Monday, February 1, 2010

SCBWI NYC: Libba Bray on Writing As an Extreme Sport -- and CONTEST!

Libba Bray, author of the Gemma Doyle trilogy and Going Bovine, gave the first keynote speech on Saturday. Her hilarious and perfectly inspiring talk was exactly what we needed at 9am. Here’s a summary of her great points… which, unfortunately, only captures a small fraction of her awesome sense of humor!

She titled her speech “Writing As an Extreme Sport” because writing is one of the riskiest endeavors she can think of—everything about yourself is exposed. It’s “the most extremiest of extreme sports,” and you have to take risks.

Libba Bray’s Four Points to Achieving the Extremiest Writing Possible:
1. “Be the giraffe.”
- When she asked her 4-year-old son what he wanted to be when he grew up, he said, “A giraffe.” Talk about creative!
- Push for the unpredictable and the unexpected.
- Open a whole new conversation.
- Discover the unknown. (An example from current YA: How to Say Goodbye in Robot)
- Strive for small, unexpected moments.

2. Find the cracks that let in the light.
- Create fully human, less than perfect characters.
- Reach for the painful truths.
- Sit at the kitchen table with your characters
- Ask yourself “Is it true yet?”

3. Just say no to the hot pterodactyl boyfriend.
- Even if it’s the big-selling trend, resist the urge to write “the sexy, mysterious pterodactyl with a prehistoric chip on his shoulder.”
- Trying to please other people is madness.
- Keep listening to your pages to hear what they want to tell you.

4. “First you jump off the cliff, then you build the wings.” -- Ray Bradbury
- It’s counterintuitive, but it’s the only true way to go. You need the fear of falling, of failure. You need the scary, need the stakes.
- There is nothing without the leap of faith.
- She brought this back to her latest release (and Printz Award winner) Going Bovine, which was a drastic shift from her Gemma Doyle trilogy. She said, it “seemed like a willful act of career suicide.” But she needed to write that story, and it worked.

Lastly, Libba called all authors to begin “The Year of Writing Dangerously.” Are you in?

Squee Notes:
Libba remembered Frankie from the epic Books of Wonder signing this past fall. Frankie was in the front row taking copious notes for you, our dedicated readers, and during the signing portion, Libba told her that she desperately wanted to know what Frankie was writing so feverishly!

Anyway, we not only got this fabulous group picture with Libba, but we also purchased a copy of the hilarious and amazing Going Bovine, which we got signed for one lucky follower! And Libba signed it for you in a fun and unique way that can only be described as totally "Libba!"

Whee! I'm a door prize! Libba "Free" Bray

(Oh, and we're not just saying "hilarious and amazing" -- Sara's nearly finished and can't stop gushing, and Donna's almost halfway through and totally entertained. This book is an experience!)

PLEASE NOTE: Even if you don’t want to be entered in the contest, we’d love for you to comment on this post! Just write “no contest entry” in your comment so we don’t count you!

The Extremiest of Extreme Contests!

About GOING BOVINE: All 16-year-old Cameron wants is to get through high school—and life in general—with a minimum of effort. It’s not a lot to ask. But that’s before he’s given some bad news: he’s sick and he’s going to die. Which totally sucks. Hope arrives in the winged form of Dulcie, a loopy punk angel/possible hallucination with a bad sugar habit. She tells Cam there is a cure—if he’s willing to go in search of it. With the help of a death-obsessed, video-gaming dwarf and a yard gnome, Cam sets off on the mother of all road trips through a twisted America into the heart of what matters most.

In order to be eligible, you must…
1. Be or become a follower.
2. Comment below with your extremiest extreme moment of the past year. Or the extremiest goal you have – writing related or not!

Extra Entries!
For extra entries, please comment on any of our other SCBWI NYC posts, noting that it's counting towards the contest. (Maximum one extra entry per post.)

