So the very first speaker at the SCBWI National Conference was Sherman Alexie, author of The Absolutely True Story of a Part Time Indian. And can I just say, WOW! This guy was an excellent speaker. He had absolutely pitch perfect timing and total comfort up there in front of a thousand people.
He also told the amazing story of his triumph over a whole host of childhood traumas and ill treatment, at the hands of both individuals and The System. Heartbreaking stuff, and an ultimately uplifting illustration of how our writing and stories grow out of the devastation of our childhoods.
He also said something that helped my entire YA manuscript snap into focus. He talked about kids being trapped by circumstance, whether rich or poor, and having choices made for them.
And I went, Yes! Choices being made for them! That's it! And things began to coalesce around that. Frankly, that one session was worth the price of admission.