Friday Five: SCBWI Spring Spirit Conference

Okay, here’s the last of the posts about my trip up to Sacramento and the 2011 Spring Spirit Conference. You’ve got a couple more days to enter my contest for a signed copy of Bruce Coville’s The Monster’s Ring, by leaving a comment at last Monday’s post about Bruce’s keynote speech.

For today, a few conference highlights:

1. The conference basically rocked. The energy of the whole day was wonderful, partly because of the great speakers and workshops, partly because I just love hanging out with kidlit writers. I have to say, though, I think a lot of that energy came directly from the coordinators and volunteers. So thanks to everybody, including the main organizers: Erin Dealey, Patti Newman, and Genny Heikka. We are lucky to have you guys!

2. I sat in on some excellent workshops, particularly Susan Buckley’s talk about writing nonfiction for children and Christy Webster’s session on what else we might be writing for young kids, than picture books. Both speakers sparked ideas and goals in my head, even if I don’t know exactly where those are going to take me. Both Susan and Christy clearly love what they do and get how challenging and fun writing for children can be. If I had to summarize both workshops really fast, I’d say Story, Story, Story!

3. I dropped the first page of my picture book into a basket for Quinlan Lee’s first-page critique session. Let me tell you, when I hear people ask, “How can anyone tell if something’s working or not on the first page?”–they can! No, they can’t tell whether the story is great after that page, they can’t tell if the story is seriously “close” and just needs a bit more revision, but it is possible to get a strong idea about what might/might not be ready and even a little bit about why. Quinlan is incredibly sharp–her critiques were fast, spot on, and always respectful and kind. Oh, and her lunchtime keynote speech had a picture of herself at nine-years-old, sitting on a hillside, reading The Witch of Blackbird Pond for the fourth time. In other words, a picture of why we write. Perfect.

4. I met Bruce Coville. I shook his hand, thank him for his books, and–oh, yeah–gushed a little. (Oh, you would have, too!) Then I watched and listened to him give a keynote speech that had him leaving his microphone behind, climbing onto a chair, brainstorming a make-it-worse-for-your-character with voices, and basically reminding us with humor and conviction who these kids are we’re writing for and what they want to read.

5. The day was filled with meetings–people I’d met before, people I’ve gotten to know online (every third conversation started with, “Have we met, or do I know you from Facebook?!”), ate and hung out with new and old friends (Thanks to Catherine Meyer, Cheri Williams, Tiare Williams Solorzano, Nancy Laughlin, & Claudine Rogers!) I bought books, talked writing and critiquing, and just soaked up all the creativity and motivation.

Wonderful day. I highly recommend a dose of conference time for you all!


  1. Wow. Bruce Colville AND Quinlan Lee. Hope you got a helpful critique.


  2. Thanks for sharing the conference with us. QUinlan is in our region and lives just a few miles away… (As does the rest of Adams Literary.) We had them at a recent schmooze and they were terrific. You can learn so much from first pages. Was yours critiqued?


    • beckylevine says:

      I’ve heard wonderful things about Adams. And, yes, my 1st page was critiqued–tons of work to do, but walked away with definite hope. 🙂


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