Happiness lies in the joy of achievement and the thrill   of creative effort ~ Franklin D. Roosevelt

Super-Hero-Themed Prairie Writers and Illustrators Day Conference Full of Discovery

This is the third or fourth year I’ve gone to the SCBWI Illinois Prairie Writers and Illustrators Day at Harpers College in Palatine. I go because 1) it’s the main annual conference for our Illinois chapter, so I go to support our chapter and because I’m a network rep 2) I always learn something at conferences and this one is driving distance and 3) it’s a chance to meet other writers and catch up with old friends.

This year almost my entire critique group went and that made me feel so good. (That is us, wearing our superhero masks! From left, Amy, Cyndy, Angie, Susan and me) In the midst of so many people, it was fun to also see these familiar faces, even behind masks!

But this year, because of where I was (or was not) in various projects I approached the day with low expectations; there wasn’t a particular topic or author/agent/editor I was dying to meet or hear from. Maybe going in with low expectations is the key, because I came away with some very specific and exciting insights. In one session, Kendra Levin, editor and life coach to writers, had us do a couple writing exercises that I often dread. They involve thinking of a specific project you are working on and a specific character in that project. I find it hard to click into that mode quickly, but she had us close our eyes and do a visioning activity first that made me feel very relaxed and in the flow. The first exercise helped me figure out where my latest picture book manuscript was actually taking place and the second exercise helped me figure out a big plot hole in the one middle grade novel I’ve been working on. That felts exciting and energizing.

The other really helpful session was led by author/illustrator Don Tate. I think I was drawn to him in part because he also likes to write biographies of people who aren’t necessarily household names. In his case he writes often about African Americans because he feels like most biographies are about the same handful of African Americans and he’d like to enlarge the tent. In my case, I am often drawn to women excelling in traditionally male fields, or at least, living a full and adventurous life.

He also talked about how he came to write about this fitness guru, Eugene Sandow, which grew out of Don’s own love of body building. This resonated with me because I keep trying to figure out how to tell a story that ties into my love of racing sailboats. Don talked a lot about his research process that included a lot of images. It was  a reminder that, even though I’m not an illustrator, images are key to writing in a powerful way (reference the image at the top of this entry).

Don uses Pinterest,

so now I’m thinking I might have to subscribe ….

One hour later…

Argh!! The internet is a time suck, a vast vortex, like a drain, you can hear time getting sucked right down the drain *SLURP*

But in closing, SCBWI PWID was AWESOME!!

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