Important things:
- If you do not leave your email address in your comment, you must check back on the blog when we announce the winner. The winner must claim his/her prize within 72 hours.
- This contest is open to U.S. and Canada residents only.
- Contest closes on Saturday, February 13th at 11:59pm EST.

Stay tuned for more SCBWI NYC awesomeness!

Previous SCBWI NYC posts:
Night one networking.
Our first vlog!


  1. Libba sounds like a total hoot! Have you seen the promo video she did for Going Bovine? The lady is a riot. :)

  2. I can't believe I haven't read this book yet. It's definitely time, I think.

    What a fab experience for you guys in NYC! And such terrific advice. Thank you for bringing it back to us.

    And, OMG, are you kidding? Of course I want to win this book!!

  3. I've only read Going Bovine by Libba Bray and I love it. The advice she gives is wonderful and she seems like a great person.

    I would have to say that my post extreme goal of the year is to finish 2 semesters of school in only 1. I wanted to double major in music and literature, but I added the second major too late and the school refused to let me stay to finish it. So I'm taking 5 literature classes, all with heavy reading and writing. I hope I survive at the end. :)

    And I'm a follower.

  4. It sounds like you guys had a blast. Awesome contest too! I'm in like a giraffe. I'm a follower (love the blog BTW) and my email is

    Extremiest moment? That's easy.

    I had been working on a passage of a short story for about a half hour--really struggling in fact--when a breakthrough finally came. I knew what needed to happen next! The words were in my head, I was about to get them down, when the duck and cover alarm started blaring.

    I live in Baghdad. When that alarm goes off that means you run as quick as your little legs can carry you to a bunker and hope and pray the incoming rockets don't land too close.

    So I grab a scrap of paper and pen as I'm running outside. We all pile in the bunker--about ten of us--and I'm scribbling like heck on the paper. I don't want to lose my idea. The guy next to me says: "What the hell you doin'?" I say: I'm trying to figure out whether he gets the girl or not!" :D

    Anyway, madness like that will soon be over. Thanks for the great post--and contest!

  5. I just finished this book and loved it!

    Hmm... extremiest moment of the last year?

    I entered and won NaNoWriMo. Considering my last MS took me two years to write, this was no small feat. Also, I had to write papers for college finals at the same time! Very extreme for me.

  6. no contest entry:

    I LOVE Libba Bray. I read the Gemma Doyle trilogy because the cover drew me in and I interested me. It kick started my love of historical fiction. While I was nervous to read Going Bovine, it was definitely one of my favorites of 2009. An amazing, life changing book!

  7. Oh my word, I want this book soooo bad, I LOVE Libba Bray! :)

    Extremist goal: Get perfect "6" grade on AP US History Test- which if you haven taken that class you know that is a task meant for champions, of history.
    Also, to read 150+ books this year- I need to get going on that!


  8. Ee! I want to meet Libba Bray so badly and be her friend. Plus she has my favorite author name.

    My most extremiest extreme moment in the past year was writing poetry. OK, that might not seem THAT extreme, but I sooooo do NOT write poetry. Anyway, I was at my conference and Sherri Reynolds challenged us to try new forms, so I tried poetry. I really love it, and even though I know squat about poetry I might try to get it published. It tells a story that's sad and beautiful and I'm just really proud of it.

  9. I loved Going Bovine and would really like to have a signed copy to add to my collection of signed books (hint hint)! I really enjoyed some of Libba's points, particularly "Trying to please other people is madness" - so true!

  10. She sounds like so much fun! I could have read more and more about the experience! I love all the gushing!!! Yay for a signed copy of Going Bovine! I would love to win it :)

  11. Don't enter me, ladies. I heard that if I read a YA book I might lose my writing mojo and start penning vampire stories and squeeing and stuff. I mean, that might not actually be true, but why take the chance?

    Glad you had fun in NYC, though. :)

    P.S. Jon Paul automatically wins with the extremiest extreme writing moment. That's better than the time I scribbled some flash fiction on the seat cushion of a burning plane just before I saved it from crashing into the Himalayas...

