Parting Gifts

By Kate Carroll

We are gearing up for our annual SCBWI Writers’ Conference here in northern Ohio, and there’s hope and anticipation in the air. Aside from the dream of a book contract (!),  the weekend fills me with knowledge, inspiration, and camaraderie with my fellow authors. 

Attending a conference or a workshop revs my creative engine, but halfway through, I feel like I’m on “info overload”.  I look forward to unpacking all the knowledge and letting it sink into my brain, but not right away. I need to separate from the excitement and truly inhale all of the information in long, lingered, intentional moments.

Reviewing my notes and handouts may be the first thing I want to do once I leave a conference, but I rarely do - because, let’s face it - LIFE happens. I often have to delay that gratification to attend to other things. So, down the road a bit,  after the conference adrenaline wears off, and I’m needing a little motivation or direction, I reach for those lovely parting gifts.  I pull out my workshop notes, my handouts, my whatevers, and jump into the treasure trove of learning materials again. This time, I linger and listen ever so intently to the sage advice that will enhance my writing and lead me to publication.  

             Here are some of my favorite pearls of wisdom from the “pros” at past writing events:

“Every word matters.”  
Kate DiCamillo 

“Anticipate your readers’ reactions.”  
Jodelle Sadler

“There’s a kid out there who needs your book.” 
 Danielle Smith

“Take the emotion of a frozen moment in your life and insert it into a character and/or the setting of your story.”  
Dandi Daley Mackall

“Put yourself into the mindset of a 6 year old.”   
Nikki Garcia

“Make me laugh. Make me think. Make me want to turn the page.”   
Michelle Poploff

“Be careful not to take my illustrator’s job away from me with your words.”  
Eric Rohmann

“Writing takes talent, tenacity, timing and luck.” 
 Laurie Knowlton

“If a character makes a decision, pause and ask, what would happen if he went another way?   Tina Wexler

“Start out with an article. It’s a great way to get your feet wet and gain a writing credit.”  
Mary Ryan

“Red herrings are very good in a mystery novel, but bad in a picture book.” 
Lisa Wheeler

“You must have the seed of an idea before you can grow a story.”   
Nancy Roe Pimm

If you are going to a conference or workshop soon,  I hope you are breathless with excitement and anticipation - both coming and going!