The SCBWI-Carolinas annual conference was a couple of weekends ago. This was the first writerly conference I have ever attended. I was nervous, excited, nervous, nervous… and pretty nervous. I’ve been to a bunch of theater conferences in my life, but I seriously doubted there would be any improv workshops. Even if one of the workshop leaders teased us with some acting but then we ran out of time (you know who you are).

What I walked away with from the conference was a whole lot of confidence and excitement.

The theme for the conference was Diversity. There was a great diversity panel that had a wide arrange of representation (it lacked the disabled voice, but I was one of two folks that had a visible disability, maybe in the future). I’m always afraid of being labeled in some way as a writer. I typically have stories in my head about folks with disabilities or chronic illnesses. I fought the idea of being pigeon-holed as that type of writer. But, I can tell these stories from a different view point, so I should. That doesn’t mean I get to skip research. Just because I have one type of disability does not mean I understand anything about another type.

I went to a workshop about using your own diversity- it was lead by Carol Baldwin and Linda Phillips. In it they had us do several writing exercises which I really loved. I’ve been fighting with a manuscript that I know I can write, it’s just been hard to find a hold into it.

They had us write a metaphor for our character. I wrote: “She sees herself like a broken plate that’s been glued back together. She still works, but is obviously missing pieces.” And I just sat there and thought about that. I could feel it all sort of click in my brain. There she was.

Then we took our side characters and wrote a metaphor about our protagonist and how they were viewed by the side characters (am I making sense? Maybe?). And again, more clicking in my brain. Instead of feeling like I was stuck with where these people started, I felt like I knew them just a little bit more.

The panels and breakouts were great. I really learned a lot in the first pages- even if I was nervous the entire time that somehow my first page ended up in the stack. I have very unfounded fears (IE- lost floating in space) sometimes. But, the editors all talked about starting with the action, leaving questions that are unanswered for the readers to discover throughout the book, and being thoughtful.

Meeting other writers though. That was the best part of this conference. I ran into someone that knew my husband (she’s married to a high school classmate of his). A fellow soccer mom from Oldest soccer team. The mom of one of my cousins former students (and her daughter was also a childhood leukemia survivor). It was just spectacular to talk to so many of these writers. We talked about where we were at in our writing journey (which I’ll blog about soon). We talked about what we were working on. We chatted about life.

I left knowing that I’d return next year. And that lack of improv workshops was really okay.

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