What Trumps Writing?

2014-10-10 19.03.18You know how you return from an energizing (and dessert-filled) writer’s conference and you’re all jazzed up and rarin’ to go? You want to write–and if you have a blog, like me, you want to share some of the amazing stuff you’ve learned. And really, that was exactly my intent. I returned from WIK’14, the Southern Breeze SCBWI conference in Birmingham late Sunday afternoon, itching to tell you all about it! Itching to get fingertips on keyboard!

But I hadn’t really slept in four days so I needed rest. No worries, I thought. I’ll just get up Monday morning, all refreshed and get ‘er done!

But first, I had to wash clothes because I promised my dad I’d come for a visit this week. And then I had to take care of all the SCBWI business because I promised all those Breezers that I’d send out handouts and such. And then Junior Hallette called.

“I’m sick,” she said.

“Plenty of fluids, cough medicine, and chicken soup,” I said whilst sitting at my laptop, fingers poised. “Mexican Chicken Soup is perfect and I know you have the recipe because I very carefully wrote it down and gave it to you.”

“But I don’t have the stuff for it…maybe you could make it?”

“But then you’d have to come all the way out here…” Notice how I’m very concerned yet noncommittal. (It’s a Mom trick.)

“Oh, I’ll be in that area anyway! I could be there around 5:00.” Notice how that backfired on me?

So then I had to go to the grocery store because I didn’t have the stuff for Mexican Chicken Soup, either. And then I had to actually fix the Mexican Chicken Soup and lend a sympathetic ear to daughter because, in her words, she hadn’t talked to me in forever (It had been a week.).

Okay, not a problem. I pushed helped her out the door following a delicious repast and still had time to get some exciting work in–right after I called my dad and then Juniorest Hall because he was coming along with me. But then Gotham was just about to start–and oh. My. Gazooks. Have you watched that show yet? And then came Blacklist, and the Beneficent Mr. Hall and I have to watch these shows together so that we can explain what’s going on to each other.


I would just bring all my notes with me, I decided, and then I could share the wonderful stuff I learned at WIK’14, and while my dad and youngest played golf today, I’d get some writing in. Still rarin’ to go, I was!

But I forgot the notes.

I forgot the notes from all those wonderful speakers and I forgot the notes from my wonderful critique re: the new and sparkly manuscript I was itching to hit. So this post is my writing for today. Because in just a bit, my dad will be back and he’ll want to talk, and we’ll need to eat, and tomorrow morning, I’ll be in the car all day, driving home.

But the least I can do is share the link to Kirsten BakisNine Exercises to Help You Draft a New Story. She wasn’t at the conference, but still, these are excellent exercises for those of you who actually…well…carve out a couple hours to write.

As for me…I guess sometimes, people you love trump what you love doing. And you know what? I’m fine with that.

Finding The Right Writer’s Conference (Or No More Excuses)

___7019062I can’t remember if I told you about Pat Miller’s Non-Fiction for New Folks Writer’s Conference coming this fall in Texas, but I sure meant to tell you all about it!

So here’s the most important thing you need to know: the Early Bird discounted rate ends on September 1st!

Well, that may not be the most important thing you need to know. Probably you want to know about Pat Miller, who’s running the workshop. And I can tell you that she’s altogether delightful and a wonderful writer and really knows the business of non-fiction writing. If you’ve thought about non-fiction writing AT ALL, you might want to know this:

You are eight times more likely to be published
as a nonfiction writer than you are as a writer of fiction.
–Peggy Thomas, NF 4 NF Faculty member and co-author of Anatomy of
Nonfiction: Writing True                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Stories for Children

So if I weren’t already booked for our Southern Breeze SCBWI conference on the very same weekend, I might be there.

But since I am, I’d love to see you at WIK’14!

If you write for children, fiction or non-fiction, or if you’re an illustrator, too, I hope you’ll come join the fun. Lots of agents, a couple editors, TONS of know-it-all authors (who are happy to share everything they know!) will be in Birmingham, AL for the event. But if that date doesn’t work for you, check out the calendar of events offered by SCBWI and look for one in your corner of the world.

Hey, that reminds me of Shaw Guides to Conferences, because maybe you’re not a children’s writer. You can check out this site for all the latest news about any writer’s conference (or workshop) all over the globe!

So really, you can’t blame my bad memory on missing conferences any more.

(LOTS of other excuses will spring to mind, I’m sure, what with y’all being such creative writers. But it’s all on you, friends, I’ve done my duty.)

