This month, our critique group traveled to Los Angeles to attend the SCBWI Annual Summer Conference. Aside from dancing in our pajamas and real live brainstorming sessions… together… in the same time zone… which was SO amazing!… we all agree that the Keynote Presentations were the highlight of the conference. In this post, we each share a keynote quote that resonates with our personal writing journey.
(From left: Anji Estrellas, Elle Cosimano, Tessa Elwood, Pam Witte, and Kelly Barwick)
Keynote Speaker, Gary Paulsen
Contributed by: Tessa Elwood
“Television is intellectual carbon monoxide. Kill your TV.”
— Gary Paulsen
My friend talked me into Farmville. I caved after much eye rolling… and discovered my crops desperately needed me. Strawberries! Eggplants! Harvest every eight, six, four hours! Make money! Buy more crops! My farm thrived, I expanded my fields, and all my FB friends hated me for cluttering their feeds.
Then I got sick. Flu. The farm took too much effort. Hell, logging onto my computer took too much effort. My crops withered and died. I didn’t care. Had bigger worries—like the vultures leering outside my window. Ready to feast on my fevered, snot-ridden flesh.
The fever receded, eventually. My head cleared. The vultures were pissed. Suddenly, I had massive amounts of time on my hands. As in, TIME. I worked the same hours, did all my normal things. Except now I had all these extra minutes/hours floating around. My flu had made me magical! I was a time-extending superhero!
Either that, or it had to do with how I hadn’t touched my farm in three weeks.
Moral of the story: TV equals Farmville.
I’m not saying you should go home and shoot your TV. But if you did you’d get a helluva lot more done. Like, you know, write/finish your book.
It’s all about priorities.
Keynote Speaker, Richard Peck
Contributed by: Kelly Barwick
“Unless you find yourself on the page very early in life, you will spend your life looking for yourself in all the wrong places.”
– Richard Peck
I first listened to the quotable Richard Peck speak three years ago, at my first SCBWI Summer Conference. He gave a rousing speech during the Golden Kite Awards, holding our rapt attention even though there was dessert in front of us. I saw him again, one year ago at a small independent bookstore, talking about the inspiration behind his latest book. It was our pleasure to hear him speak again as the special guest at the 40th SCBWI Summer Conference a week ago.
His message of helping youth discover themselves through reading resonates with many of us. The first time you met a character that reminded you of you, or they went through a problem you thought you were the only one dealing with, a sense of understanding jumps off the page. When I read S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders, I WAS Ponyboy. It didn’t matter that he was male and I’m female. It didn’t matter that he was a “greaser” and I grew up in a Norman Rockwell painting. I connected to his feelings so strongly that I paced as I read the last 20 pages, crying.
I’ve found myself in the pages of many other books since then, all tools in helping in me discover who I am, and who I want to be.
Keynote Speaker, Judy Blume
Contributed by: Anji Estrellas
“In the beginning, writing not only changed my life, it saved my life.”
— Judy Blume
Are you there Judy? It’s me Anji.
Lin Oliver was right about all of us having girl crushes on Judy Blume.
I love Judy Blume.
As a kid, I did not have many options, but books were my escape and salvation. I remember when ARE YOU THERE GOD? IT’S ME MARGARET found it’s way into my hands. Margaret was a character who taught me it was okay to think for myself and question beliefs—and to not be terrified of getting my period. DEENIE taught me that my body was my own and to not be ashamed of it.
I read both of those books in 1977 during my sixth grade year. That was also the year that I stood up for myself. Coincidence? Perhaps. But, I like to think that Margaret, Dennie and Judy played a part in helping me to find my courage.
Thank you Judy.
Anji Estrellas held down the writing fort in Santa Fe, NM and worked on her middle grade novel while her intrepid critique group all attended the 2011 LA SCBWI conference. She followed the conference via twitter and would like to give a big shout out to SCBWI Team Blog generally and Cuppa Jolie specifically for her blog posts on Judy Blume’s keynote.
Keynote Speaker, Laurie Halse Anderson
Contributed by: Pamela Witte
“Creating stories is our journey and our joy. Go forth laughing and disturb the universe.”
— Laurie Halse Anderson
I wish I had a mug encircled with Laurie Halse Anderson quotes. (Is there such a critter? Send it today!) Because I’d drink my cup of comfort tea from it every morning and feel like a totally inspiring mentor had my back.
I’m a writer and I’m ready to disturb the universe! Stories are my joy. See, Laurie gets me. She understands writer’s dreams, she’s walked their paths, and at the SCBWI, Las Angeles conference, she offered herself as a keynote speaker to help us on our way. Laurie’s wit and wisdom, her writer’s journey, her warmth, humor and heart inspire me to climb literary mountains, cross word-filled oceans, and summit the peaks of my own insecurity and come out fighting! Ahem…writing!
Laurie knows something deep and elemental about us all. She knows that, “we self-sabotage when we are actually afraid we might succeed.” So she encourages us to write past our fears and gives us wonderful tools to help us protect ourselves from ourselves and push past our personal barriers to success.
At the SCBWI conference Laurie inspired a thousand-plus writers with her words about creativity. She reminded us we have a seed that needs nurturing to grow. That wonderful, creativity will come from our seed if we fertilize it. And that it will blow in the wind, dry and useless if we don’t.
Some days I feel my seed sprouting velvety, green leaves. Other days it’s more like a tumble weed. But today, I’m nurturing my seed with Laurie’s wisdom and I feel blossoms sprouting from all my leaves!
Keynote Speaker, Bruce Coville
Contributed by: Elle Cosimano
“If you don’t jump, the wings never come.”
— Bruce Coville
The girl’s toe inched over edge, kicking a handful of pebbles down.
She leaned closer, tipping an ear, hearing so much nothing she was certain the empty air had swallowed those pebbles whole.
Too far to fall. She’d never survive.
Hands grabbed at her elbows, dragged her from the edge.
“Don’t do it,” they said. “It’s too risky. Others better than you have tried and failed. You’ll fall. You’ll break.”
The girl looked at her unbroken palms. Would it hurt badly? She was safe here, numb heart beating, empty chest breathing. She was alive…
She took a step back, but heard a whisper deep within her soul and she realized it wasn’t her own voice saying, “Jump, you can do this!”
The girl cried down into the chasm, “What if I jump and the wings don’t come?”
And as she resisted those who held her back and leaned further over the dark unknown she saw the upturned faces of those who’d jumped before her, their scraped palms held open and waiting.
“Then we’ll catch you.”
Here’s to those who jumped before me, who talked me off the ledge and then reached out to break my fall (Megan Miranda, Jill Hathaway, Tamara Ireland Stone to name a precious few). If my wings never come, it will always have been worth it because of you.