March into Writing

So the year started off for me with some type of flu that took me down for almost four


Rebecca shows how we felt at the end of the retreat: Ready to take on anything. (But she was the only one of us brave enough to climb up to the edge.)

weeks. There went January! Needless to say, I spent February trying to make up for lost time. So when March rolled in, I was ready for work, inspiration, and motivation. And I got it with three awesome writing related events scheduled back to back for the first three weekends of the month. There were many awesome takeaways from each one, but I’ve picked just a few to share that can be applied both writing and life.


With nerdy chicks Rebecca Petruck, Jocelyn Rish and Kathleen Fox.

First Weekend in March: Writing Retreat in the NC Mountains with these brilliant ladies. We laughed, we talked, we wrote, and most importantly, we brainstormed a ton of ideas. I learned that one of mine wasn’t really worth pursuing. This is actually very valuable to a writer, and anyone else with more ideas than time to execute them all. Thankfully, I also learned which of my other ideas I should throw my time into. Takeaway: There’s nothing like the collective brain!

Second Weekend in March: SCBWI Southern Breeze Spring Mingle March marks the wonderful Spring Mingle Conference held yearly in Decatur, Georgia. It’s a great event with a great faculty and plenty of hospitality. One of the speakers was agent Tracey Adams, whose talk about the publishing business was insightful. She reminded us that writing requires both patience and the ability to shake off rejections. Takeaway: ONWARD!

MG mafia

Attempting to infiltrate the MG Mafia at the post-conference reception.

This year, in addition to the usual fantastic camaraderie, I was surprised with the honor of being asked to fill in for one of Sunday’s keynote speakers. When writing the speech, I spent some time thinking about the thing that has helped me most as an author, and how to express that to an audience of fellow writers. I challenged them to do what I do when I start a new project, so I gave them this takeaway: Keep Nudging Your Brain into New Territory.

GA book festival

Sharing our books with librarians!

Third Weekend in March: For the first time I headed to the Georgia Book Awards

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With college friend Lisa at The Grill.

Conference in Athens Georgia. Since I received my undergraduate degree from UGA, it was wonderful to be back in Athens for the first time in many years. The city is as gorgeous as ever, and still full of vibrant, interesting places. It gave me the rare chance to hang out with new friends I’ve made in the past year, AND to get together with a college roommate I haven’t seen in over a decade. Take Away: Life is good when you can laugh with new friends at dinner and old friends at lunch! 

Now, full of ideas and inspiration, I’m looking forward to a very productive April. Here’s hoping you all are too!




Writer’s Conference: SCBWI NJ

I’ve been home from the SCBWI NJ conference exactly a week, and since it is a week that I’m not featuring an interview, I thought I’d talk a little about my recent trip to New Jersey. In fact, I kind of planned ahead to do this. I wrote the rest of this post a week ago on the plane flight home:

What a weekend! It started with a smooth flight  from Savannah to Philadelphia. You just can’t complain about a two hour direct flight on a new airplane even if the dude next to you thinks the space under your seat is big enough for your backpack, your legs, one of his legs too.

Me, Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen, and Ame Dyckman

So I got to Philly and was picked up by the fabulous nerdy chick Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen. We would be spending a lot of time together as roomies at the SCBWI NJ conference, during which time I would give 11 critiques and run three workshops. This actually left me little time for anything else! But as always, I met some wonderful people including super agent Scott Treimel, who asked me about my career, gave me advice, then asked why I wasn’t telling this to my agent instead of him. Um… because you asked me about my career, Scott! I also got to meet nerdy chick Ame Dyckman and honorary nerdy chick Dan Yaccarino.

I was so busy running my own workshops that I didn’t make  it to many others, so I thought I’d give you a glimpse of what I talked about here, especially because I went to the trouble to draw some sketches for my presentations!

The first workshop I led was called the Yin and Yang of Character Development and for that I designed this very cool logo:

The premise of the workshop is that your good characters have to have flaws and your bad characters have to have traits that endear us to them on some level. (Hence the frowny face in the yang zone and the happy face in the yin.)

My next workshop was called Tension in Revision. For this, I drew this  cute (I hope) little illustration to show how a writer needs to add tension to make a story interesting.

Think of this as a metaphor for your own writing! In order for Red-Riding Hood’s story to be interesting, she has to break rules, go through the woods and meet the wolf! In other words, your character’s emotional and physical journeys needs to be full of twists and turns that are reflected in plot, character development, dialogue, and setting. We talked about a ton of stuff!

Finally, I led a Chick-lit for Chicklets workshop with Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen. Here we discussed the essentials of writing chick lit for a girl audience. We discussed character traits your MC needs, who her supporting cast should be, how to write dialogue, and more. We distributed a Chick-lit for Chicklets Checklist. Here is the first question from our checklist:

Is your main character is a strong female who bucks authority to follow her dreams?  ___ yes ___no

If you answered yes to this question, you might be writing chick lit!

The weekend wrapped up with a speech from Kate DiCamillo, who shared five contradictoray statements about being a writer. I had to agree with all five… or maybe I disagreed with all five. I guess it depended on which part of the contradictory statement we were talking about.

A very blurry Kate DiCamillo gives her speech!

Kate’s contradictory advice:

  • Be absolutely rigid; Be loosey-goosey.
  • Write only for others; Write only for yourself.
  • Hide yourself; Reveal yourself.
  • Compromise; Never compromise.
  • Listen to what other people say; Don’t listen.

Of course she explained all of these contradictions, to a lot of head nodding. The bottom line, I think, is balance. Knowing when to wear which of the hats above.

All in all, it was a great conference. I loved meeting so many great writers: new writers with promising manuscripts, established writers contemplating genre changes, and those who’ve been writing in their comfort zone for years.  Thanks to Kathy Temean and her dedicated team of volunteers for hosting such a great event.

If you’d like to read a much more indepth version of what happened at the SCBWI NJ conference, head on over to Tara Lazar’s blog. She has featured several posts full of information!