Writing quote

Sure, it's simple writing for kids...Just as simple as raising them.
— Ursula K. LeGuin

Monday, August 15, 2011


   I was interviewed by Rhonda Knight on blogtalk radio today, and am happy to report that I did not sound like a total dork on the show. She erroneously introduced me as a motivational speaker, so just to be clear on this point, if any of you are motivated by what I have to say, fantastic! But motivational speaker, I most definitely am not! Nervous though I was in the beginning, I really did enjoy my chat with Rhonda about books, writing, and Cixi, The Dragon Empress
   For those of you who missed it live, you can listen in here. Click on the one that says, "Sharing with us-authors Dana Davis..." She interviewed me first, but I'm listed after pastor, author, and motivational speaker, Dana Davis, so you can't see my name right away. 
   Also, the bulk of my interview is in the first segment, but she wraps up with a few more questions for me towards the end about how I balance my writing with motherhood, so fast forward to close to the end if you want me to "motivate" you on this aspect. Ha. Ha.
   I would love to know what you think, so please leave me a comment.

Listen to internet radio with RhondaKnight on Blog Talk Radio

Sunday, August 7, 2011


   Ahh...my last day of the conference. How time flies! I got to the hotel early today so I could have a decent breakfast at the restaurant before the day got underway.
Literary agent panel: Shown
from L: Tina Wexler, Marcia
Wernick, and Tracey Adams.
   The workshop began with a panel of 4 agents: Tracey Adams, Barry Goldblatt (who's also Libba Bray's husband), Marcia Wernick, and Tina Wexler, discussing the state of children's books, and what they'd like to see come across their desks (great writing with unique voices—no surprise there!) Gary Paulsen's keynote speech was amazing! This guy has competed in the Iditarod (he told a very funny story about his 1st Iditarod, his maniacal lead dog, and getting lost in downtown Anchorage), trapped animals in the wilderness, and been attacked by moose. When does this guy have time to write? But he is so darn prolific! 
Gary Paulsen
   I attended Beverly Horowitz's (Publisher of Delacorte Press) workshop on acquisitions and revisions. She suggested that authors do their research, and find a specific editor to send their manuscript to, and question why each scene is in the book, not just because we think it's cool or that teens might want to read it. Kids can spot a fake a mile away, so be honest with your stories. Most importantly, she says, give them a sense of hope.
Me and my agent, Karen Grencik
of Red Fox Literary Agency
   My agent, Karen Grencik, and I met up for the Golden Kite Award luncheon. It was fun to see our peers go up for their awards, and the 40th year anniversary chocolate dessert was yummy! 
   The afternoon workshop was Krista Marino's (Delacorte Press) on Finding Your YA Voice. Marino talked about the several components of the narrative voice: diction, perspective, characterization, and dialogue, which is different from your authorial voice. YA is a teen experience. Once your adult voice takes over, it's no longer a YA. A longer discussion on her workshop and crafting Voice will appear in the September issue of the SCBWI California North/Central online newsletter, The Acorn. It won't be posted until the end of the month, but click on the link to check out the next issue and previous issues.
   All in all, the SCBWI Summer Conference was exhausting, but truly inspiring! Thank you SCBWI for all you do for writers and illustrators of children's books, and Happy 40th anniversary!


  A truly brilliant day of conference speakers and workshops today, starting out with the fabulous Donna Jo Napoli who talked about the need for writers not to shy away from writing difficult stories about kids going through tragic, depressing, terrible things. Sometimes those stories need to be told, especially for kids in dreadful situations, so they know they're not alone. She stressed that "We must write not only from our place of joy, but of pain." 
   This was followed by David Small who showed excerpts of his graphic autobiographical novel about his difficult childhood. I don't think there was a dry eye in the house. But he ended with a whimsical, hilarious take on booksignings with a chain bookstore vs. an independant bookstore. I love his humor, and the way he can look at himself and present himself in such an honest, open way.
   Then the BIG surprise of the conference—which wasn't such a surprise anymore because Lin Oliver let the cat of the bag yesterday—and much anticipated appearance by the one and only Judy Blume. Lin conducted a casual, breezy chat with Judy on plump yellow love seats a la Oprah. Judy was so personable and unassuming, I felt like she could have been sitting in my living room having a chat with me! She was totally endearing and charming, and I loved knowing that even she struggles with plot and not knowing where she's going in her writing at times.
   The workshops with Libba Bray on creating characters and Verla Kay on using the internet to promote your books were extremely helpful. Verla had handouts,  website information, and lots of sources—the kind of workshop I love because there is something tangible I can take home. Check out her message board here.
   I did the smart thing today, and snuck up to Starbucks outside of the regular break times so the lines were not so long. I picked up my breakfast as well as a sandwich for lunch, thus avoiding the extremely long lunch line. I met two fellow attendees and engaged in some very stimulating conversation about the digital future of publishing, the need for perseverance, plot and structure and other writing struggles. Thank you, Abi Estrin and Steve Micciche for making it such a pleasurable lunch. Steve writes poetry on his blog: www.poetryfortoughguys.blogspot.com. Check it out!
Keynote speaker Jon Scieszka
   After lunch, keynote speaker Jon Scieszka had us all rolling around in the aisles with his photographs, stories of his childhood, excerpts from his books, and experiences at school visits. He has a great sense of humor. Then there was Norton Juster and Mary Pope Osborne whose talks were both inspiring and encouraging—It was like Oscar night for writers!
   I skipped the pajama party though. I just didn't have any more energy, and ended up falling asleep on the couch at my brother's place where I'm staying, watching a program called, "When Fish Attack". Okay, it's a bit morbid, but fascinating, especially when a 40 foot Right Whale breaches and lands smack right on top of your sailboat, or a pilot whale drags you thirty feet under, or a 100 lb. Marlin jumps out of the water and stabs you through the mouth. You don't feel so bad falling asleep because when you wake up, you can pick right up where you left off—more fish jumping out of the water and spearing people. Yes, a tad morbid, but sometimes you need those shows...

Friday, August 5, 2011


The huge California Ballroom at the Hyatt
Regency Century Plaza
The first day of the SCBWI annual summer conference was exhilirating, inspiring, overwhelming...and exhausting! They had a record number of attendees—1300 of them—3 levels of conference rooms, and a lunch line so long you thought you were at a JK Rowling book signing. 

I attended a multicultural workshop with Rukhsana Khan, one on navigating the turbulent waters of picture book publication with Laurent Linn, and listened to motivational keynote speakers, Bruce Colville, Jerry Pinkney, and Emma Dryden. But my favorite part of the day has to be the keynote presentation by Libba Bray, who was terrifically funny and her recollections of spending a year writing the "wrong" manuscript before she got it right was truly inspiring, and a reminder that to succeed in writing, one needs the 3 P's: Patience, Perseverance, and Persistance. 
Faculty members waiting to introduce themselves

Keynote speaker Bruce Colville