Thursday, October 20, 2011

Processing a Conference -- Or, Unspinning Your Head, Part 1

I spent last weekend at the SCBWI-WI fall retreat, and what an excellent three days! Thank you to the wonderful, dedicated SCBWI leaders and the top-notch faculty, which included agent Tracey Adams of Adams Literary, editors Cheryl Klein of Arthur A. Levine (Scholastic) and Andrea Welch of Beach Lane Books (Simon and Schuster), illustrator LeUyen Pham, and authors Laura Ruby and Marsha Wilson Chall. For reasons that I hope will become apparent, I'm going to dive right into some thoughts that I took away from the weekend:
  • Illustration is cool, but I only halfway get it. LeUyen Pham gave a wonderful visual presentation about how images affect us and how we "read" them -- where the eye goes first, where it goes second, and so on, and how the artist controls the path of viewers' eyes through a picture. But I only agreed with the majority audience opinion of where the gaze falls first, second, third, etc., maybe half to two-thirds of the time. The rest of the time, I saw something else first.
  • Photos don't turn out so hot when the lectern is right in front of a light. :( Of course, I knew this, but the result is still no photos. Oh well.
  • There are three kinds of plots, says Cheryl Klein, but they aren't simply the "man vs. man," "man vs. self," and "man vs. nature" plots we may have learned in HS English. These, she groups into a broader category called the Conflict plot. The other two plots are Mystery, in which the character must gain information or answer a question, and Lack, in which the character feels something is missing and must be gained or attained in order to achieve happiness.
  • The content of a speaker's talks belongs to the speaker; it is her or his intellectual property. Speakers, frankly, plan to give their talks multiple times, and if they want to write and publish that content, that right belongs to them, as Cheryl Klein has done with her book on revision, Second Sight. Therefore, I will not be blogging extensively about any one person's presentation.
  • Conference food is generally awesome, and this weekend was no exception. My jeans are feeling a mite snug, to tell the truth. 
  • I got the opportunity to be part of the critique faculty for the conference, and loved it.
  • Doing your research works! By that I mean that though conferences are wonderful (am I using that word too much?) informative and networking events, for the writer who immerses herself in learning the craft and the industry they are a supplement to and an affirmation of many things she has already learned. Though she will pick up new tidbits, no question, and her head may spin with the best of them trying to contain it all, if she's done her homework she's not drowning in new information. It's more like she's watered by it.
  • I'm going to stop here and post more about the conference next week, and even into a third week if the content -- or my random processing process -- warrants.
Have you been to any good conferences lately? How did you process them?


Bish Denham said...

Oh you lucky! Haven't been to any recently.

cleemckenzie said...

I'm conference deprived, but plan to make up for that this coming year. I envy your three wonderfully stimulating days talking about and listening to others on the subject of writing.

Vijaya said...

Wonderful, Marcia. I just bought CK's book (Second Sight) since I have enjoyed the books AL has published and she's such a terrific editor. Want to get my ms ship-shape before it sees beta fish, ooops, I mean beta readers.

I only went to the local SCBWI conference ever in WA and it was the best. I have not had a chance to really process my notes from May. It was such a whirlwind summer.

So happy you've had a great time and have lots to process.

Anonymous said...

Hi Marcia, I'm out and about meeting people today. Great to meet you! And I have yet to make it to a conference, although I know I need to.

Barbara Watson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Barbara Watson said...

Sorry, I removed a comment because I was signed in to the wrong blogger account.

My comment was this: I haven't been to an SCBWI confernece (or any other for that matter) but have heard marvelous things about SCBWI. I hope to get to one soon.

Andrea Mack said...

Marcia, thanks for sharing your experience. I haven't been to a writing conference yet, but I hope to one day.

Cynthia Chapman Willis said...

Sounds like a great conference. I'm looking forward to reading more.

The last great conference I attended was the SCBWI conference in LA. Loved it. So many great speakers and workshops. I processed it all over time by rereading my notes.

Joyce Moyer Hostetter said...

It's been a few years actually, since I've been to a conference. Am really feeling the urge. Next year, for sure!

The illustrator sessions sounds really fascinating! I'd have loved that.

Marcia said...

Bish -- I wasn't really planning on going till a friend and I started talking about it. But I hadn't been to one in four years, and I'm so glad I went.

Lee -- I love the getaway aspect too. And the immersion.

Vijaya -- I've only just touched on the book so far. I wasn't sure I was ready to dive into it yet. Really, I'm still grasping for some quiet time to experiment with revisions since getting back.

Stephen -- Welcome! Glad you came! I encourage you to go to a conference near you if at all possible. It's really a shot in the arm, and you learn so much, especially if you're just starting.

Barbara -- Yes, do go if you can. Some say the quality and usefulness of SCBWI membership depends heavily on the strength of your state chapter, which makes sense, but really, it has helped so many writers connect to each other and the industry. They were the first to disseminate the info we need far and wide.

Andrea -- Not only are the sessions interesting, but the food -- that you don't have to fix yourself or clean up after -- is usually scrumptious. At one conference a person at my lunch table said, "You know, if this whole writing thing doesn't work out, I think I'll be a writer's groupie just for the food."

Cynthia -- It must be fantastic to go to LA. I've heard from some who have been that it can be a tad overwhelming especially if you're new, but that overall it's tops. (Hmm. Is it possible to be a 'tad' overwhelming?)

Joyce -- I tend to get to the conference every 4-5 years. This was the second "how to read an illustration" or "how an illustrator controls your eye" type of talk I've heard, and I always pay close attention because it's interesting and not a natural strength of mine.

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

Isn't Cheryl delightful! I met her a few years ago.

Glad you had such a good time. I'm going to SCBWI-MO in a couple weeks...can't wait.

Marcia said...

Sharon -- Have a great time!

Anonymous said...

I went to SCBWI LA last August and this January I go to the annual SCBWI Florida conference. I get so much useful info from these conferences. The best thing is that I feel re-energized and inspired afterwards.

Susan Fields said...

I saw Cheryl Klein speak at our local SCBWI conference before and I took her Writers Digest plotting webinar. She's wonderful!