Top Ten from SCBWI-OK 2014

Top Ten from SCBWI-OK 2014

Natalie Bright


The Oklahoma chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators held a meeting in Oklahoma City. If you aspire to write stories for children, this group is a must.

SCBWI hosts a huge con in August in LA and a NYC con in February of every year. If you’re low on funds or time and can’t make the journey, consider attending one of the local workshops close to you. I usually make at least one of the Oklahoma meetings every year, which is just up the interstate from where I live. Time and family are the issues for me, but several nights away is doable. Sure you could go shopping or take a vacation, but how about making an investment in your writing career instead?

You’ll meet creative writers, editors, agents, come away with tons of inspiration, and find new friends who love stories just as much as you do. Now here’s the big secret that only conference goers know: most of the big publishing houses are closed to un-agented submissions but these editors make an exception for attendees when they speak. They’re furnished with a list of names and those people can submit a manuscript and bypass the slush pile. Did you get that? You have to go. It’s only for those who attend the meeting. What a fantastic opportunity!

Here’s my top ten from SCBWI Oklahoma 2014:

  1. Twist the cliché character and turn what we’ve already seen on it’s side. Tricia Lawrence, Erin Murphy Literary Agency.
  2. Have you considered the visual language of comics? They can say one thing and show the opposite. Colleen AF Venable, FirstSecond Books.
  3. Figure out your character’s pain point. Ask them questions, and then torture them. Tricia Lawrence, Erin Murphy Literary Agency.
  4. Use family to create characters. Family dynamics shows a character as who they really are. Andrew Harwell, Harper Collins.
  5. Study the work of craft. Not just reading. Take it apart and look at stories from a writer’s perspective. Melissa Manlove, Chronicle Children’s.
  6. Trend chasing books usually fall flat. Challenge yourself to look outside your day-to-day existence. Which truths would make great fiction? Kristen Miller-Vincent, D4E0 Literary Agency.
  7. Family relationships can bring more emotion to create empathy and sympathy for your character. Andrew Harwell, Harper Collins.
  8. Give your character an objective in each scene. Pit them against an obstacle. Liza Kaplan, Philomel Books.
  9. Use those familiar family conflicts that we’ve all experienced, but amp them by 1000 times for your book. Andrew Harwell, Harper Collins.
  10. Your brain is a machine made for generating ideas and ideas come to writers like lightening bolts. More importantly, it is the lightening bolt that hits somebody who has been habitually cranking the generator. Those are the best ones. Melissa Manlove, Chronicle.

Thanks to SCBWI Oklahoma for a great conference. I can hardly wait until September!


One thought on “Top Ten from SCBWI-OK 2014

  1. Thanks Natalie for sharing. I love to go to conferences and pick up the “pearls” to help me not only in my writing, but to share with others. For those of us that don’t get to go we can receive such insight by listening to those that do. Thanks again for sharing. You have such a gift!!

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