Monday, May 17, 2010

Featured SCBWI Board Member: Carolyn Mackler

Did you know that SCBWI has a Board of Advisors made up of 25 diverse, talented and wise authors, illustrators, and editors? Every so often here on the SCBWI blog, I'll spotlight one of these terrific board members so you can get to know them and learn about why and how they are involved in SCBWI.

I'm starting today with one of the newest board members, award-wining novelist Carolyn Mackler. Carolyn just joined the SCBWI board a few weeks ago (along with fellow new board member--me!).

Carolyn's novels for teens include her latest, TANGLED; THE EARTH, MY BUTT, AND OTHER BIG ROUND THINGS (A Michael L. Printz Honor Book); GUYAHOLIC; VEGAN VIRGIN VALENTINE; and LOVE AND OTHER FOUR-LETTER WORDS. She's written for magazines like SEVENTEEN, GLAMOUR, CosmoGIRL!, GIRLS' LIFE and AMERICAN GIRL and has short stories in THIRTEEN, edited by James Howe, and SIXTEEN, edited by Megan McCafferty. She also served as a judge for the National Book Award for Young People's Literature in 2008.  And she'll deliver a keynote speech at the SCBWI Annual Summer Conference in L.A.

How long have you been involved in SCBWI and how have you been involved with SCBWI?

I attended my first SCBWI conference in the fall of 1998. I'd been living in New York City for a little over a year, and I was hard at work on yet another draft of my first novel. Judy Blume, whom I'd met earlier in the year, told me about SCBWI. So I joined and off I went to the big fall conference (which is now the big winter conference). It was at a public school on the upper west side of Manhattan. I attended workshops and took a million notes and, mostly, I was inspired by all the other writers I met. I knew I'd found my place! By the spring of 1999, I'd finished (yet another) draft of my first novel, LOVE AND OTHER FOUR-LETTER WORDS, found an agent, and sold it to Random House Children's Books.

In the summer of 2005, I gave my first keynote speech. It was at the national conference in Los Angeles, and Lin Oliver invited me to deliver the first Paula Danziger speech. This was such an honor! Paula was a mentor, and a friend, and early in my career she encouraged me to get as much speaking experience as possible. Over the past several years, I've given other keynotes at national SCBWI conferences, and I've spoken at regional conferences as well. I love being at SCBWI conferences, big or small. There's a great energy, and such wonderful, smart, warm people. I always feel inspired.

How has SCBWI helped you? Why would you recommend someone join and how can a member make the most of it?

Yes, yes, yes! It is one of the first things I recommend to aspiring writers. Read a lot, write a lot, don't get discouraged, and join SCBWI. Go to conferences, read the Bulletin, try for the awards and grants, get involved with your regional chapter, make contacts with editors, agents, and writers, be part of the SCBWI community. That is certainly how SCBWI helped me...and has continued to help me.

Tell us about your most recent novel TANGLED and what you're working on.

Thanks for asking about TANGLED! Yes, that's my most recent novel. It just came out a few months ago and--sigh--it makes me feel happy talking about it. TANGLED is the story of four teens, two boys and two girls, who meet on a vacation. I follow them over the course of the next four months, with each month told from a different teen's point of view, as their worlds intersect and change, and they ultimately have lasting impacts on each other's lives. So far the response to TANGLED has been wonderful. One of my readers even sent me a song she wrote that was inspired by it!

I'm currently working on a new novel for teens. It's a very exciting concept, and I'm having a blast with it. That's all I'll say for now. Oh, and I'm also working on my keynote speech for this summer's SCBWI conference in LA! I'm giving a speech on Sunday morning, August 1st. I've called it "For Richer or Poorer: Writing in Good Times and Bad." Some people say that writing a book is like giving birth to a child. I have two children and, for me at least, writing isn't nearly as painful. But sometimes I see writing as a marriage: no matter what, I'm in it for life. Though I have to say, my husband gives a better shoulder massage!

Find Carolyn Mackler online:


Natalie Aguirre said...

Thanks for the great post. I'm sure being on the SCBWI board is a lot of work & it's nice to spotlight those willing to keep our great organization working. I was so glad when I found SCBWI and discovered I wasn't alone in deciding in middle life that I love to write.

Amber Kallen-Monroe said...

Carolyn, you have been a great inspiration to me as a friend and as a writer. One of the first things you asked me when I told you I was writing a children's book was, "have you joined SCBWI?" Thanks! I have found a lot of good friends through my local SCBWI writer's group and can't wait to attend the next winter conference. Also - congratulations on becoming a board member!

Thanks for the great post. I made sure to bookmark this blog!