Giveaway Time with Cathy-on-a-Stick, Missy, and Author/Illustrator Susan Nees (Or This Office Ain’t Big Enough for the Three of Us)

ImageOn Saturday, I took Cathy-on-a-Stick with me to an SCBWI schmooze where author/illustrator Susan Nees put on quite a lovely show. Er…presentation. I am happy to report that Cathy-on-a-Stick behaved herself, but Melissa Abigail Rose (whom everyone calls “Missy”)? That scamp of a protagonist in Susan’s illustrated chapter books was quite the character.

Okay, okay. Hold the groans, people. I mean, I could’ve come up with plenty of  (worse) puns. After Susan shared her publishing journey and tips, and after listening to critiques of fellow writers’ first pages, my brain was about to burst with ideas and writing know-how and creativity. So really, I could’ve produced puns of epic punniness. But I’m saving my creative spillover for a manuscript revision. I need to apply some of that brilliant writing wisdom to my latest picture book draft.

I wish I could share here all the gems I gathered. But it was one of those events where you really had to be there, listening, to learn.

I can, however, share this gem: if you have the opportunity in your community to hear an accomplished writer speak, for FREE, go! Listen! Learn! Make connections, meet new writer friends! Broaden your writing horizons! For FREE!

I think I enjoy free writing programs just a little bit more than the ones I pay to attend. I suppose that’s the frugal side of me coming out. I mean, something for nothing? You canNOT beat a great freebie, right?

And in that spirit, I’m going to give away the Susan Nees’ chapter book in the pic with Cathy-on-a-Stick. (Leave a comment, and if you leave a punny comment, I’ll give you an extra entry!) You’re going to love reading Missy’s Super Duper Royal Deluxe Picture Day-and you just might learn a little something something about writing, too.

(So, yeah.  Cathy-on-a-Stick’s a little jealous of Missy. Two characters in the house is one too many…)

Springmingle Writers and Illustrators Conference

ImageHaving someone write a lovely post about a topic you were planning to write about is like having a day off. So here’s Janice Hardy (who is quite lovely herself and chock full of writer wisdom!) espousing on an upcoming SCBWI conference:
Springmingle is the annual regional conference for Southern Breeze, offering writing workshops and sessions with agents, authors, and editors to help writers and illustrators learn the skills they need to get published. Meet editors, art directors, and agents who are looking for new talent. Connect with a friendly, supportive group of authors and illustrators. 
It’s a fantastic conference for writers and illustrators of juvenile fiction and non-fiction from picture books to young adult novels. Not a SCBWI member? No problem. Non-members are welcome and encouraged to attend. In fact, it’s a great way to meet the members and see if it’s a group you’d like to join.
The conference faculty includes: Lucy Ruth Cummins, Art Director Simon & Schuster; Cheryl Willis Hudson, Creative Director Just Us Books; Ruth Sanderson, Author/Illustrator; Cheryl Klein, Editor, Arthur Levine Books; Ammi-Joan Paquette, Agent, Erin Murphy Literary Agency; and Jo S. Kittinger, Award-Winning Author.
Looking for Feedback? 
Both formal and informal critiques are available. Formal critiques are $40, informal are free. The deadline for face-to-face critiques has passed but you have till Wednesday, February 26 for a written critique so act fast if you’d like to take advantage of this opportunity!
For a peek at how agents and editors think, there’s the Image/Eight panel. Attendees can submit the first eight lines of their manuscript or an opening illustration for a free review by a panel of conference faculty.

Springmingle takes place on March 28-30, 2014 at the Atlanta Marriott Century Center. 
Conference tuition is $195 for SCBWI members, $225 for non-members, or $205 for students. 
Advance registration is required and spaces are limited for some activities.
For more information please visit southern-breeze.scbwi.org.

I’ll be there–and Janice will be there, too. Y’all come join us and have some writing fun at Springmingle!


Matt de la Peña, All-Around Swell Author

I just got back from Wik’13, the SCBWI conference in Birmingham, and as always had such a delightful time. But I’m sort of kicking myself for not signing up for Matt de la Peña’s intensive on dialogue. I know it would’ve been swell.

He was the keynote speaker–I laughed, I cried, I learned. (I might not have actually cried, unless it was from laughing. But seriously, he’s an engaging speaker. If he’s ever in your area, go see him. And take your boy readers.)

So I bought one of his books,

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and it’s a great read. But more than that, it’s a good template for wanna-be published authors like me (and maybe you, too). It’s a well-crafted story, with layered characters and terrific pacing and plotting. And I’m not just saying that because Matt very graciously agreed to have his picture taken with Cathy-on-a-Stick.

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Or wrote such a sweet note when he signed his book.

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