Barely recovered from the SCBWI Western Washington conference in Redmond this past weekend, I’ve been going over my notes and thinking back on the fabulous keynotes and workshop sessions. Above and beyond the revelatory approaches to craft I’m taking from my experience I’m riding the warmth of the event, which is always palpable but which this year, my fourth, seemed especially poignant.
Deborah Wiles opened the conference with the story of her life and her journey to publication, a talk entitled Where Stories Come From. She struck a note of authenticity at the beginning of the weekend, describing her childhood in segregated Mississippi, years as a young single mother, her desire to write, the agonizing process of bringing her first novel to publication and the books that followed, all leading to her recently published novel of the Cuban missile crisis, the first of a trilogy, and its innovative form. Her list of five basic human needs that are expressed in the best stories was the first takeaway from the conference. Here they are:
To love and be loved.
To be safe
To achieve/have purpose/matter.
Wiles’ overarching principles of writing from three places: the head (what you know), the heart (what you feel) and the gut (what you can imagine), coupled with these five emotional needs is a powerful starting place for creative work. In writing this I realize that all of these tenets are expressed in the ethic and the membership of the Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators, one of the most remarkably inclusive, warm and supportive professional organizations I can think of, described by founder Lin Oliver, visiting our conference for the 20th anniversary of the Western Washington chapter in the 40th year of the organization, as a tribe.
More from the tribe tomorrow, some notes on craft from the conference.