  12. Pterodactyl boyfriend :) Haha, Libba is awesome!

    My extremiest goal of this year:
    Move out and go to college! Eeek!


  13. Fantastic advice. I want to tape it to a mirror somewhere, but my husband would complain of the clutter...Does that sound harsh? I don't mean it too! Thanks for the great post!

    No contest--thank you, though!


  14. I love your contests! So my extreme moment is that I was able to complete NaNoWriMo this past year despite the fact that I could only write from 5:30 am until 7am each morning. It was crazy but definitely worth it!

  15. I'm a follower!!

    This book sounds interesting. I've seen it around but never really bothered to look at it. My most extremest moment...would probably be getting a 98/100 on my Spanish final. I seriously thought I was going to fail because it was an oral given test and I WAS SO SCARED. Not even joking.


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  17. My extremiest x-treme goal this year is to write a Picture Book. It sounds simple, but don't be deceived. After 5 years of thinking, wishing, and daydreaming about it, I finally started putting pen to paper this week. Whoa. Good advice, Libba "free" Bray. I would love to have a signed copy of your book!

  18. I read and really enjoyed the Gemma Doyle books, but I love it when an author switches up the type of story they write. Shows their "chops" so to speak!

    hmm my most extreme moment? A little more than a yr ago but not much, I left my lovely little apartment with it's lovely privacy and all my lovely items furnishing it, along with a steady, decent paying (although boring) job, to come back home to my folk's place to share a room for half the year, see all privacy go out the window and my stuff to go into storage and worry about how to pay bills, to put myself back into school to get certified to teach. Extra extreme is the part where schooling is done but I still have no job. I'm sure it will pay off in the end but now I'm all about extreme creative recipes and ideas for free fun!

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  20. My "extremiest" goal? I want to be an actress. Actually, I already am. I'm just not getting paid for it yet. I'm going to college right now, majoring in theater, and I've decided that I want to do everything: stage, screen, directing, everything. Because all I want to do with my life is be a part of a production. To act, to build, to direct, in one way or another. It doesn't matter if I become a super-rich movie star or if I wind up a waitress in New York, never getting paid once for a gig. Because it's what I love, and I'd rather do what I love and not get paid at all than do something I don't for money. I'd say that's pretty extreme.

    Congrats on the Printz!!

  21. What a great entry! Going to follow your blog now (and read your SCBWI New York entries -- thank you for mentioning them!).

    My extremiest extreme this year so far was to make a $600 investment in my writing after completing the first draft of my third novel recently -- at a time when our family is dealing with the loss of an income, and when there aren't really funds to spare. It was a total leap of faith that my husband supported, and I'm hoping, hoping, it will result in Amazing Things.

    Thanks for the contest!

  22. Please enter me:)
    Extreme goal? To save money - for my daughter's college for retirement for everything!


  23. It sounds like you girls had a fabulous time! Haven't read Going Bovine yet, but I've heard such great things...and I love hearing about Libba because she sounds amazing.

  24. Libba is completely awesome.

    My extreme goal of this year is to finish my novel. I've been working on planning it and even have a couple chapters done, but nowhere near the level I want them to be NOR am I anywhere near the end. In fact I still don't know HOW it's going to end, but I know the gist of it. I'm working on it whenever I can, but I have no idea if it'll ever be finished; but all I can do is try!!
    e-mail- savannahcullen(at)

  25. Here via @libbabray and I'm so glad I found this blog. I've already read a few of the posts and I loved them. =]

    Libba Bray is absolutely hilarious. I've been a devoted follower of her blog ever since I read A Great and Terrible Beauty, and she never fails to make me laugh. I haven't read Going Bovine yet but I definitely plan to soon. I've heard so many good things about it!

    I would have to say that my extremiest goal is to one day own my own bookstore.

