Landing in LA


Travelling to LA for the 2011 SCBWI conference was my first experience in time travel. I left Melbourne at 10.45am on Thursday morning and arrived in LA at 8.00am Thursday morning, nearly three hours earlier.

After a seriously long time in customs where I was fingerprinted and thankfully passed the test, unlike a lady in her late sixties who was taken away for further investigation because her fingerprints were too faint.

As soon as I hopped on the shuttle bus from the airport, it became clear that two of the occupants were travelling to the conference and one of them seemed familiar to me. She turned out to be the lovely Blanche Baxter, a twitter buddy who had tweeted me just the day before saying, “Can’t wait to meet you at the conference.” It seemed that fate couldn’t wait either. Freaky that Blanche was the first person I should meet in a contingent of over 1300 people.

First day of the conference was slightly overwhelming. I knew Blanche and 3 other people out of 1300. The lobby was filled with hugging, squeeing writers and illustrators catching up with people they’d met at previous conferences or somewhere along the road on their creative journey.

A favourite place to hang out

I met a bunch of great writers from all over USA and dined with them at the Pink Taco where I learned that English can be a problem for Australians in America.

When I ordered my meal I was asked whether I would like it WET. I looked at the waiter blankly and asked, “Does that mean you spray it with water”

No, it means served with a spicy chocolate sauce that sounded weird but tasted really good.

I was served up the largest burrito I’d ever seen and seeing as I hadn’t eaten since hopping off the plane, I consumed more than I expected.

Over 30 hours after I left Australia, I made it to bed at 10.30 pm


Up at 6.30am and time to enjoy LA from my hotel balcony before focussing for a big day of sessions.


Bruce Coville opened the day with an inspiring talk about why what we do matters.

His big tips were:

  1. Take acting and storytelling lessons
  2. Take voice and singing lessons
  3. Take your art seriously – treat it as a business
  4. Read contracts – With Warranty Clause – make sure it doesn’t have ‘alleged’ in it.
  5. Learn to read your royalty statements
  6. Learn to negotiate
  7. Provide for your retirement
  8. Insure yourself
  9. Never throw anything away
  10. Take holidays from writing
  11. Scare yourself – take on assignments that frighten you
  12. Take risks
  13. Make your own rules
  14. Take your art seriously but take yourself lightly
  15. Accept compliments
  16. Don’t be afraid to show your art
  17. Embrace the unfinished chord – story with unfinished strand – don’t have to spell out all the answers for the reader. Give the reader something they can’t stop thinking about
  18. Don’t start with a message. Start with your own good heart
  19. Not knowing can be more powerful than knowing

Conference venue and where I stayed

His session was amazing but by now after nearly 20 hours without sleep thanks to the time zone differences, I was starting to hit the brick wall. So I skipped the next keynote and took some quiet time in my room where I met my wonderful roomie for the first time, Joyce Ragland, RA for Missouri and thoroughly nice person.

Prior to the conference we had only corresponded on Facebook and by email so it was great to be so at ease with each other right from the start.

I’m going to be blogging about the conference all this week. So feel free to come back here tomorrow and find out about podcasting from Katie Davis and about Donna Jo Napoli‘s amazing keynote on censorship and  How Writing About Terrible Things Makes Your Reader A Better Person.

I’d also love to hear your comments on the conference, LA, or the writing life in general.

Have to say I have come back feeling so inspired…but more about that later.

Happy writing:)


9 thoughts on “MY LA ADVENTURE – PART ONE

  1. Can’t wait to read more, Dee. Really enjoyed the SCBWI blogs and it sounds like the conference was a rich and fantastic experience. A must for all writers and illustrators I’m sure.

  2. Thanks, Chris,

    It was fantastic! I’m still working on the blog posts. Trying to get them sorted so I can get back to my writing:) I have lots to blog about:)

    Hope your writing is going well.


  3. I’m so enjoying being there vicariously through your posts, Dee!

    Bruce Colville’s tips certainly have me thinking. The one that is bouncing around my brain right now is 19. To a control-freak like me, not knowing where writing is concerned is very, very scary. I am NOT a “seat-of-the-pants” writer and strive for organization all the time.

    But there’s something about that word, “powerful”!

  4. Hi Book Chook,

    Glad you are enjoying the posts. I think that Bruce Coville actually meant the reader not knowing rather than the writer – so that lets you off the hook:)

    He was talking about the fact that you don’t have to tie up every loose end for the reader, you can let them work things out for themselves.

    Hope your writing is going well.


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