This is the blog of children's book author and third grade teacher, Stacy Barnett Mozer. I blog about my own writing journey, the journey of other kidlit authors, my classroom, and talk about books. Thanks for stopping by. Your thoughts are always welcome (and encouraged).

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

SCBWI Summer Conference - Behind the scenes and Day 1

This summer more than 1200 people from 20 countries descended on the Hyatt Century City Hotel in Los Angeles for the SCBWI International Summer conference. For the first time, I was one of them.

Behind the scenes
As an ARA (assistant regional advisor) from New England, my conference started on Wednesday with a pre-conference dinner at Stephen Mooser's house. I met many of the RT (regional team) members that help to run SCBWI around the world.

Stephen Mooser
The job of the RT is to provide support and community to the local regions. On Thursday we met and told stories about things we are doing and shared things we could be doing. RT members are volunteers who balance the work in their regions with their own writing and families. They're a pretty amazing group.

In the afternoon we had more training as RT members and as conference volunteers. We also had a chance to meet all the people in the SCBWI office that support us and put the conference together.


Conference Day 1
The next morning I tried not to feel overwhelmed in a room as big as a sports stadium. There were about the same amount of people as at the New York conference, but somehow this conference felt bigger, grander.
Conference Ballroom

Fortunately I found my New York conference tribe.
Kim Sabatini, Jodi Moore, and Stacy Mozer
After an always entertaining welcome from Lin Oliver and Stephen Mooser, the conference began with the march of the conference faculty. Each person gave one word of inspiration to the room of attendees. Some of my favorites were enthusioserverence, lacuna (an unfilled space or gap), rhema (utterance), and fluffernutter (a sandwich with peanut butter and marshmallow).
Conference Faculty Dancing In

Keynote: Meg Rosoff - Warning, Peter Rabbit May Be Harmful to Your Health
Meg Rosoff shared a realistic version of the story of Goldilocks to make a point about storytelling. Without imagination it would be a sad tale of a girl lost in the woods who gets eaten, a tale told brilliantly, but still horrifying. There are people in the world doing actual studies on the harmful affects of fairytales on young minds. But Meg Rosoff reminded us of the importance of imagination and the fact that, "no story we make up can be stranger than the truth."

Breakout: Lamar Giles - The Incredible Shrinking Novel - Writing the Synopsis
Lamar Giles
Author Lamar Giles learned the importance of writing good synopsis the hard way, when he lost the chance to have his book turned into a movie because he was unable to write one (by the end of the day). Since then he has learned to approach synopsis writing mathematically, recognizing that if a synopsis needs to be written in one page at 12 point font, it would equal 40 lines. He gave tips for how to shrink the novel into those 40. Some key points: don't squeeze in every character, include all major events and spoilers, don't include dialogue, scene description, or even character description.

Keynote: Judy Schachner - Thinking in Pictures: My Storytelling Process
After lunch, Judy Schachner took us through her storytelling process, becoming her characters by switching accents in the middle of sentences as she turned from Bostonian to Raccoon. She shared a strategy for brining her characters and settings to life, which she called her bibles. Each one was full of magazine cut outs, quotes, sketches, pieces of fabric, and anything else that made the character or setting real.

Keynote: Stephen Chbosky - How to Write Your Timeless Classic (or Die Trying)
Stephen Chbosky was not there to share his process, he was there to motivate us to write our novel. Some of my favorite quotes, "It is not up to an editor or agent to tell you who you are." "Inspire yourself to be better than you've ever been." and "If you do it for you, you do it for the world."

Breakout: Megan McDonald - Creating and Shaping A Believable Character
Stacy Mozer and Megan McDonald
As a third grade teacher and the mom of a daughter who just finished third grade, I spent my year with Megan McDonald's characters as my students explore her Judy Moody and Stink series. I was thrilled to meet her in person. Megan McDonald IS Judy Moody and Stink, since both characters are taken from aspects of her childhood. "Your character comes from your own wants and dreams. They can do what you can't." Megan spoke about how to use your own life without retelling your life. She called it, "flipping facts." She was the youngest in a family of girls so Judy is the oldest and has a brother. She also showed us how giving your character an object and then thinking about the backstory to why the character has that object can add depth to your character. Using an example from the first Judy Moody story, she explained that when she had Judy want to get a Hedda Get Betta doll she created a character who wanted to be a doctor, who collected bandaids, and whose hero was Elizabeth Blackwell. By figuring out what the character wants and why, the character starts becoming real.

The first day ended with a diversity panel and PAL booksale. I was so excited to meet Karen Avivi, the  author of the book Shredded and the winner of the SCBWI Spark award. Karen is a fan of my blog, Sporty Girl Books and even gave us a shout out during a magazine interview. Make sure to check out more about Karen on Sporty Girl Books.
Karen Avivi and Stacy Mozer

It was an amazing first two days. Summaries of days 2 and 3 will be coming soon.

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