Me with my friend, Paula Yoo
I had the privilege of attending the SCBWI Los Angeles Writers Day 2013 on March 9-10 and the theme was Diversity.  It was a great time connecting with friends, learning about writing, and being inspired.
 
Here are a few highlights that resonated with me as a writer.

Steven Mooser greets the audience
 
 Author and SCBWI-LA Co-Regional Advisor, Lee Wind, began the weekend with a talk about our world of diversity and what that means for the characters you create. "What are the things that make your characters complex?"
Adriana Dominguez with Full Circle Literary Agency spoke about the market for diverse literature including challenges and opportunities. She spoke about the importance of children seeing themselves in literature. "Good literature seeks to bring as many readers as possible and is universal."
Author and 2012 Crystal Kite Winner Eugene Yelchin

After lunch the 2012 Crystal Kite Award winner, Eugene Yelchin, delivered a moving keynote about his thoughts on emotional writing for children. "The only way to make it easier for readers is to make it terribly hard for us, the writer. Our courage will help them feel less frightened and less alone."

Young Adult Author, Melinda Lo discussed cultural intersections and how she came to write what she does. "It took me a long time to believe in myself." Melinda added, "I wonder what it would have been like if I read about people like me [when I was growing up]."

Daniel Nayeri, Digital Editorial Director for the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children's Book Group spoke to us about what diversity isn't.  He spoke to us about censorship and encouraged society to have healthy disagreements, adding, "Whatever your opinion, there will always be a group that wants to silence [it]."

Me with the talented poet and author,
Nikki Grimes
Finally, one of my favorite poets and authors and Coretta Scott King Award Winner, Nikki Grimes, shared her keynote, The Poetry of Patience: How to Create a Classic.  Nikki told us about how powerful words are on the page and how our work as writers is sacred. Nikki closed telling each of us to bring that energizing power, presence and authority out into the world through our stories. "There are children who need it. All around."

A few of us returned on Sunday for the master class intensives offered by each of the guest speakers. I, along with my talented friends Paula Yoo and Claudia Harrington,   was honored to have the opportunity to attend Nikki's poetry intensive.  She shared an array of poetry styles. I have to say, it was quite mesmerizing to hear her read from a select few poems, some of which were from her books.

We brought our pre-intensive developed characters (pre-class homework) and worked independently on writing our own poems for both a picture book and a teen novel in verse.  It was illuminating to hear Nikki's writing process as she broke things down in a simple doable way. I walked away with what I think is a seed beginning of a novel in verse for tweens. 
 
Overall, the weekend left me emotionally spent and creatively encouraged to be more diverse in my writing.
 
On a similar note, I visited the library last week and checked out several books on poetry. One of my favorite poets is Langston Hughes, who I heard about from the awe-inspiring Ashley Bryan at the 2010 SCBWI Summer Conference when he delivered a stunning recital of Hughes' poem, My People.  I gave an example to my family of how different poetry is when it's read with real emotion by reading My People twice. First, quietly, almost monotoned with very little emotion. Then with gut wrenching emotion, volume, and passion (as closely to Ashley Bryan's delivery as I could muster up). It was pretty cool to see their reaction.  And for the first time, I think they got a glimpse of why I love poetry so much.