Events · Ramblings

My Experience at the SCBWI Adventures in Nonfiction Conference

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Last year I learned a lot at the SCBWI Adventures in Nonfiction Conference, and I was excited when it was announced that there would be another nonfiction conference this year: Adventures in Nonfiction Part II.

Adventures in Nonfiction Part 2

The conference featured Senior Editor Carolyn Yoder and authors Jacqueline Briggs Martin and Miranda Paul. To prepare for the conference, I read multiple nonfiction books (and fiction books) written by Jacqueline Briggs Martin and Miranda Paul.

The night before the conference, I had the opportunity to go out to dinner with some other conference attendees/authors including Miranda Paul. It was a wonderful experience being able to speak with authors from Wisconsin, Illinios, Minnesota, and Iowa whom I had never met before.

Preconference Dinner

During the conference, I had the pleasure of introducing authors Miranda Paul and Jacqueline Briggs Martin before listening to their presentations.

I came home with a lot of information, multiple pages of notes in a notebook, and a few handouts. I was also really excited to purchase a signed copy of the book Adventures to School: Real Life Journeys of Students from Around the World for my daughters who don’t have quite the adventure getting to school as some of these kids since they are homeschooled!

Adventures to School

It is amazing how much research and work goes into creating books! Miranda and her husband Baptiste Paul worked on Adventures to School together. She mentioned they had an entire room devoted to the research of this book with pictures and notes taped to the walls for each of the countries listed. They had to talk to a lot of people, listen to interviews, find translations, do online research, and more to accurately portray the characters listed in the book.

Even though Adventures to School states “the scenarios in this book are composites and the narrators’ voices are fictionalized…”, it is classified as nonfiction by the Library of Congress. This is actually something Miranda Paul discussed at the conference – how books are classified as nonfiction or fiction.

If you look at the copyright page and it says “juvenile literature”, then it has a nonfiction classification. If it says “juvenile fiction”, then it has been classified as fiction. Interestingly, some libraries don’t follow this classification, and the same book may be located in different areas in different libraries.

At the end of the conference, we had a draw name raffle for attendees to win books written by authors who were present and gracious enough to offer their published books as prizes. There was also an illustrator who graciously gave an illustration of hers as a prize.

SCBWI Conference Book Prizes

The prize books included:

All of the conference attendees had their names placed in a box for a chance to win one of the autographed books. And I won…

I Am Farmer

I Am Farmer: Growing an Environmental Movement in Cameroon, which is another book Miranda Paul worked on with her husband, Baptiste Paul. The two of them actually travelled to Cameroon while doing research for this book!

During the conference, Miranda Paul showed us a great video about Farmer Tantoh that was filmed in Cameroon. You can also watch Meet Farmer Tantoh: Grassroots Environmentalist from Cameroon. Make sure to watch the video all the way to the end for a little chuckle. It’s amazing what Farmer Tantoh has been able to accomplish, and it is wonderful that Baptiste and Miranda Paul took the time to find the truth and write the story.

Here are some more things discussed at the conference by our speakers, who did an outstanding job:

  • what to include in a cover letter
  • bibliographies
  • examples of unique takes on famous subjects or topics
  • differences between primary, secondary, and tertiary sources
  • contacting experts in a field
  • page counts
  • making sure the world is relevant to the character in the story
  • how long it may take for manuscripts to become books
  • different types of nonfiction books
  • how books are classified by Library of Congress
  • format, structure, and style of nonfiction books
  • nonfiction books should not be boring
  • learning how to put our own manuscripts into categories
  • writing multiple versions of the same manuscript until it sounds right
  • self-editing tips
  • back matter
  • age of audience and their developmental milestones
  • hook and hold interest
  • comparable titles
  • who is responsible for cost of research (most of the time, it’s the author)
  • keeping records of sources
  • using all five senses in a book
  • creating a pitch for your manuscript
  • telling the story you are passionate about
  • places to find accurate information
  • how to research
  • having a through-line to your story
  • points of view in nonfiction
  • beginnings of nonfiction
  • biographies

I am so thankful I had the opportunity to go to this nonfiction conference. It gave me some ideas for a manuscript I am currently working on that is technically fiction but has a lot of educational components to it, so I am going to do some additional research, write a bibliography, and create some back matter for it.

What are you doing to learn more about a particular topic?

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