This past weekend I was fortunate to attend the annual spring conference of the New England chapter of SCBWI. This year’s conference theme was “The Power of (RE)Invention.” I was there on Friday and Saturday, and as the conference progressed I discovered a subtheme: Intention is the power that drives Reinvention.
Reinvent Your Writing Life
The idea of intentional re-invention started with the Friday session I attended, Francine Puckley’s “Reinventing Your Career in Five Years or Less.” Francine gave us the tools to work backward from where we’d like to be as authors and illustrators in five years, breaking the journey down into smaller units of time and smaller tasks until we knew what we needed to do this year, this month, this week, and TODAY in order to reach our goals. (Wow, I have a lot to do!)
A goal without a plan is just a wish. The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Choose Your Own Fortune
Conference Co-Director Heather Kelly reinforced the theme of intentional reinvention with her opening remarks, and with fortune cookies for everyone. Heather encouraged us all to share our fortunes with those nearby, and to add our own goals on the slips of paper, as a reminder and promise to ourselves to make our own fortunes happen, and not just count on the random fortune we received. Alas, I lost the slip of paper with my fortune, but I remember what it said.
Bestselling author Wendy Mass gave an amazing keynote address on Saturday morning. Among the many fun, funny, and semi-serious stories she shared, she echoed Francine’s advice to plan, plan, plan to turn your dreams into achievable goals, one small step at a time. Reinvention doesn’t happen without intention!
Reinvent Your Social Media Presence
Saturday afternoon Jess Keating reminded us YOU WILL BE GOOGLED. The audience ranged from social media newbies to experts with most somewhere in the middle, like me. Two parts of Jess’s message resonated: first, that social media isn’t scary, it’s about building positive relationships with others in the kidlit community. Jess credits her success as a published author directly to her social media presence. Second, it’s important to choose how to present your authentic self online, to curate yourself as a brand. There it is again: intentional reinvention! What’s amazing is that Jess shared this wisdom without a trace of irony, cynicism, or regret: be yourself online, but be a concentrated, distilled version of your best (sometimes weird) self. You’ll be amazed who you connect with.
Keynoter Patrick Carmen also gave a great talk in the afternoon about the out-of-the-box projects he’s been involved in, like SKELETON CREEK, a series that combines books and online videos to tempt reluctant readers back to books. Like Jess Keating, Patrick emphasized the importance of making connections with others in order to reinvent your own projects as not just books, but also games, videos, podcasts, or any of the media that compete for young readers’ attention.
This is more of a RE-connection than a RE-invention, but one of the best parts of the weekend was having time to talk about writing and illustrating with so many people. These two pictures show some of the members of our huge critique group. Our meetings are busy, and we often have little time for anything other than critique. Between times, I’ll send reminder emails about submissions and blog posts, and that’s usually all I have time for. But this weekend there was time to talk about submissions and nibbles and rejections, about new projects in the works, about personal histories and how my writing partners became writers in the first place. We shared hopes and dreams and frustrations with others who completely understand. I met my critique partners’ critique partners from the other groups they’re in. I shared a hotel room with an online critique partner I hadn’t met in person before, and we got along great. All in all, it was wonderful.
A Big Thanks!
Thanks to everyone who helped make the 2016 NESCBWI conference happen, but special thanks to co-directors Josh Funk and Heather Kelly, without whose intentional planning this event never could have happened!