Top 3 Things I Learned at the NESCBWI Conference


melissa sweet
Melissa Sweet

1. Get started!  Incredible author/illustrator, Melissa Sweet said: “We don’t have to know what we’re going to make, we just have to get started.”  How many times do I stare at a blank page, unsure of what to do next?  How many times have I failed before I even began because I failed to start? Jane Yolen echoed Melissa’s sentiment when she said: “If you show up, the muse will listen.”  Both Jane and Melissa helped me remember that when I sit down to write, the words come.  All I need to do is get started.  

Black and White JY, Heidi, Susannah
Me, Jane Yolen, Heidi Stemple, Susannah Richards

2. Take advantage of your great ideas! This may seem obvious.  As creatives, of course we use our great ideas, don’t we?  The venerable Jane Yolen said: “If you are blessed with a great idea, don’t debase that coinage. Make it sing, and keep the change.” Great ideas don’t sing without hard work and revision.   Jane’s words motivated me to take a look at some of my stories, find the flaws, and make them sing!

elly swartz
Elly Swartz

3. Write with heart!  In a fantastic workshop on infusing emotion into our work, Elly Swartz challenged us to write from the heart during a 2 minute class exercise.  I imagined my character and wrote:

I sit on my bed,

my heart a stone in my chest.

Its weight catapults me backwards.

I will never meet my father.

My tenuous string of hope stretches thin

and breaks,

Its remains wobble in my mind,

a tangled nest of sorrow and regret.

Writing from the heart helped me understand my character’s feelings in a way that I hadn’t before.  

lynda mullaly hunt
Lynda Mullaly Hunt

Talented Lynda Mullaly Hunt‘s words resonated with me: “If you are willing to put your vulnerabilities on the page, you will change lives.”  Is there anything better than that?

THANK YOU to NESCBWI conference organizers Josh Funk and Sera Rivers for creating an environment conducive to learning and filled with creative energy!

What did you learn at your last writer’s conference?



  1. Kirsti, thanks for this post. I can’t believe it was a week ago we were surrounded by inspiration. I loved all the keynotes and workshops this year. But something I’ll share with our Rumpus visitors is Melissa Sweet’s quote, “Persistence trumps talent” …because first and foremost we have to hang in there and write and create and believe in our art.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Dear Kirsti,
    Thank you for posting such a beautiful tribute to the Spring conference. I am grateful to everyone who poured their hearts and souls into making this such a memorable and inspiring event. I learned so much from so many, but here are some of my personal favorites (forgive me if I don’t get the quotes exactly right):

    From Melissa Sweet – “Be in the world and pay attention.”
    From Jane Yolen: “Put your fears in a basket and drop them in the nearest body of water.”
    From Elly Swartz: “Use emotion in your own life to guide you.”
    From Tara Sullivan: “Bring kids to an increased sense of empathy.”

    The emotional exercise you shared is poetic and poignant with gorgeous imagery. You definitely need to use them in your YA novel! Thank you so much for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for sharing! Very valuable advice for those of us unable to attend last weekend’s conference and much appreciated. Thank you.

    This Saturday Melissa Sweet will be speaking at the Newburyport Literary Festival. At1 pm she’ll be discussing her book “Some Writer” about E.B. White and at 7 pm wlll participate in closing ceremonies at the Firehouse Arts Center.

    The complete schedule is available online at Come early – festival is free but space is limited. Parking fees downtown…..but still worth it.

    Liked by 2 people

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s