Sunday, June 12, 2011

Conferences: A Necessary Part of the Writing Process?

How can I improve my writing?

It's an excellent question and it comes up a lot among writers. Most of the time, beyond the obvious suggestions such as, writing and reading books within your genre, the inevitable “going to conferences” option comes up. I’ve heard a lot of people debate whether or not conferences actually help your writing. Well, this weekend I attended a conference packed with useful frameworks about novel writing. I can't say how excited I am about the techniques I took away from this weekend.

“As you know Bob,” (warning information dump follows) the SCBWI Midatlantic Novel Revision Retreat of 2011, was set in the Shenandoah National Park amid the cerulean mountain range. Nestled in the Big Meadow’s Lodge, thirty participants enjoyed talks by Cheryl Klein of Scholastic books, on such topics as Character, Plot and Voice.

I had a lot of fascinating conversations with writers on such topics as, critique groups, sub plots and (my favorite) the steampunk genre. I met fellow bloggers, Pam and Quita from Y (A)? Cuz we write!. They unwittingly convinced me to sign up for twitter. (More adventures and mishaps with hashtags to follow.) I was also struck by the diversity among the manuscripts in the group. We had everything from a YA novel about a muslim teen coming terms with her identity in a tough situation, to an early chapter book with a Christmas theme. It really is remarkable the number of dynamic stories you can create in Children’s Writing. By the end of the weekend, my brain felt like a wrung out sponge. My hand is cramped, but I feel like I have a new perspective to approach revision.

Revision, that ugly beast, is lurking somewhere on the horizon. But for right now, all I’m worried about is a nap.


  1. I'm working away using maps and outlines and lists of questions about my characters, and there's hope that even I might come up with a text that people will enjoy. In your photo there's a sliver of light between the clouds. I enjoyed meeting you.

  2. I'm hard at work on the elusive plot map as well! Good luck with revising, and maybe by next year some of us will be the published ones they were talking about at the beginning of the conference.