showing. A-ha, I thought. Now that I know more of the reasoning behind why to use said, I can know when or if I need to break the rule.
2. My second Ah-ha moment came during author Kari-Lynn Winters‘ session called “Getting Your Act Together”. Kari-Lynn mentioned that as soon as you get a book published, you are going to be on the stage, doing book talks. But instead of simply reading your book aloud, why not incorporate some dramatic techniques into your presentation? After all, you want to be invited back, right? Plus the more that you involve the kids, the more the kids will want to buy your book.
Kari-Lynn shared several dramatic techniques that you can use at an author visit. One is the “hot seat” where you put a student in a chair and ask him/her questions about your main character. You can also use this technique yourself when you are writing your character. Put yourself in the hot seat and see what answers you come up with about your own character.
During the session, I suddenly thought, Ah-ha, I really want to study dramatic techniques to use in my author talks. And maybe even take a drama class.
By the way, I wrote about Kari-Lynn Winters’ fabulous book “Gift Days” in this blog post.
3. My third Ah-ha moment came during Beach Lane books vice president and publisher Allyn Johnston’s talk called “Now Let’s Read Aloud”. Allyn mentioned that a lot of writers don’t realize that you don’t have to actually meet the editors at a conference. She said that writers may actually be doing themselves a disservice by following around an editor. That’s because many writers will meet an editor and suddenly become like a deer in headlights and start babbling away.
Ah-ha, I thought, this confirms something I realized when I attended the CANSCAIP conference. I went to that conference, gathered my information, and then submitted my manuscript afterwards. Because simply by being at the conference, you are already opening doors. Anyone who hears Allyn Johnston speak automatically bypasses her no unsolicited manuscript policy. She would rather have you absorb the information you gained during the conference, alter your manuscript, and then submit. It makes sense to me.
I did luck out and have Allyn Johnston sit at my table at lunch, and it was fascinating to hear her stories. Also sitting at my table was author Linda Urban, who informed us that she is going to have an extended picture book published. It’s more than 70 pages!
What do you think about my Ah-ha moments? Do you have anything to add? Leave me a comment.

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5 thoughts on “Ah-ha Moments at the SCBWI Conference

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