Sunday, August 17, 2014

That's Amore!
The 43rd SCBWI Summer Conference!!

by Hilde Garcia

This year's theme for the 43rd Annual SCBWI Summer Conference. This year, Tomie dePaola turned 80 and in honor of our successful flash mob from 2012, we serenaded Tomie on Saturday night with That's Amore.

Happy Birthday Tomie!
Tomie was ill and couldn't fly out to see it in person so a video was sent to him. He Skyped the closing Key Note with Lin Oliver as his moderator to a crowd of 1200 fans!  To conclude the incredible weekend, we had none other than the one and only Judy Blume give us an inspiring farewell.

My daughter sat in the front row, sketching Judy at the podium. She then walked up to her after her speech and gave her the illustration.  Judy was touched. I had no camera and I wish I had a photo of her drawing to share with you, but I will never forget the image of that moment when my daughter, brave enough to be in a room with 1200 people, walked up to Judy Blume and said, "I drew this for you.  I loved Tales of a 4th Grade Nothing."

Judy Blume
That to me was the quintessential moment of the conference.  Judy graciously took it and shared it with other noteworthy people who were gathered around her at that moment.  She was genuinely touched.  Considering how many books of Judy's have inspired me over the years, it was quite amazing to see my daughter make Judy smile.  Then Judy shook her hand. I was so glad I have taught my kids how to shake a hand!

I have attended this Conference regularly for the last 6 or 7 years and I must say that this year, I was inspired more deeply than in past years. Maybe it was the right mix of key notes, break out sessions, socials, piña coladas, and Judy Blume, or maybe it was that I was ready for a break through with the revision of my novel.  And when you are ready, the universe embraces you.

Either way, I was in the zone and the weekend proved to be worth the time, money and effort to attend. (Communicating my crazy schedule to my husband who agreed to be Mr. Mom was nothing short of miraculous).  The intensives on Monday shook loose the problems with my plot, giving me a way out of the darkness.

The break out sessions that stayed with me included Maggie Stiefvater, Sharon Flake, Adriana Dominguez, and Linda Sue Park's Key Note.  (For full conference schedule, go to

Linda Sue Park
This year, I also participated in the Intensives that take place on Monday.  I went to Linda Sue's on Revision and took away fabulous techniques for tightening your novel and really finding the heart of the story.

                 Maggie Stiefvater
I also attend Maggie's intensive on Character - Specifics vs Details.  It was an eye opener and I noticed what is necessary and what is not in my story.

Meanwhile, during my intensives, I was getting calls from the twins' summer camp of a possible lice outbreak and a fractured finger- each kid with one of those problems, but yet, I managed to have a break through despite the joys of motherhood and was able to stay without darting to save either one!  (By the way, all was clear in the end, but talk about impeding your Main Character!)

Here are some highlights of advice and suggestions from some of the key note speakers and the inspirational words that they shared with us on the first morning of the Conference!
Meg Rosoff

Imagination has the possibility to make everyone better at everything except for politicians! -Meg Rosoff.

Young Judy Schachner
Bienvenidos, Benvenuti, Now, Chocolate, Fluffernutter, Reinvent, Heart, Rebel, Ready, Willing, and Able.

Become a collector not just of things, but of experiences too. -Judy Schachner

Challenged, Hashtagselfie, Stretch, Be, You, Wonder, Agog, Hutzpah, Serendipity, Diversity, SCAT, and Endure.

Everyone is a product of where they came from- they are either running away from it or running to it. -Maggie Stiefvater

This industry is cyclical. You cannot write to a trend. Write the book you are inspired to write, the minute you don't you loose your voice. -Justin Chanda
Justin Chanda

Patience, Focus, Botanical, Community, PLAY, and Supercaliforniaisterrific-I hope you get published.

The voices that first influence me were my family.
-Sharon G. Flake

Sharon G. Flake
Epiphany, Class, Overcome, Classic, Splinter, Astonishment, Common Core, Imgaination, and Gumba- just do it!

Diversity is your point of view! -Adriana Dominguez

Relationships, Friends, Entrepreneurial, La Cuna, Fierce, Visualize, Library, Authenticity, Eccentricity, Feel, Skyfarm, and Optimism

Don't bore the editor- make every word count. -Linda Sue Park

Persevere, Empathy, Unputdownable, Start, Hands-on, Deal, Awesome, and CONVICTION.

Memores are nothing until they turn into blood within you.  -Meghan McDonald

First line is the promise, last line is the payoff.
Lisa Yee


One technique discussed by Linda Sue Park was to re-write a line every which way you can.  Maggie discussed that the more realistic the characters' specific characteristics are, the least likely they are to become a duplicate in your story.

The biggest take away from the weekend seemed to be echoed by every key note and break out session-  what motivates us to write the story is the crux of the story that inspires us to tell it.

I guess the words that stayed with me the most came from Judy Blume, "Don't let anyone discourage you- if they try, don't get depressed, get angry. Writing didn't just change my life, it saved my life."

So go and let it save yours. Write the story that only you can write. And if you haven't attended a conference yet, make it a mission to do so.

It's a weekend that stays with you long after the autograph party is done.


  1. Hilde, I am so inspired! Thank you. Wonderful post.

  2. Thank you Hilde for such an inspiring post and sharing such gems with us. I have trouble handle big crowds and big conferences, but I see this one would have been worth it. Thank you so much, Penny, Author and Writer at:

  3. Hilde, a great inspirational post. "Write the story that only you can write", so true. I just wrote a book under a pen name Erin Ireland. A Voice in the Night to be published soon, but want to say it was in my voice with my experiences and I was able to write the first draft in three months because it was meant for me to write and share. Thanks again for a fun read. I liked your comment: "The joys of motherhood."

  4. Hopefully I'll be able to attend in the future. Your post inspired me to try. I appreciate your summary. We all can learn from each other. Beryl

  5. Wonderful post, Hilde. Loved reading every word!

  6. Head lice? I'm sorry, do I live in the 16th Century? Hijole!
    Sorry I missed out. The convention, not the lice.
    Scratchy Scalp


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