In regions where winter travel weather rates far from optimal, attending any kind of event for writers and illustrators during those months can be a challenge. Or should I say it would be unless, like the Inland NW SCBWI region, you bypass the snow and ice by offering a 4-part webinar series.
On four consecutive Saturdays mornings between January 21 and Feb 11, participants in FROM BRIGHT IDEAS TO THE FINAL PAGE TURN lounged in their pajamas, sipped their tea, coffee, or cocoa, and left their cars in the driveway. For me, it also meant no worries about sharing my nasty winter cold. The nicest part, however, was that these live presentations were also recorded. No angst over scheduling conflicts. No problems if the kids interrupted. No regrets that you missed a golden nugget of inspiration while frantically jotting down another. Next to being there in person, what more could you ask for?This particular series was on picture books and featured three authors and one author-illustrator. And what a line-up! That first Saturday, Tara Lazar’s (Little Red Gliding Hood, Normal Norman) effervescent personality and wacky humor shone through as she shared strategies from her years as the founder and moderator of Storystorm—formerly PiBoIdMo—to spark us into “Brainstorming Better Ideas.” My favorite takeaway: Think about your story idea next to current popular titles on a bookstore shelf. Will kids pick it up? Will parents?
The Northwest’s own Jessixa Bagley (Boats for Papa, Laundry Day) spoke to both illustrators and authors the following Saturday as she connected her journey to publication with thoughts on how each of us could “Polish Your Personal Style and Voice.” For Jessixa, the key is finding and mining your personal connection to the content—what inspires you, moves you, draws you in? My favorite takeaway: An exercise Jessixa has always remembered from a conference - visualize yourself at your favorite age as a child and write for that child.You gotta love a guy who can turn breakfast foods into picture books characters. And tell their story in rhyme. Josh Funk (Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast, Dear Dragon) made known his views on the “To Rhyme or Not to Rhyme” debate while sharing several pithy tips on doing rhyme right. My favorite takeaway from Josh: Remember, rhythm and rhyme is not about whether it works for you, but whether it works for everyone else who will be reading it cold.
The series final presenter definitely does rhyme right. However, after twenty-one years of writing and 37 published books, “Strong Beginnings, Satisfying Endings—And Navigating from One to the Other” is also something Linda Ashman (Hey, Coach!, All We Know, The Nuts and Bolts Guide to Writing Picture Books) does right. Linda’s hour was jam-packed with information, making me doubly glad I could view the recording again later. My favorite takeaways: the reading list Linda shared of mentor texts for further study of the story structures she spoke on and her motto (borrowed from a fellow writer?)—There are many ways to tell story. Just try stuff.Following the series, a survey asked if we felt we came away with a) lots of new information, b) a little new information, or if c) we felt we heard it all before. I always find that a hard question to answer. I mean, let’s face it, after attending conferences, workshops, etc., for a number of years, chances are you’ve heard these topics before. However, what I see as the key that keeps me coming back is more about the presenter than the topic. Every writer or illustrator brings their own life experiences, their own unique viewpoint, and their own style of dissecting and imparting information to their presentation. Which is great because we all have our own unique way of learning. What I lose in the info-dump of one speaker, another will make so clear it literally pops like a light bulb. The writing exercise one shares leaves me uninspired while that of another is a genuine “ah-ha!” moment. Add in the marvelous variety of resource books, mentor texts, and inspirational anecdotes and quotes each presenter shares and hopefully you are starting to understand. Even if I feel I may not have come away with new information, I do come away re-inspired by even the most well-worn topic.
So would I participate in a series like this again? In a heartbeat!!