Ever since attending the LA SCBWI annual conference in July, I have been inspired to paint. This is my palette from my most recent painting. And I even found a local show to enter the painting in. Yea! The creative juices are flowing.
I happened upon a local organization that is a great resource for artists and writers in Las Vegas. Last month I attended their first in a series of seminars about Copyright Law for Artists & Writers. How cool is that?
I have been back from the LA SCBWI Annual Conference since last Sunday night, and I am truly trying to hang on to the motivation it gave me. Not only did I meet many interesting people, but I also got an idea for one of my books. And as always, it is so great to be completely surrounded by supportive, like-minded people. At the conference, during the whole weekend, everyone is expected to chit-chat with the strangers nearby. So after a weekend of smiling and talking with strangers, suddenly finding myself in the airport was a rude awakening. I kept having to stop myself from smiling at people and reminding myself not to strike up conversations. Such culture shock!
And now I'm back home, back to my normal job and normal routine, and I'm trying to hold on to the great feeling I had at the conference...holding on to who I felt I was there. I like that person.
By the way, that is legendary Judy Blume being interviewed in the photo above.
I am in LA for the annual SCBWI Summer conference and I am so excited to have the luxury of focusing solely on my craft for three whole days! Why, you ask, did I post a photo of a drink? It is because I am taking part in my tradition of sitting in the lobby bar and people-watching. The people are mostly other writers here for the conference.
During the last few weeks of my son's school, I volunteered to speak at Career Day. I knew it would be good practice for someday doing author visits. And it sure was. I was able to notice what the kids reacted to and see how the school organized my visit. I had thought I'd do my 15 minute presentation two or three times, but they had me do it NINE times! I was exhausted by the end. But it was still great. My main takeaway was that they like to be involved. While I didn't have any activity that had the kids get on their feet, I did show them photos and do a guessing game. That was a keeper.
If you hope to do author visits someday, see if you can be a speaker at a school's Career Day! Or volunteer to read during Reading Week. Get in some practice!
I am finally getting around to mentioning that I went to the Children's Literature Conference at UNLV again this Spring. It used to be geared for teachers in their Education Department, but this year they teamed with SCBWI and made it great for authors as well. It's a small gathering, so the speeches and breakouts were small and intimate. I highly recommend going!
Often writers look for exercises that will help them break out of their rut, or they look for ways to come up with new ideas for books. Well, I unintentionally found the perfect way to do this.
My son is five, and instead of reading a book every night before bed, about two years ago he started asking me to make up a story. So I obliged. He's five...there was no pressure...easy-peasy. The next night he wanted another one. The next night he wanted two. By the end of the week we were at three original stories per night.
I quickly realized these stories didn't have to be perfect. They didn't even have to have a real plot. They just needed to entertain.
Once I ran out of story ideas, I began to asking him for the subject of each story, and it became an exercise in creativity. One night he wanted three stories about a suitcase. Around Christmas, each night was three stories about Mr. Grinch.
During the past two years I have told over 2000 original stories. Some nights I am truly tapped out. But forcing myself to make up something - anything - is always beneficial.
One night I decided to tell a story about a character I had come up with but had had trouble finding a plot. When I was forced to make up a story about him on the spot, suddenly I found myself telling a story that actually worked! It is now one of the books we will soon submit to editors.
So if you have a kid, or if you know a kid, make up stories for him! It will force you to find the stories that are deep inside you...sometimes bad, sometimes weird, but sometimes great!
Writers and artists always talk about how much time they spend doing the business of writing instead of actually sitting down and practicing their craft. And that is exactly where I am right now. I would LOVE to go sit at my desk, right by the Christmas tree, with a mug of hot tea, and write...I have an idea for another picture book (based on a story I told my son the other day!), and an idea for a middle grade novel. I want to create!
But instead, I am doing research...gotta figure out this whole social media thing (in a business sense instead of personal), gotta "brand" myself, gotta work on this website and figure out just who "Author Shannon" is. Hmmm...
I think I'll sit down with a cup of hot tea and think about it...
My first book is currently being submitted to publishers. My fingers and toes are crossed! Please cross yours for me, too?