More from the SCWBI LA Conference 2013

Notes From a Withering Fan

I'm hoping by now you have had a chance to look at the SCBWI 2013 Conference blog and here I'd like to go into more detail of key concepts and ideas I took away from the conference.   

Laurie Halse Anderson had the daunting job of giving the first keynote to 1200 eager SCWBI members. Laurie is a NY Times best-selling author of all kinds of kids books. Her keynote spoke about feeling like a fraud and having a 'cloud of catastrophe' hanging over our heads when we write and advised us to try and blow it away. 'Writing is hard and scary and we need to acknowledge our doubts and fears and then just get on with it.' Nice. Your duty as a writer is to 'defend, protect and celebrate childhood.'

Here are her tips for writing:       

  • Drop every fear and doubt,
  • Promise yourself you wont quit,
  • reconnect with yourself as a kid,
  • play, experiment write or draw for fun. 
  • Turn off the internet! 



The Importance of Being Subversive in Writing for Kids: Not Every Book Should Put You To Sleep


Jon Scieszka is a big, hulking subversive and is very happy about it. And so are the kids who read his books. He has a wesbite, Guys Read, with tips on how to get boys to read and is hysterical. His earlier books met with many letters along the lines of 'please do not send us anything ever again.' But he persisted. His advice to all of us was:

1. Find kids to practice on

2. sit down and create

3. Enjoy Yourself

4. Just do it


Jon is also the author of Knucklehead, an affectionate look at his childhood where his dad called all five sons knucklehead, maybe because he couldn’t remember their names. One of his most prized memories was when he signed a copy of the book for George W Bush with the message, ‘to my favourite knucklehead.’

Andrea Davis Pinkney

New York Times best-selling and award-winning author of more than thirty books for children and young adults and vice president, executive editor at Scholastic, NY. She wanted to make sure all writers in her sessions including all of the following in the Writing recipe:

  1. Voice
  2. research
  3. authenticity
  4. experience
  5. emotion
  6. physicality
  7. psychic condition
  8. time, place
  9. intention
  10. elements/texture
  11. imagination

Steve Sheinkin is a former history textbook writer and now writes nonfiction books that kids and teens will actually want to read. They are brilliantly entertaining, page turning books that draw kids from the present into a fascinating past.

Deborah Halverson gave a breakout session called, 

'Setting Wherefore Art Thou? The Surprising Benefits and How to’s of Setting in YA/MG Novels.’

Deborah is a freelance editor, author, writing instructor, and the founder of

Deborah believes that setting offers the author a chance to manipulate the character’s thoughts and actions. To take them out of their comfort zone. Use the setting to affect a character not just illustrate a place.

All good settings should:

a) Enhance the plot

b) Help us know character better by how she/he reacts to that setting.

There are 4 elements of setting:

  • PLACE Details are so important 
  • TIME of year, day, month?

We can manipulate all these things to make the character feel awkward and crank up the tension. To force issues and make them uncomfortable. Have your characters react to the setting, use props to enhance action, emotion and to create a sense of place that the reader will fall into. 

‘Taking the middle out of MG fiction. A Writer's Manifesto.’

Peter Larangis has sold over five million copies and been translated into thirty languages. Titles include the New York Times best-selling The Colossus Rises, in The Seven Wonders series; The Sword Thief, The Viper’s Nest. 

He grew up as the oldest in a family with lots of siblings and cousins, which meant he had to entertain them and the best way he could do that was by telling them stories. He believes MG has changed and readers want more challenging reads. Here are a few of his tips:

  • Always start with character. They should drive the plot and have a piece of you in them.
  • Write a killer first page. It helps you find your voice and your way into the book
  • Keep descriptions brief and to the point.
  • MG readers often want a hint or romance but not too much.
  • Provide smaller solvable problems along the way.
  • Treasure the goofy
  • Have a great story and a stellar pitch
  • Listen to everyone’s advice then ignore it. You will recognise the nuggets amongst the rocks

More LA Conference wrap up to come soon! 

Enjoy! Deborah Abela  

Author photo color 2006.jpg