A whirlwind week at the SCBWI International Conference in Los Angeles left me inspired...and a little tired. It's a good exhaustion, the kind after a good long hike, the kind that makes me want to put my feet up. And my fingers on the key board. From Shannon Hale's keynote about breaking the glass wall between "boys" and "girls" books (yes, boys like Newbery Honor "The Princess Academy) to Kwame Alexander's kapow, half-information half-rap half rap up–––yeah I know that's 150% but that's how much he gave us!–––I was left in wanting to hit the keyboard.
(Side note: Kwame says he says he doesn't why his poems are linked to rap, but if you've read this year's Newbery Winner "The Cross Over" you've gotten a taste of his amazing rhythm and in-your-face lyricism that's attracting young readers to poetry. And what is R.A.P? Rhythm and Poetry!)
The next day, I went to a poetry intensive with Kwame. I write poetry sporadically and really know nothing about it. In three hours, I learned enough to not hurt myself or my readers. I laughed when we tried to write a poem together, learning why it didn't work: we all had different mood, message, and objective. I cried a little when he encouraged a young author illustrator to believe in herself. I hope she is submitting that awesome manuscript as I type.
If you haven't gone to a conference in a while, do it. Sure, writing is the main thing. Sure, you'd rather stay being your keyboard being productive, but being around other writers, and illustrators, and talking to the "other half of the business," the agents and editors, is worth your while. You'll learn skills beyond how to put words together. You'll learn about the industry–––like what's selling, who's buying, and why. You'll learn how other people organize their writing life. And, like me learning poetry, you might learn about the "mystery and reveal" of you're own life, and find new inspiration.