The NESCBWI (New England chapter of the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) conference was once again packed with Mega-Stars in the children’s book industry. Keynote speakers included author Cynthia Leitich Smith (Tantalize, Eternal, Jingle Dancer, Rain is not My Indian Name); illustrator Marla Frazee (A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever, Roller Coaster, Walk On!, All the World, and the Clementine series by Cape Cod author Sara Pennypacker); and Allyn Johnston, VP and Publisher of Beach Lane Books, an imprint of Simon and Schuster Children’s Publishing.
The rest of the conference faculty consisted of additional well-known authors, illustrators, editors, agents, art directors, writing professors, poets and Newbery Honor winners. They taught one or two-hour intensive workshops on varied topics. The NE-SCBWI conference was so good, that people as far away as Wisconsin flew here to attend it.
Here are some highlights I’d like to share, starting with Keynote speaker Cynthia Leitich Smith:
• Cynthia is best known for her YA Gothic fantasy writing, (Tantalize, Eternal), realistic contemporary fiction (Rain is not my Indian Name), and her award-winning picture book (Jingle Dancer).
• Her “Cynsations” blog has been named one of the top two most recommended by the School Library Association and most read by SCBWI members. She blogs Monday – Friday, except if she’s on deadline. Then she will ask her readers to come back in a month, so she can go into her “cave” to write. (www.cynthialeitichsmith.com).
• Cynthia is from Austin, Texas and is a law school graduate. Her husband is also a lawyer and a writer. They co-wrote a picture book, passing it back and forth without any verbal discussion while writing it!
• Cynthia teaches writing at the Vermont College of Fine Arts.
• Her mentors are authors Kathi Appelt (Newbery Honor winner The Underneath, and Bat Jamboree, Bats Around the Clock, Piggies in a Polka and many others); and Jane Kurtz (Lanie, Martin’s Dream, Johnny Appleseed and many others).
• Cynthia usually starts her stories with a place, before developing character and plot.
• She works in multiple genres, alternating between longer and shorter projects. It helps to clear the characters from her head.
• Her advice: Do one thing each week to market yourself.
I’ll share more highlights from the conference in future blogs. In the meantime, if you are trying to write children’s books, join SCBWI and the New England chapter ASAP! You’ll receive excellent newsletters, have a fantastic website to explore, and you’ll learn about awards and grants. In addition, you’ll find out about the National SCBWI conference held in LA every summer, the winter conference in NY, and about the many other SCBWI conferences held across the US and around the world!
Keep writing, and…