Monday, April 18, 2011

WLT YA A to Z conference

This weekend I attended the first ever WLT YA A to Z Conference in Austin, Texas. I guess it was also the first ever conference that focused only on YA, which is pretty awesome.

The conference was great.  There were panels Friday and Saturday, an opening cocktail reception on Friday, a keynote lunch with Tim Wynne-Jones on Saturday, and a closing party on Saturday night.  You could also sign up to pitch to agents, consult with editors or authors, and/or get your work critiqued by an editor or author.    I didn't partake in any of the consultations, I was just there to meet other writers and learn as much as I could.

Kay, I'd be totally lying if I didn't tell you that the absolute highlight of my conference was meeting my idol/agent-sister Carrie Ryan.  I'm pretty sure I did something stupid and embarrassed myself each time I talked to her, but I'm just proud of myself for not jumping up and down and screaming, "OMG, CARRIE RYAN!  I LOVE ZOMBIES!"

I also met many awesome Texas YA writers.  Haley, Sian, Donna, Zana, Jaimie, Sian, Tori, Yasmine, and Kayla, it was so great talking to you!

OK Junkies, I also took NOTES on all the lovely tidbits of KNOWLEDGE floating around the conference.

From a panel about the MARKET

  • YA historical is easier to sell to school and library market than commercially  
  • Agents and editors are still looking for men writing YA for boys (there was some good discussion about what that looks like)
  • Agent Regina Brooks said she and the editors she works with are looking for YA mysteries.
From a panel about writing Fantasy
  • Carrie Ryan explained her brilliant world-building believability points system.  Basically, since she asks her readers to suspend their disbelief and just accept that zombies exist, she has to work hard to make sure she's not asking them to suspend their disbelief on too much else.  So she works to make everything else as TRUE as possible, including the NY subway system.
  • Remember the kryptonite! All powerful characters are boring.
From a panel about writing for tweens
  • Greg Leitich Smith said (roughly), "Although I wish every child in America would read my book, I know that's not the case.  We're not writing for every child.  We're writing for the child who reads, and the child who reads is probably much smarter than the average adult."
And I wish you all could have been there for Tim Wynn-Jones's brilliant key-note address.  He discussed the writer's inner genius, or subconscious, or what he likes to call, Brenda.  He talked about how our minds put little gifts on the page for us to find later.  He said, when you're writing and come across a problem, the first place you should look is your own text.  We subconsciously leave a road map within our own stories.  Varian Johnson also touched on the idea of inner-genius in his workshop on metaphor. Metaphors and symbols shouldn't be forced, we should find things already in our own text and simply expand and refine them.

Well, after this weekend, I sure am inspired and motivated to write!  I've been floundering a little lately, but after some good advice this weekend, I have a clear idea of what I need to be working on.

If you get a chance to attend the WLT YA A to Z conference next year, I highly recommend it!  


  1. Sounds like an excellent conference with inspiring speakers! Thanks for sharing some of the experience :)

  2. Carrie Ryan was awesome. I got a chapter critique with her and she tore me apart, but also said some really encouraging things. She was so kind and helpful.

    I need to do a post like this....

  3. I agree with Jess. The conference sound insightful and inspiring.

    I love your blog! I just recently starting it! :) I would like to give you the Versatile Blogger Award for your wonderful blog.

    You can accept your honor here:

  4. Oops, sorry about the typoes. I meant I recently started following your blog. :)

  5. It was great meeting you, too! Also, I enjoyed reading your notes since I didn't get to attend the conference sessions. :)

  6. Jess- yes, it was awesome!

    Thanks so much, Melody!

    Jaimie- I hope your tough love from Carrie helps your ms. I'd love to read your take on the conference.

    Kayla- thanks! There's always next year...

  7. This conference sounds awesome! Thanks for sharing the highlights. :)