Conference Play

I love the yearly SCBWI Carolinas Conference. This year, with a diversity theme, especially fired me up. The sessions were helpful and encouraging. My crits went very well with great feedback both helpful suggestions and glowing praise. The keynote by Kelly Starling Lyons truly inspired me. I came home with a prioritized to-do list and plenty of motivation to do.

But soon after I returned home, soccer season for the kids amped up. My daughter and son both added sports, one of my work partners had to leave unexpectedly, and more rejections started to roll in. My resolve to rewrite sections wavered, and I changed gears on which novel idea to pursue.

In short, I got the post-conference blues.

In my limited experience, writers are mostly a dreamy bunch. When we get slapped back to reality, it can be a little harder to get that inspiration going again. That’s why I’m grateful for a few folks who’ve given me a boost back onto the writing saddle (even if I haven’t managed to giddy-up and gallop yet).

My critique group keeps me thinking about writing, and their work inspires me. My family and friends give me space, and provide endless source material. And I’m lucky to have my day job, which constantly reminds me who and what I’m writing for. Not for my ego (OK maybe a little), nor some writing ideal, nor to entertain solely (though I do want to entertain), not to preach (happens accidentally sometimes).

I’m writing for kids, but I’m also writing for the kid I was, could have been, am, and will be.



Deja Lu

My son, who just turned ten, responded to my questions about a book with a quote from his school librarian:

“The first time you read a book, read it for pleasure. The second time you think about what the author is saying. The third time, you figure out what you want from the book.”

I wish I had learned that in fourth grade. Maybe I did and just forgot (Ha! to re-read whatever book that bit of wisdom is in).

Kidding aside, that way of reading is intuitive — at first. The reading bug bit me pretty early. By the time I was in first grade, I’d at least flipped my way through the family encyclopedia, marking the chapters I intended to go back and re-read with tissue paper (sorry, Mom). When I got older, I had little libraries all over the house (and yes, that included the bathrooms, though no toilet paper bookmarks). The nightstand drawer held the current books, and the most frequent re-reads.

But as I got older and time to read became more limited, I started to read less for pleasure and more for “business”. I needed to know what the author was saying the moment after I read it so I could go on and do something else: study for the science test, shoot some baskets, daydream about how to impress the cute girl I was way too shy to even introduce myself to, etc.

Then the moment came when I decided reading and writing was my vocation. I went to college knowing I was going to major in English. Since it was going to be my business, there was even less time for pleasure. And I had to adjust my reading for that added challenge. What was I going to write about what I read?

I’d unlearned step one, then I went into a profession where there is very little pleasure expected in reading. Now, almost full circle as a writer, I still skip step one of reading. A beautiful turn of phrase still makes me gasp out loud, but there’s no time to savor it.

“What a startling metaphor. I wonder how I could do something similar with. . .” or “that’s a very effective characterization, I hope she’ll carry that through and build on it as the plot turns” or “Shoot, I hope I didn’t write anything that clunky sounding” or “I should email that to the critique group, it would really help K’s novel,” etc.

I’m going to learn from my son. I’m going back to step one. But becoming a writer means taking that full circle. The close analysis, the potential of learning craft and opening the creative mind to new ideas, that all important step three, is going to be part of the pleasure of reading.

Now all I have to do is get my son to re-read Because of Winn-Dixie so we can talk about it. I can’t wait.