If there was one thing I didn’t like about the amazing SCBWI LA conference it was that there were too many fantastic sessions on at the same time and I could only attend one of them. So on the first afternoon I attended Katie Davis‘ session on Podcasting Your Path to Success.

Podcasting was something I hadn’t really considered much but one of the things that appeals to me about it is that it’s just audio so if you’re self conscious about staring into a video camera, this could be the medium for you.

Unfortunately, there was only an hour for this session so Katie had to cram a lot in, but she did provide a great handout.

I’m still trying to get my head around all this so I can’t report much about it as yet but I have come to some conclusions. Podcasts have many benefits:

  1. They offer international coverage
  2. They are free
  3. They are educational
  4. They are exciting
  5. There are many free resources available to help you including and Talkshoe

Katie recommended another great resource for people interested in podcasting at

That night there was a PAL Member cocktail party and book sale where I sold about half the books I’d brought with me, my reassurance that coming close to the luggage limits was worth it.

This year’s SCBWI LA conference was a complete sellout for the first time ever. Over 1300 people were booked in to attend and 45 of these were international delegates (including me). Australia/New Zealand was sending the largest contingent ever (11 people).

On the first night, an international get together was held. It was great to meet fellow writers and illustrators from different parts of the world and hear about how they do things in their home country. I also got to meet online writing buddy from the Netherlands, Mina Witteman

Also on the Friday night there was a PAL booksale where published SCBWI authors and illustrators could sell their books.

I loved looking at all the different books and seeing how the styles vary so much from place to place.


Next day it was up at 6.30 and I went for a walk up and down Avenue of the Stars to try and clear my head. I ran into some minor trouble because the traffic lights all along the other side of the road had their buttons removed so I had to walk a fair way before I could cross back to my hotel.

Donna Jo Napoli on the big screen

First keynote speaker of the day was Donna Jo Napoli who talked about censorship in books and How Writing About Terrible Things Makes Your Reader A Better Person.

Seeing as I write issues-based contemporary YA her talk really resonated with me. She talked about how the number of requests to ban a book had increased 7 times since 1999.

It made me wonder whether more people were complaining or whether it was the fact that more books are now being published where authors tackle serious issues.

Donna Jo Napoli’s  talk was very moving. She talked about how books can help children in hardship. She called them the ‘unprotected children’.

When a child reads about another unprotected child, it can be wonderful – you realise you’re not alone. Children can blame themselves and feel guilty, feel unworthy if you are alone.

Then you meet someone in a book and you become that person in a book. You are not alone; it’s not your fault. Children see a good character in a book that bad things can happen to.

Most children don’t have the power to change their world. Don’t have control over people who are hurting them.

They read about someone in that situation who still holds on to dignity and can be helpful. It helps you find a way to live decently inside your world, even if it’s just inside your head.

These books are of crucial important to unprotected child.

Donna also talked about how books that handle difficult subject matter can be useful in creating empathy in children who come from a privileged background.

Her Keynote speech was the first of so many inspirational pieces that day. David Small who spoke next also moved me to tears, but more about that tomorrow.

Happy Writing:)



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:)