Reflections from My Pretend B&B Stay


I am pretending that I am retreating at a B&B as any smart writer would after another great SCBWI conference. She knows from experience she needs time to digest all those delicious morsels she filled and refilled her plate while at the all-you-can-eat-buffet of children’s literature.

In truth, this is being written between the becks and calls of a mom wearing the innumerable quantity of hats that moms wear. Nevertheless, I refuse to let these precious morsels fall to the floor to be devoured by dust bunnies.  Instead, I will


Discern what are the most valuable take-aways to apply to my writing, my thinking, my view of the world, before they are a jumble of partial, fragmented, and distorted memories packaged into a file in my spaghetti bowl brain.


  • From Julie Berry: If I write it in the right time order, but not the right dramatic order, my time order needs to change. Drama trumps all. (I have so many pearls from Julie!!!)
  • Eliza Swift: Three act revision – really is four parts. Split Act 2 into 2a and 2b. Everything in 2a leads to the midpoint. All of the things in 2B is in response to the midpoint. Midpoint is the game changer.
  • Julie Berry again 🙂 : Know my secondary characters’ off-screen lives. It will influence the nuances of their interactions with the MC.
  • Alexandria LaFaye: Learning new things on my manuscript is like learning to cook when hosting a dinner party. Practice new styles on writing prompts.

World View

  • Jack Cheng’s Big Question: How can we redefine masculinity to decrease violence against women and against themselves? And follow up – what’s our role as children’s writers?
  • Julie Berry and Stephen Fraser: Teach our novels to love deeper!
  • Too many from Stephen Fraser’s session on Do We Love the World Enough?: Toxic Negativity is prevalent in our culture, loving the world is the cure. Your words should sing with love for the world.


  • Though my verse novel isn’t broken into chapters, doing so has helped me find plot holes and redundancies, and has me thinking about using the chapter structure to  offer another level of play with the poems.
  • There’s a chapter I love things about, especially some poems I have written, but it doesn’t carry it’s weight dramatically. So good bye, sweet darlings!
  • Consider the roles I cast my characters in. Am I promoting the idea that there are many ways to be a girl and only one way to be a boy? (J. Cheng)
  • Holy moly! I have 30 characters in my story. Maybe I need to consolidate a few, even though I really don’t wanna.
  • Does my writing create the culture I want our world to imitate? (S. Fraser)
  • Are the things I’m writing a good fit for my emotional drive? (A. LaFaye)

Reading List

  • New Yorker Article: The Chapter: A History, by Nick Danes
  • Sweeping Up the Heart by Kevin Henkes
  • Fish in a Tree by Lynda Hunt
  • You Go First by Erin Entrada Kelly
  • The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson
  • Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes
  • Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster by Johnathon Auxier
  • The Poet’s Dog by Patricia MacLachlin
  • Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Pena
  • Home: A Collaboration of Thirty Authors and Illustrators
  • The Lucky Stone by Lucille Clifton
  • The Practice of Creative Writing – Heather Sellers
  • The Magic Words: Writing Great Books for Children and Young Adults by Cheryl Klein
  • The Anatomy of Story by John Truby

And a bunch o’picture books to boost the funny thanks to Linda Skeers

  • Scaredy Squirrel – Melanie Watt
  • Bob, not Bob – Audrey Vernick and Liz Garton Scanlon
  • Poor Doreen, A Fishy Tale – Sally Lloyd-Jones
  • Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs – Mo Willems
  • P is for Pteradactyl – Raj Haldar and Chris Carpenter
  • Lester’s Dreadful Sweaters
  • Interrupting Chicken and the Elephant of Surprise
  • First Grade Dropout
  • 17 Thinks I’m Not Allowed to Do Anymore – Jenny Offhill
  • Chloe and the Lion – Mac Barnett

Not to mention meeting more kindred spirits in this tribe!

The only problem with the conference is not being able to split in two, really four, to be able to sample all the delicious entrees.  Just wondering, how’s the development of Time Turners coming?

All of these food analogies remind me to answer the call of family life and get that dinner going. Cue hat switch. Where’s my chef’s hat??? Onward and forward!


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