The Top Ten Things I Learned at NESCBWI

10. An unreliable narrator — one who doesn’t tell the truth for any number of reasons — can add tension to a story.  In her workshop called "You Lying Scumbag"  (love that title!),  Jacqueline Davies read a bit from her new historical novel LOST and shared an Ian McEwan quote that stuck with me.  "Narrative tension is primarily about the withholding of information." 

9. Being sort of scared to write about race, for fear of messing up, is not a good reason to avoid it.  Mitali Perkins challenged her workshop participants to include more diversity in their casts of characters, and not in just superficial ways.

8.  Along those same lines…a quote from Floyd Cooper during the diversity panel… "A good multicultural book should start as a good book."

7. It is possible to remain calm, cool, collected, and friendly while coordinating a conference for hundreds of writers. Co-directors Anna Boll and Anindita Basu Sempere proved it over and over again.

6. My agent   is just as terrific in person as she is online.  We met for the first time Friday and got to spend lots of time talking and laughing over the weekend.

5. Agents in general — at least the good ones — are incredibly committed to good books.  I was impressed when an audience member at our panel discussion on agents & authors asked how long an agent will shop a manuscript before it’s dead in the water. The answer?  A really, really long time, if they believe in the manuscript.  Barry Goldblatt told the story of a book he sold after seven or eight YEARS of trying on and off, and Tracey Adams shared a similar experience.  Sometimes, depending on what the market is like, they’ll put a story on the back burner for a while, but that doesn’t always mean giving up on it.

4. The Nashua Crowne Plaza has very good chocolate chip muffins, but it’s impossible to eat them without making a mess.  There are chocolate smudges on half of my notebook pages.

3. Sometimes, when I am really busy and having lots of fun, I forget to take all the great pictures I intended to take.   But I have these…

Saturday night dinner at The Peddler’s Daughter in Nashua

What we had for dinner there, which brings me to….

2. I do like fish & chips!  I do, I like them, Sam-I-Am.  Actually, that would be Linda-I-Am, since it was   who told me I really ought to order them, since they are the specialty of this great Nashua pub and come all wrapped up in newspaper. The meal was fantastic, as was the company.

1. Children’s writers & illustrators and the editors and agents who work with them are some of the friendliest, funniest, smartest, most supportive and generous people on the planet.  I so loved meeting new writer-friends and spending time with people I usually talk with online, including my agent and online critique buddies.  Truth be told, I knew that before this weekend, but every time I attend an event like this, I’m reminded of it, so it’s still #1.

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