Writing Conference Part II

Okay, admittedly I was a little cranky in that first post. I’ll chalk it up to re-circulated hotel air. Here are some of the writing and learning highlights of my weekend.

Sara Zarr‘s keynote in which she referenced and read from Arnold Lobel’s classic Frog and Toad stories was a definite highlight. Sara managed to pull gems about self-discipline, (Frog and Toad make cookies and can’t stop eating them) self aggrandizement, (Toad has a dream in which the better and more impressive he becomes, the smaller and more insignificant Frog becomes) and surprises (Toad loses his “to-do” list and can’t figure out what to do with himself) into a wonderful speech that was both wise and accessible at the same time.  So that was good. Plus Sara Zarr is one of my personal writing heroes so I was pretty psyched to just sit and listen to her talk.  I also went to her workshop called “Author Charm School” and had her sign my book. *bats eyes, heart flutters*

If you haven’t read her books, I recommend them all.  Particularly this one and this one.

Another highlight was a workshop on revision by Kate Messner. This workshop was exactly what a workshop should be; great ideas, intermittent times to try them out in short writing exercises, and chocolate. Kate is a wonderful children’s author and former middle school teacher. Nuff said.

Kate also shared her TED talk with the conference and an incredible resource she’s creating called Kid Sourcing.  Kid Sourcing provides ways for kids to get involved solving real-world problems and participating in actual scientific research.  Teacher friends pay attention -this could be an excellent classroom resource!

One final highlight was a workshop on developing character using improvisation activities by Jen Nails. This workshop got us up and moving and doing all manner of ridiculous activities.  It was a terrific energizer and a good reminder that we humans (writers too) are more than just brains on a stick. Plus I got to sing “It’s a Hard Knock Life” in front of 50 strangers. -You know I hated it 🙂

Lastly, I  walked away from the conference with a few good books including  Cheryl Klein’s Second Sight.  Klein is an Children’s book editor who has compiled her best talks, blog posts and advice into a (so far) fabulous resource.

Best of all, when I got home the kitchen was clean, there was a fire in the woodstove and a wonderful greeting from husband and daughter!

Writing Conference Part I

For the last 2 and a half days I’ve been immersed in the world of the New England Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. It’s a mouthful and it’s equally ridiculous as an acronym NESCBWI. Anyway! Being here, and being completely immersed in a world where everyone writes books for kids has been luxurious and unbalancing all at the same time. Here are a few things I’ve learned (without breaching the rights of the presenters which I was sternly warned against in the conference’s blogging policy.)

I should probably have business cards. (Although, other people’s business cards just collect in my bag along with various pens that don’t work and a bag of crumbled cookies I’ve been hanging onto for 9 months just in case.) Mostly I just remember people’s names and then find them on twitter. I’m @sashikaufman by the way.

A workshop is only as good as the presenter. A workshop can sound incredible on paper and be as dry as the chocolate cake they served at lunch on Saturday. (And believe me, my standards for chocolate cake are not that high.)

Shmoozing at conferences is a good way to meet interesting people who share your interests.  -I met some great people from Maine who are kid lit. writers.  It’s also exhausting as hell and sometimes I’m just as happy to eat an eggplant parm sub in my room and watch the Amazing Race on my laptop.

Gosh, this sounds a little negative so far. It’s not meant to be. So far this weekend has been eye-opening and creativity-sparking. I feel lucky to be here and I’m looking forward to one last day of learning. Perhaps that will be the focus of part two.

Word Fool

It’s been a little while since I posted and happily that’s because…I’ve been writing.  A lot! I joined up with some writer friends to participate in a writing goal challenge (called wordfool) orchestrated by the fabulous Bria Quinlan.  The challenge was to pick a writing goal and try to meet it 6/7 days a week for 3 weeks. There were points, and incentives and a lot of silliness on twitter. But the most important part was that there was community.

If you’ve ever set any kind of goal for yourself (writing, exercise, flossing) you know that it’s always better to do it with someone. It’s called accountability.  And oddly enough one of my challenge buddies posted recently about it here.  But more than just accountability, it’s nice to have the community.  You know that someone cares if you put off watching tv, or bathing your kid so you could get your 500 words in.

My goal was small. I committed to a page a day, knowing that I had parent-teacher conferences and both my husband and daughter’s birthdays in a small period of time.  And I didn’t make my goal every day.  But I did pretty well. 6/7 the first week, 5/7 the other two weeks.  But most importantly I got through a confusing section in my current wip which had me stuck for quite a while.  And I think I did it because of goal-setting and good old fashioned Butt In Chair -see my post on potty training.

What goals have you set or accomplished lately?