Thanks to NESCBWI for Keeping It Real!

It's almost impossible to capture the feeling of NESCBWI. Try to imagine a giant roomful of the best writer friends you've ever had who you happen not to have met yet. Now add speakers whose books you admire and whose words you adore, who want nothing more than to give back to their community, who know what it's like to struggle and persevere. These are the expert's experts who will stand at the podium, share their passion and their laughter and then invite you to come find them in the hall to ask anything you want. They're here for you. We're all here for you.

Yes, you.

Okay, I don't want to make it sound like an entire experience of writerly kumbaya but yeah, it kinda is. (Although after a bunch of years, it feels more like Cheers, where everybody knows your name...I aspire to being Carla.)

If you don't know what this*sigh* Netflix.

I managed to miss the anniversary celebration last year due to not signing up before the entire thing sold out so I knew better this year. I convinced my friend Heather to come check it out and had the most fun reliving my first NESCBWI experience by seeing it through her eyes: people were really nice and everyone was genuinely in the spirit of Paying It Forward, from the speakers to the hotel staff to the volunteers--even the door prizes were giveaways with the instruction to keep one book and give the other one away to a total stranger at your table.

The stars of our inspiration: Frog & Toad

Generosity was the keyword for me this weekend. Sara Zarr's keynote speech was incredibly engaging, nostalgic and real, and her "Charm School" session is something that should be made into a pocket-sized book and carried around, dog-eared and highlighted, by every writer everywhere. Jo Knowles always inspires me, prompting good writing and laughs, and it never ceases to amaze me how such a smiley person's stories never fail to make me hurt (a good hurt, because I care so much about her characters)! Kate Messner shared her incredible TED Talk that asked the most important question "What If...?" to the world and provided avenues of consideration that I couldn't *wait* to run home and share with my daughter. ("How would you like to join other kids in saving the world?" Check out here and here!) Her intense session on revision was the most complete and inspirational that I'd ever seen.

Our hope for the future looks like this. Thanks to for the pic!

Linda Urban and Cynthia Lord shared their real, heartfelt experiences about writing that second book after their first exceeded all expectations. Mitali Perkins is always my favorite speaker, appropriately taking on the power of dialogue, transforming how I think about the spoken word when it's embodied as the written word. Lisa Papademetriou never fails to blow my mind; she nailed what it's like being stuck and getting unstuck and does so with straight-talk and wry humor. Sarah Darer Littman was honest and emotive. Cindy Faughnan was funny and generous. And everyone and their crit partner referenced Twyla Tharp's book, THE CREATIVE HABIT.

And then there was the incomparable Jane Yolen sharing another gift (a midlist authors grant!), a last good-bye, and then it was over.

They gave these gifts held out in both hands and nothing in the world is better than seeing eyes light up because the receivers know they've been given something genuinely precious.

Thank you, NESCBWI, for another phenomenal conference this year!

Official adorable banner was made by my incredibly talented friend (whom I met at NESCBWI 6 years ago), Jennifer Carson


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