  26. I've been looking for a copy of this book for a while now. Libba is crazy, as all authors should be.

    Extreme... well I would probably say NaNoWriMo last November where I was not only sick for a while, but I had several papers and midterms to write as well as 5 quarter courses, 3 of which were reading (and writing) intensive. I ended up writing for less than half the month, but I made the 50k word goal. (A certain character is still bugging me to work my zero draft into a first and it is happening slowly.)


    I probably check this address most frequently: chris374358[at]gmail[dot]com

  27. Oh wow. I would kill to get my hands on that signed copy of Going Bovine. Why have I not read this book yet?!

    My most extreme recent moment was probably moving from California to Colorado. I had no idea what awaited me, but I took the leap (fully aware that I could full and break a leg or two) and miraculously flew. :)

  28. I'm still laughing over Libba's opening keynote address! I came home from the conference and told all of my friends that I must, at all costs, Just Say No to the Hot Pterodactyl Boyfriend (and then had to explain at length when they all decided that I lost my marbles in New York)!

    I think that my most extremiest moment of the past year had to be when I made the 4-hour round trip drive to take Jason Wright (author of The Wednesday Letters, The Christmas Jars and Recovering Charles) to lunch so that I could beg him for help in getting my book published. Then, I made my whole family drive back with me (another 4-hour round trip, on a school night) for his book signing a week later!

    This was a hugely scary thing for me, as I didn't know Jason personally. I had only met him once for less than 2 minutes when he was a speaker at an event I went to more than a year ago. I'm so grateful that I gathered the courage to write to him and beg for a chance to meet and talk, though, because he gave me some great (though hard to take) criticism that led to a rewrite, which made my manuscript much better! (Now, I just have to start submitting to agents and publishers. That's my extremiest goal for this month!)

    Oh! And my email address is: i.am_supermom(at)


    My extreme writing goal for this year is to begin the novel I have wanted to write since I was kid. I've always known it was in there. It's just getting it out that seems to be the problem LOL... I suppose it's mostly fear, because when people read your writing they see into a part of you. It makes you vulnerable in a sense and everyone knows in the publishing business you have to have tough skin... Wish me luck!

    Please enter me in the giveaway. I think this book sounds wonderful.

  30. SO JEALOUS. I wish SO MUCH I could have gone to that conference!!!

    And please enter me!
    bethrevis (at)

    (PS: I should totally win because my word confirmation is: hellya. As in hellya I won!)

  31. And that's why she's Libba Bray. Brilliant advice!

  32. I think I'm one of those people who need to tone down the extreme lol

    Last year I

    - drove 12 hours from L.A. in a day and a half with my get pizza in Phoenix

    - moved across country to journalism school in NYC...then dropped out 2 months later and moved back

    - put a hold on a dog at the shelter, changed my mind and went home, then five minutes before adoptions closed, raced back to the shelter and got him (Terry is a fox terrier/doxie blend - photos on my blog)

  33. First let me say that the ending of Going Bovine was amazing! loved it! My most extreme experience this past year was running the DisneyWorld Marathon in freezing weather.. and this is not a lie;as we ran through Magic Kingdom and Tomorrowland I thought to myself " hey! I'm running into TomorrowLand just like Cameron!" and I saw a white door next to the trolly track on the second floor and thought "That's where Dr. X was!" It was a really neat moment actually!
    (^ if anybody uses that to spam me i'll kill you! ;)^ )

  34. My goal is.... to become a best-selling author!

    /i ♥ going bovine!

  35. I would LOVE to win this!!
    Thankyou!! :D:D:D
    My extremiest goal is for this, to read all 88 library book and be done by monday. :D


  36. 1. I'm a follower. :)
    2. ah....I'm a mom, so I don't get too extreme....:) My goal would be to always be taking some kind of class (knitting, sewing, english literature, etc.) for fun while I'm pregnant with my second.

  37. 1. I'm a follower.
    2. I'm planning to finish losing my last 100 pounds this year. I lost 70 pounds last year and am wanting to finish going the rest of the way!

