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11-18 Magdalena Scott – Serendipity Surprises

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

#KwameRules

Hi everyone! I am YA author B A Binns , writer of contemporary and realistic fiction for teens. My tagline tells you what I am about - Stories of Real Boys Growing Into Real Men - and the people who love them. 

This month I'm dishing out inspiration.

On Saturday and Sunday I was privileged to be at the SCBWI winter conference.Yes, it was February in New York and the weather was atrocious. But inside the hotel things were warm, people mingled, and Kwame Alexander gave a speech entitled Dancing Naked On The Floor - How To Say Yes To The Writerly Life.

In case you don't know, Kwame Alexander just won the Newberry Medal for his novel in verse, The Crossover. And I do mean just won, the award was announced the Monday before his Sunday speech.
The SCBWI committee invited him to speak at this conference long ago, and therefore we were the privileged group who saw him  make his first speech post award. He mounted the podium in a new, berry-colored suit. His Newberry suit, he proudly announced.

He kept the audience captivated with details of his agonizing wait for the 6 am call the committee made to the winner, unable to sleep, barely able to think. He turned on TV shows he couldn't remember, eventually giving up and going to bed at seven, certain he'd lost. Just as his wife was comforting him on the loss, the phone rang.

He'd forgotten all about the time zone difference!

When he spoke he was simply awesome, inspiring, riveting...he is a poet after all. He started out writing love poems. He recited a few he used to woo his wife and that generated the kind of feelings 50 Shades only wishes it could. (She is one lucky woman.)


I could have listened to Kwame all night even though the words were meant for someone else. For those of us who write romance, consider creating a silver-tongued poetic hero. I'll be standing in line for the release of that book. Yes, I like sports figures, six pack abs and bottomless wallets. But give us a truly heartfelt poem or ballad... But for me, move over, Mr. Grey. I want a man with a Golden Voice who can woo me with the beauty of his words.


Kwame shared his philosophy of always saying "YES" to opportunity.
  • YES when offered a job reading poetry to kids in an alternative school (talk about the blackboard jungle)
  • YES to reciting poetry to a church congregation. The minister didn't know Kwame specialized in love poems. he was appalled, the church women demanded more.
  • Most of all, he said YES when asked to write for children.
The Crossover is one of many results of that decision. Kwame spoke eloquently about the years of effort that went into that book.  He listened when editors told him it needed something more, even when they could not tell him exactly what that elusive something was. He even hired a writing coach to work with him for almost a year on the book stating that he didn't pay her nearly enough for all the work she did with him. In the end he knew he had something awesome and was preparing to self-publish if necessary. Then, a publisher said YES.

Audience members spent the time tweeting his pearls of wisdom, sending the hashtag #KWAMERULES viral.  His philosophy about saying YES, and the need for a community of people around you who will tell you the truth, even (maybe especially) when you don't want to hear it.

There were other speakers during the weekend. We had Q/A sessions with panels of Publishers, and
then Agents. I attended a late-night get-together of LGBTQ writers, illustrators and interested parties. We were treated to a talk by Kami Garcia, co-author of Beautiful Creatures who spoke on The Truth About Writing and reminded us that sometimes you have to write for yourself, not for what you think the market wants.  If she had been worried about the market Beautiful Creatures would never have happened. Instead, she took a dare from teenagers and created a book left her with emails from kids who told her the characters reminded them they weren't the only people who ever felt alone

 Even though I'm not a picture book writer or illustrator, I enjoyed the presentation by Herve Tullet on his joy at writing for young children. We ended the conference with a surprise cheer-up talk by Henry Winkler, actor, director and children's book author reminding us why we write and hope to inspire readers.


My favorite quote from the weekend conference: This writing life is not just about sitting in your room with your pencil & paper. It's about going out in the world. #kwamerules

I would love to hear any comments or words of wisdom that have helped you in any endeavor.  Leave  a comment, share with the world.

4 comments:

Judith Ashley said...

I can only imagine how inspiring this conference and Kwame was because your post has inspired me.

I've three things that inspire and remind me why I sit down to my computer.

"If it isn't fun (broad definition of that word), stop." In other words, writing, telling the story needs to have at the core of the process fun.

"This is a marathon not a sprint" helps me keep on keeping on when Life interrupts, my deadlines get skewed, etc.

"All things happen in right time" added to both of the above also helps me keep things in perspective.

I love the idea of saying "Yes" because we never know what the rewards will be moving forward, trying something new, being someplace yet again.

B. A. Binns said...

I especially loved when he described his first day reading poems to the kids in the detention center. The Dancing Naked On The Floor part came from that, a line he used to get the kids (and the newspaper reading teacher) to pay attention. It totally worked. He is my new motivational speaker - don't let anyone else's no interfere with your YES

Sarah Raplee said...

I agree with you about poet heroes! Thank you for inspiring me with your post.

Some lines that inspire me:
"Success is 90% perseverence, 5% talent, and 5% luck."

"Writing is more fun than most of the alternatives."

It sounds like Kwame lives dangerously, taking risks with confidence things will work out okay. I like that.

Diana McCollum said...

Enjoyed your post!