Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Volunteer Work

Part of my year has been devoted to volunteering in a variety of contexts. First and foremost, I’ve been working with the Wednesday Wonderfuls at 826 Seattle.
  


826 is a non-profit that provides free after-school tutoring and conducts a variety of writing-centered workshops and field trips for kids. The spirit of 826 is fun, friendly, and quirky and there are several different branches in various cities across the US.

I was initially vaguely jealous and irritated by how many volunteers I encountered at 826 Seattle. I had never had nearly enough help as a public school teacher, so it seemed odd to join an organization that already had so many resources. But here’s the thing: 826, or more specifically, Steve the (awesome) Programs Coordinator (see rug), provides a well-organized, thoughtful, and highly structured experience for volunteers. The Wednesday team is a kind and dedicated group of people who care a great deal about their work with kids. In short, there are excellent reasons that people want to volunteer at 826: it’s fun and rewarding. I’m hoping to continue there next year.

In other news, I volunteered a (tiny) bit for SCBWI-WWA and just finished reading and critiquing as a judge for the PNWA literary contest in the YA category. I also spent a fair amount of time mentoring one of my former students as she completed her senior project (a novel of her own!). It was lovely to go back to my old school last week and see old students and staff members. I still miss those guys.

My next volunteer project will be helping the Sirens Conference folks with their Reviewer Program. I’m thrilled to be joining that team and already looking forward to the conference this fall.

So I’ve been busy, but never too busy to write. I’ve finished the first draft of my WIP(!) and am now gathering feedback for revision. And, I don’t want to jinx it, but I might also be gathering ingredients for an entirely new story. And there might be spaceships... 


Monday, April 14, 2014

SCBWI WWA 2014 Recap

I had a great time at the SCBWI-WWA conference this past weekend. Once again, I met a number of incredibly kind and generous people. I feel lucky to be a part of this warm and intelligent community and I look forward to getting more involved in the coming years.

My conference highlights:

Master class: A Character Calls with Franny Billingsley
            Take-aways: Character is tied to plot. A character’s root desire fuels her obsession a.k.a. the method she believes she must use to achieve her desire.

State of the State of Publishing: Justin Chanda
            Take-aways: Don't worry; kidlit is thriving. The industry is cyclical and moving away from YA.

Keynote: This Speech Could Save Your Life by Kim Baker
            Take-aways: Kim Baker is freaking awesome and I want to be her friend.

Actions Speak as Loud as Words: Claudia Gabel
            Take-aways: Revise in waves. Outline your plot (perhaps in 3 acts).

Creating the Fictional Dream: Franny Billingsley
            Take-aways: Sensory language is the way to enhance the inner and outer world of your character. Let her bounce her feelings off the tangible, sensory details of her environment.

Keynote: From Mind Worms to Lizard Brains by Franny Billingsley
            Take-aways: Fear is located in the ancient parts of our brain. A character may be stuck with irrational fear and it is the plot’s job to shake her out of her comfort zone and move her from fear to love.


I would also like to thank the following individuals for kind words that made me feel welcome this year: Kelly Jones, Claudia Gabel, Franny Billingsley, Jan  O’Neil, Tina Hoggat, Linda Johns, Clare Hodgson Meeker, Q Lindsey Barrett, and Vanessa Torres.