Writing quote

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

Saturday, June 21, 2014


     I was on the faculty of the Book Passage Children's Writer's Conference last weekend and was reminded (after not having been there in 7 years or so) what a truly fabulous conference this is! The organizers, Kathryn Petrocelli and Kathryn Otoshi, were terrific — warm, inviting, extremely helpful. The faculty had great camaraderie and the faculty dinners were delicious and a forum for animated, energetic discussions on writing, publishing, and everything in between. Many of the attendees I met were eager to learn, thoroughly immersed themselves in all the conference had to offer, and asked thoughtful questions. 
     I had fun moderating The Compelling & Authentic Protagonist: Making Your Hero(ine) Jump Off the Page author panel with Young Adult author Lewis Buzbee (Steinbeck's Ghost, The Haunting of Charles Dickens, Bridge of Time) and independent editor Laura Atkins (former editor at Lee and Low Books and Scholastic). They addressed some of the main elements of creating great character: Voice, Point of View, Dialogue.   
    One huge perk of being on the faculty is that I could attend any of the other sessions free of charge. So, I sat in on Amanda Conran's and Susan Lyn McComb's sessions on writing the middle-grade novel, and Lewis Buzbee's Writing for Young Adults. My work in progress is a middle grade, and I learned a lot about structure, voice, and craft tips about writing for this audience.
    During lunches and breaks, Susan McCombs and I reminisced about our first meeting here when she was an editor for Tricycle Press and I was seeking her out to find out what happened to my manuscript which had been submitted over a year ago. She gave me such helpful feedback on my manuscript, "Goldy Luck and the Three Chans", which later became the published Goldy Luck and the Three Pandas, albeit by Charlesbridge Publishing, not Tricycle.
    In the evenings, we were entertained by the likes of Mac Barnett and Jon Agee, both fantastic speakers who both impressed and inspired us with their quirky senses of humor, creative writing processes and their hard work and perseverance.
   When I attended this conference 7 years ago, I sat in the audience, and a thought came to mind: "If I ever got invited to be on the faculty of the Book Passage Children's Writer's Conference, I know I will have arrived as an author!" Now that I am back at Book Passage as a member of the faculty, I am humbled by one pervasive thought, I have not arrived. Nor will we, as writers, ever arrive. 
    Someone once wisely said, "Writing is not a destination, it's a journey." And so it is. It's a journey that never ends because there's always so much to learn in writing. The publishing landscape keeps changing. The industry (thankfully) is never constant. There's always more you can learn about being a better writer, a better marketer, a better speaker. Writers don't just sit and write anymore. You have to learn to send your book out into the world. Which is why, four published books later, I'm still attending conferences, still learning, still trying to figure out what editors want (sigh...will that ever get any easier?). My yardstick for success keeps shifting. Hallelujah for that! Because writing will be a lot less fun if there is nothing to strive for.

Some of the 2014 Book Passage Children's Writers and Illustrators
Conference  faculty
Back row from left: Gretchen Maurer, Amanda Conran, Kristin Elizabeth
Clark, Lissa Rovetch, Jim Averbeck.
Front row from left: Shirin Bridges, Natasha Yim (moi) , Summer Dawn Laurie,
Kathryn Otoshi, Laura Atkins, Andy Ross.

Gretchen Maurer and I at the
Writing Creative Nonfiction session