August 8th, 2006

The Top 10 Best Things I Heard at the SCBWI 35th Annual Summer Conference

Of course a writer attends a writers conference in the hope of learning something about the craft, of being inspired to continue plugging away. (And of winning a joke-writing contest, or even just a door prize. Alas, some hopes are doomed to be deflated.)


But I was lucky (despite returning home with a distinct lack of door prizes). I picked up some delightful quotes at a recent children's writers' conference ( Here I generously share my newfound treasures:


10. Everybody has a color.

(This is a direct quote from the editor-in-chief of a publishing company. Yes, it’s taken totally out of context, and yes, she was actually discussing the important issue of multicultural books by “writers of color,” which is what prompted this remark. Though perhaps less impactful out of context, it is certainly funnier.)


9. “How can you fight the champ if you can’t even catch a chicken?”

(From the big laugh this got, I learned that a life is really incomplete without at least one cursory viewing of “Rocky.” As soon as I post this, I’m off to Hollywood Video.)


8. Think of the logical thing the character would do, and then don’t do that.

(And why should you stop with a fictional character? I’m going to adopt this methodology this very week—not cooking when I’m hungry, not filling up when my little Corolla is low on gas, and absolutely not working during work hours. I feel better already.)


7. Should I kill the mule?

(I have no idea what the author was talking about when she tossed out this gem, but it still cracks me up.)


6. They can’t read your mind in New York City.

(Hmmm… Anyone trying to read my mind would have to be conversant in the pig-Latin derivative of Esperanto. So to apply to me, this comment requires a geographical area bigger than Manhattan. But maybe it works for you as it stands.)


5. "A character without friends is terrifying."
(Thanks to David Beall ( for lending me this quote from YA novelist Caroline Cooney to round up my heretofore very silly Top 9 list and make it a socially acceptable Top 10. Plus it brings back memories of my ninth-grade German I class: the boy in the trench coat who carried a briefcase that he never opened, the boy whose water polo teammates filled his Speedo with minty toothpaste [or was it Ben Gay?], the boy who liked to tell me he was growing his fingernails so long because he planned to trim and sell them to the Movieland Wax Museum.... Good times!)

4. Change that’s not death can change again—and be fabulous.

(Wow, huh? I’m not at all convinced this editor was actually focusing her talk on the publishing world. It had waaaaaaaaay too much real-world applicability.)


3. Don’t be a snob.

(More pointers from the editor with the real-world focus. I can’t express how much I hope my manuscript ends up in her capable, no-nonsense hands one day. Only I’m bound to accidentally call her “Mom” in the course of our entertaining conversations. I hope she'll be as understanding as my elementary school teachers were in the same situation.)


2. Writing is like your fingerprint. It’s just you.

(How terrifying is that? Maybe more for the readers than for the writers!)


Okay, those last couple were kinda earnest and, you know, actually good. So let’s get back to the really important (read: goofy) stuff.


The number one best quote I heard at the SCBWI’s fantabulous 35th Annual Summer Conference is:


1. According to Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus, men and women are physiologically and emotionally different.

(News to me. And to you too, I'm sure.)