This past weekend I spoke at the SCBWI Winter Conference in New York for the first time. I've participated multiple times in the Writer's Workshop the day before the conference, but never spoke at the big event, so was excited to see what it was all about. I was also curious to see how it would compare to the Annual Summer Conference in Los Angeles.
So, how did it compare? Well, it was equally wonderful, inspiring, and well organized. The conference was kicked off Saturday morning a keynote speech by the incomparable Libba Bray, who certainly started things off on a humorous, touching, and inspiring note. I especially loved the story about her son: When asked what he wanted to be when he grew up, he said, "I want to be a giraffe!" Wow. Me too. (okay, not really, I wanted to be a dolphin.) She declared this year the "Year of Writing Dangerously."
Then we broke off into workshops. I led one called "The Real Deal about Literary Novels" which I gave twice in the morning and once in the afternoon. I attempted to define "Literary Fiction," (in general, literary novels are more character focused, whereas commercial fiction is more plot focused--but really, it took almost the whole hour to just define it!), gave examples (Firegirl by Tony Abbott, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, North of Beatiful by Justina Chen Headley, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin, etc.), read some gorgeous descriptions from the latter two novels, read some examples of literary "voice" (including the opening of Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which most people recognized right away), and weaved in the different definitions of "literary fiction" that I gathered from my colleagues. One of my favorites compared literary fiction to eating a chocolate truffle: "a little goes a long way, you savor each bite slowly, enjoying the nuances of the different ingredients, the textures and how they work together, the coating, the presentation, etc.” I also read a passage from agent Nathan Bransford's very excellent post giving his definition quite clearly. Thanks, Nathan!
The lunchtime keynote was by Jacqueline Woodson. It was soothing, personal, and powerful. I could listen to her talk all day! I wonder if she reads her own audiobooks...
And the afternoon keynote was by Peter Sis. Peter Sis is one of my heroes. I absolutely love his art. I'd never heard him speak, and had never heard his story (except from reading his books), and wow. What a life.
And then it was over. At least for Saturday. I wasn't speaking on Sunday and needed to get some work work done, so stayed away. But I checked out the fabulous Official SCBWI Conference Blog to catch up on everything I missed. Great stuff. If you're a writer and need a kick in the pants of inspiration, I highly recommend attending an SCBWI conference.
In case you're interested in learning about the Amazon.com versus Macmillan ebook kerfuffle that happened over the weekend, you can check out the most excellent summary and interpretation of the whole thing as it unfolded over at Scott Westerfeld's blog here. And read the NYTimes article here. This development, combined with the announcement of the new iPad (yes, I want one. But I'll wait), makes me more interested than ever to see how the ebook industry will develop.
In other news...how is it possible that it's February already?!?! And, I dunno...I have a feeling that this month is going to go by faster than the other months. Just a hunch.