I had the pleasure of hearing the prolific and lovely Cynthia Leitich Smith speak at the 2010 New England SCBWI conference back on May 15. I knew of Cynthia's famous blog Cynsations, but I had never spent much time there. And since I've never been a fan of gothic fantasy, I hadn't read her work. (Okay, feel free to boo me or throw stuff. I'll wait.)
First of all, Cyn's speech was funny. And that's important for a Saturday morning conference presentation. She talked about her adorable husband, her life as a law student, and the epiphany that came when she decided to start writing for children (as I recall, it had something to do with ducks.) ;) And I loved her immediately.
Second, I love that she took a huge risk in changing careers. She basically jumped off the cliff into writing for children. And it took some time, but she didn't give up. She also isn't afraid to write in very different genres. She started writing stories about the life and culture of Native Americans - and she was good at it. Now she writes gothic fantasy - and she's good at that too! Wow. So write what you love - whatever you love - and do it well. And don't be afraid to shift gears.
Cyn shared a scary writer's tip. Basically, don't be afraid of the delete key. She writes a complete first draft and deletes the whole thing. Let me repeat that: THE WHOLE THING. Throws it up on the screen. And then deletes it completely. Starts over with a fresh page and writes the whole thing again. I don't think I could EVER EVER EVER do that -- but it's an interesting concept. Get the demons out...and then start for real.
I actually went back to my notes from her keynote when I started to write this post and do you know what I found? Nothing. Nada. Not a note. I wrote nothing. I was so absorbed in Cyn's comments, her power point presentation, and being awestruck -- I didn't write a darn thing down.
Now, Cynthia would undoubtedly have been smarter than that. She does, in fact, have one of the best writer/reader/parent websites around. She's got authors and illustrator interviews, readers notes, notes about awards, reviews, and writer resources. She also has an active blog component. And did I mention that her latest book ETERNAL debuted at #5 on The New York Times paperback bestseller list? Well it did.
And I really want to read it. And I have an autographed copy. But I can't because I'm saving it for something special. Something that might be announced on my blog this Friday. Something that you might want to check back about...