  38. I haven't had the chance to read this yet, I heard it was crazy good.

    +1-The extremiest moment I had was when I went parasailing. It wouldn't be extreme except I'm afraid of heights
    +1-I follow

    findjessyhere at gmail dot com

  39. My extremist extreme goal is to get my bachelors degree now that I have my associates! Two more years of college here I come!!

    Please enter me for, I have heard many wonderful things about it and would love the chance to win a copy!!

    I follow!

    Thanks so much!


  40. Old follower.... Extreme goal? To keep up my blog with school! Trust me, it's harder than I thought!


  41. Old follower :)
    and extremiest goal? Do homework and get off the compunter!! (it's not gonna happen, which makes it so extreme!!)

    Im still waiting for my library to get this book, it looks so good!

    PS-I love the pterodactyl boyfriend part, I totally agreeee

  42. Libba is so cool. :)

    My extremiest extreme goal: blog more, get A's and B's in college, and do more community service because it's awesome.

  43. I'm a follower. My extremiest moment of the past year was when I got to meet Leila Christenbury, a well known teacher and writer. I sat next to her at a brunch. Cheesy moment, I know!

  44. I've just become a follower; I'd like to be entered into the contest please. :) My e-mail is and my most extreme goal of 2010 is to go to Ireland...but realistically it's looking like more of a 2011 or 2012 goal. Darn reality!

  45. Love the contest! Been meaning to read this book for a while!

    My extremiest extreme moment of the past year would have to have been the epic sword fight I had with a few of my friends. We were at a thrift store when we saw these great toy swords for sale, so we bought four and went to the park to have a sword fight! Definitely one of the highlights of my year!

  46. I'm a follower! :)

    And my extremiest goal would have to be to ace my English exam, which I'm taking instead of next year. Ah!


  47. libba is an amazing author, i wish i was there, you guys looked like you had a blast! ive been wanting to read this book for so long, becuase i truly loved the gemma doyle trilogy. it blew my mind, it was a perfect escape series, to get lost in gemma's world. I would love to be entered to win! thanks for the giveaway


  48. I want to enter the contest!

    Most extreme moment of the past year: Climbing a mountain in Barcelona!


  49. Im a follower

    my extreme moment - my son's throat surgery

  50. The most extreme thing I've done this year was go skiing in Boone for the first time ever! I was so scared, but it was an amazing thrill. :)


  51. I'm a follower and would love to be entered in this contest! My most extreme moment of the past year was when I decided that I would quit my job in 2010 and go back to become a high school English teacher!

    Thanks for offering this,

  52. Oh, wow. You're all so lucky to get to meet awesome writers!

    (I'm a follower :D)

    My extreme moment in the past year was giving up on my NaNo novel two weeks from the end... falling 20,000+ words behind... my solution was writing three chapters as my ending smack dab in the middle of an unrelated chapter, and at the "end", taking the story in three different directions. Oh, word wars...
    [That'll be a huge mess when I get to editing! Eek!]

    Though I consider coming to France to study abroad and living with a family I've never met before to be pretty extreme, but that's *technically* this year!

  53. Please ignore my comment two posts above. I realized that I was following/posting on the wrong blogger account. Please count this one instead. Thanks! :)
    I'm a follower and would love to be entered in this contest! My most extreme moment of the past year was when I decided that I would quit my job in 2010 and go back to become a high school English teacher!

    Thanks for offering this,

  54. I would totally love to win this book!

    As for my extremiest goals for 2010? I have a couple -
    Finish my eighth, ninth and tenth novels and even more extreme/terrifying...
    be accepted into Brown University! It's a longshot but I'm trying my darn hardest. After I apply it's not really up to me anymore, so we'll see...

  55. A cow holding a gnome....I'm in heaven!

  56. Oh my gosh. That really is the best "door prize" EVARR. I would love to win!

    My extremiest goal is writing-related.... and I'm superstitious about sharing my writing goals so that's all we'll say for now! :)

    stephxsu at gmail dot com

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