After Donna Jo Napoli’s talk, it was onto the next keynote speaker David Small. Not much time in between sessions so it’s hardly surprising that we were all mentally exhausted (but happy) at the end of each day.

An illustration from David Small's amazing book, Stitches

David’s topic was The Voice of the Eye

He is an amazing author/illustrator who has come from a very sad place including being abused by  a mother who didn’t love him and having a cancerous tumour removed in his teens, then losing his ability to speak for several years, later on in his life.

He talked about his graphic novel, Stitches (an incredibly powerful book, where each picture says a lot more than a thousand words) and how his art was instrumental in his physical and emotional recovery.

Why he chose the graphic form

Drawing is like breathing. I don’t write with ease. The fewer words the more I could communicate the voicelessness.

A kid whose mother doesn’t love him or her, lives their whole life with a hole in their heart. Art helps enormously.

What he wants readers of this book to know?

 Stitches is a warning about wrong-headed thinking in families.

It’s about stepping out out of conga line of passing things down in families.

Stitches was originally published as a graphic novel for adults and then it was entered in National Award in YA category and is now available for teens.

According to David, he didn’t write the book with a readership in mind.

I wrote the book just for anyone who could understand it.


John Green was scheduled to be the next keynote speaker but had to withdraw due to illness.

Judy Bloom was the surprise speaker brought in to replace him, and she kept us all enthralled as she was interviewed by SCBWI founder, Lin Oliver. Unfortunately, I had to leave early as I was having a manuscript assessment done, but what I heard was inspiring.


Judy was asked how things had changed over the last 40 years since she started her publishing career.

Everything comes electronically now

 In 70s to 90s everything came by snail mail.

 Not so much available for kids then

 The intimacy is in the pencil.

People don’t change, way we live changes, maybe they think they know more earlier, but really, people don’t change.

 An inspirational view from my hotel roomTHE CREATIVE PROCESS FOR JUDY BLOOM

Judy told everyone, “You know what I’ve never really understood the creative process. I start with a basic idea that lives in my head for a long time – lives there and percolates.My ideas come when I am doing something physical – when I’m distracted from writing.”

(This seems to work for a lot of writers. The more you try and think of an idea, the harder it can be. Some of my best ideas come when I’m walking my dog)


  1. I start a book on the day something different happens.
  2. I know where it’s starting and I think I know where it’s going. I don’t know anything that’s going to happen along the way. I love the fear and the excitement of it.
  3. I learned how to write books from reading them.
  4. I scribble a lot of stuff in a notebook before I try to write the book – so I never face a blank screen or page.
  5. First draft is finding pieces to puzzle – second draft is putting pieces together.

Judy says her reason for writing has been about finding out what’s going to happen.

“If I get up every morning and want to spend time with these characters, that’s good.”

“Writing not only changed my life, it saved my life.”

A character I met in LA


The only thing Judy Blume likes to write is dialogue.

I like what they’re thinking versus what they are saying – subtext.

Dialogue comes to her naturally and spontaneously. She ‘hears’ the characters.

I raced out of Judy’s session to do my manuscript assessment with agent, Michael Bourret. It was definitely worth doing. I got so much valuable feedback on the first ten pages and learned a couple of things that I think can be applied to everything I write:

  1. Slow down the pacing
  2. Allow each scene to play itself out fully before moving on to the next one (related to pacing I guess).

Afterwards, I took a break from the workshops so I could absorb what Michael had told me and think about where to next for my manuscript.

The next session I attended was full of lots of good information about author promotion on the internet. But more about that tomorrow.

Happy Writing:)



  1. How cool! I love Judy Blume’s novels. It would’ve been awesome to hear her speak. Great advice here, and I really like David Small’s illustrations. I wish I could draw like that!

  2. Dee what an amazing time you’ve had- like a super rich information capsule that you’ll be digesting for quite awhile- I hope it pays off for you big time- and how did you manage to take all those copies of Leonardo with you???

  3. So far you and the wonderful speakers you have reported on have not failed to enthral and entrance me. Absorbing your notes and thoughts Dee makes me feel as though I’m sitting amidst the buzz of the conference with you. Fantastic. And thanks for sharing.

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