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In looking back over my notes from the Los Angeles Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators conference, I started getting inspired all over again. Not only is that a good mindset for writing a recap blog post, I think it’s a sign of an excellent conference! I had such a blast over the conference’s three days of speeches, workshops, networking, and parties. I met a lot of wonderful people, both aspiring authors and published ones, and I left feeling more excited about writing than ever. Yay!

I got into LA in the late afternoon and immediately headed to dinner with a fabulous group of writers—some of my Write Night buddies from NYC, and a group of super-cool west coasters I am glad to know now. After an early bedtime (after all, to my east coast body, 10pm was 1am!), I was ready to get up Friday morning and absorb everything the conference had to offer. And I knew from Laurie Halse Anderson‘s inspiring opening keynote speech, in which she gathered us around her “fire circle” to talk about being storytellers and pushed us to “be brave today,” that I was in the right place. I was surrounded by my people: writers (and visual artists, though I am not one of those!) who can’t help but create, and who truly love our audience of kids, tweens, and teens (and the grownups who love books for kids, tweens, and teens).

Over the course of the weekend, I giggled through speeches by Jon Scieszka (author of The Stinky Cheese Man and many, many other hilarious and subversive books) and Mac Barnett (a McSweeney’s alum who writes hysterical and inventive kids’ books). I pondered putting fantasy/sci-fi elements into contemporary worlds in a workshop with Mike Jung (author of Geeks, Girls & Secret Identities—and a talented ukelele player!) and listened to Matt De La Peña (author of Mexican WhiteBoyWe Were Here, and other amazing YA novels) talk about writing with patience and restraint and trusting your readers. I heard Middle Grade author Kirby Larson speak about books as palimpsests, each carrying the whispers and pencil tracks of the authors and books that came before. I dug deeper into the plot mechanics of my current work-in-progress in a workshop with editor Krista Marino and I laughed along with SCBWI founder Lin Oliver and her writing partner Henry Winkler in a session on writing humor. (Yes, that Henry Winkler—and yes, he did the Fonzie voice!)

Every speech or session I attended was relevant to me in some way. It didn’t matter that I don’t write picture books, that I’m not a visual artist, that I already have an agent and an editor and am about to start my revisions on my debut novel. Everyone said something that stuck with me, and I want nothing more than to carry this momentum on through the next phase of my writing life!

And now, a few photos from the weekend:

Me with the acclaimed author Richard Peck, who led a fabulous session on first lines and gave the keynote at the Golden Kite luncheon. I've been lucky to  get to do some work for Richard, and it was fun to see him at the conference!

Me with the acclaimed author Richard Peck, who led a fabulous breakout session on first lines and gave the keynote at the Golden Kite luncheon. I’ve been lucky to get to do some work for Richard, and it was fun to see him at the conference!

Write Night crew in LA!

Some of the Write Night crew in LA (Bridget, Jodi, Pat, Gina, me, Ghenet, and Edith)

Getting some writing done—with a view!

Getting some writing done—with a view!

One of the best sunsets I've ever seen—and it happened during a "guerrilla" breakout session outside the hotel, in which published authors dished about what really happens after publication!

One of the best sunsets I’ve ever seen—and it happened during a “guerrilla” breakout session outside the hotel, in which published authors dished about what really happens after publication!

Me, Ghenet, and Jodi in the photo booth at the Black & White Ball

Me, Ghenet, and Jodi in the photo booth at the Black & White Ball

Now that I’m back, I’m kicking myself a little that I didn’t take more photos in the various sessions—or grab pics with more amazing authors! But at the same time, I was busy soaking it all in and enjoying myself, and not worrying about photo documentation. You’ll just have to take my word for it that I met and/or sat in a room with all of the above-mentioned people. 🙂

I’m so glad I made time and budget room to attend this year, and I’m already thinking about and looking forward to next year’s conference. I hope I can make it! I know I’ll have a whole new perspective (and a host of new things to learn) as I get closer to the publication of my own book. At the same time, no matter how many books you’ve written, there’s always room to grow and there’s always the need to be inspired and renewed. So thanks, SCBWI, for an absolutely wonderful experience!

~Kathryn

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