10 THINGS I LEARNED AT THE 2010 SCBWI BRITISH ISLES CONFERENCE

This is an experiment. My first blog post. I haven’t decided whether or not to continue blogging, but as soon as Candy Gourlay (author of the novel Tall Story) advised attendees at the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) 2010 British Isles conference not to blog, she set me a challenge. After all, who can resist doing exactly what they’ve been told not to do?

Please find below the 10 things I learned at the conference. All interpretations of what speakers said are my own. The speakers should in no way be held accountable for any assumptions I drew, or the manner in which my brain processed the information they shared.

And a big thank you to all the organizers for making the event so memorable! It was fabulous!

1. IT’S POSSIBLE TO DOMINATE ALL OF THE CHILDREN’S BOOK GENRES AT ONCE
Write a book about reincarnation that spans seven lifetimes, to include little girls, sci-fi, war, Viking vampires and lesbian ghosts. (Marcus Sedgwick on his upcoming book)

 
2. THERE ARE STILL SOME PUBLISHING HOUSES THAT DON’T CENSOR
It’s okay to draw disembodied heads in picture books (JIM: A CAUTIONARY TALE by Hilaire Belloc), and to kill off your main character (EGG DROP), if you are tall, beautiful and extremely talented. (Mini Grey)

 
3. FUEL YOUR IMAGINATION, NOT YOUR CAR
If you truly want to spark your imagination in Winchester, don’t bring your car. Instead, walk to and from as many events as possible. At night. Through a dimly lit cemetery. Alone. (West Hill Cemetery)

 
4. AVOID TAKING TRAINS ALSO
You never know who may be sketching you as you sit on the train, or where that sketch may turn up. If you really must take a train, avoid becoming a victim of on-line ridicule at illustrators’ blogs by carrying a newspaper. You can either hold it in front of your face or beat the offending illustrator over the head with it. (Lynne Chapman, http://lynnechapman.blogspot.com)

 
5. THREATENING EDITORS WILL MAKE THEM REMEMBER YOU
Your cover letter is the best place to do this. Draw pictures of a man-eating fish or a cuddly kitten wrapped in ropes, perched precariously on a plank underneath the caption, “See me quick, or the pussycat gets it.” (Lynne Chapman)

 
6. ILLUSTRATORS SHOULD GET DOWN AND BOOGIE
Dance as you draw. Fill a space with gesture and show the audience more than just your front and side views. (Bridget Strevens-Marzo)

 
7. NATASCHA BIEBOW LOVES ELEPHANTS
Pray tell, why didn’t someone share this juicy tidbit with me when Natascha was still working as a picture book editor for Random House?! (Blue Elephant Storyshaping handout)

 
8. AGENTS WILL SIGN YOU ON IF YOU SEND THEM REJECTION LETTERS
Rather than wallpaper your house in rejection letters, put the the best ones (ie the most scathing ones) into an envelope and post them to your dream agent. Then sit by the phone until the agent contacts you with an offer of representation. (Jane Clarke)

 
9. DON’T BLOG
There are too many people blogging. Don’t be tempted to do it. Not unless you have something really interesting to write about. Like garden sheds. (Candy Gourlay, http://homesweetshed.blogspot.com/)


And lastly…

10. MAKING NEW FRIENDS IS EASY
Just show them how many teeth you’ve lost and flash them your froggy’s knickers. (my five year old daughter)

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13 Responses to 10 THINGS I LEARNED AT THE 2010 SCBWI BRITISH ISLES CONFERENCE

  1. Tina Lemon says:

    Does No.8 really work???

    • admin says:

      Tina – It worked for Jane, but she was receiving very positive, personalized rejection letters from editors by this point. Jane certainly didn’t endorse this as a way to acquire an agent. And the agent didn’t take her on as a client until after she’d sold Jane’s first book.

  2. Great first post! Maybe you should carry on blogging? And what a lot of invaluable advice you learned at the conference

  3. Nick Cross says:

    Don’t listen to Candy, she never has any time to blog any more ;-)
    I think the point is that a blog is not enough on its own. But you do have an author website too, you write well and you’re funny, so I’d say keep going. Mind you, I’m also of the opinion that the absolute best way of getting published is to ignore social networking and write a really good book!

    Nick.

  4. Candy suggested people blog in groups – I wonder if we should have a scoobie blog and take turns – like the ABBA bloggers…..?

  5. Brilliant. :)
    I agree with Jackie. I think you should go for it. I will put a link on my conference post to yours.
    Good luck
    Anita xxx

  6. Great first post, Rebecca. Really made me laugh. Fantastic to see you at the conference -even if I did have to walk through that cemetery at night on my own in the pouring rain. (Actually, I quite enjoyed it.)
    Interesting idea about SCBWI joint blogging like ABBA… hmmn,
    Clare.

  7. Candy says:

    people are so contrary – after saying that, people kept coming up to me telling me that i’d inspired them to blog!

  8. Candy says:

    Anyone who wants to try blogging (about writing and trying to get published) is welcome to contribute to Notes from the Slushpile – we’re turning into a magazine!

  9. It sounds like things are very different on that side of the pond. And much more fun. I may have to move…

  10. Sue Eves says:

    Hi Rebecca – great first post! Hey – illustrators can dance! Tim Hopgood does it too. (I like Bridget’s suggestion – I’m gonna try it).

    ooo – that cemetery walk – Friday night in the dark, I trembled through a terrifying screeching and quivered past a white hand clawing over a gravestone. The next day revealed gates to a dental surgery and the hand was a woolly white glove perched on a headstone.

    Thanks for reviving the memories!

  11. admin says:

    Thanks for all your kind words! I agree that the idea of a SCBWI blog is a good one. I’m off now to read everyone else’s postings. Fun, fun!

  12. Peggy Hall says:

    Hi Rebecca,love your blog.You must have the best way of interpreting things you learn. When I attended 8 or 10 teacher conferences in a year that basically cover the same material,I learned how to cook smothered squash with shrimp(from the person in front of me),by bringing my checkbook and receipts I saved at the bottom of my canyon purse from shopping for clothes ,jewelry,etc. I learned how much I owed myself just by saving at sales. I also make grocery list,a Christmas list and brush up on daydreams.(Places I’d like to see before I’m found dead in a classroom trampled by 28 kids at bell time.) Sometimes I think of ways to decorate my home and I make a list of things I may or may not do when I recover from the sessions. I also imagine sometimes that I’m in a crowded bar and a fight breaks out. I also bring lots of food like m&m’s,juju babies. I try to sell the red and green ones for “uppers and downers”. I like to get as many people in trouble with the speaker as possible. Anyway,dear,please keep blogging. I am looking for a grant that will help me to write about famous contemporary icons such as Oprah,MayaAngelou and so forth for children. I have to interview these people somehow so I don’t write my own story about them and get into trouble.(In Louisiana they’d probably send me another teacher workshop) Where on earth do I begin? Oh,I am applying to teach in Japan. Did you have a good experience in Taiwan? Peg

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