As always, the Boston Globe-Horn Book winners and honorees were a diverse bunch of books, and the organizers had to find a theme that fit them all. They did, and it was a theme dear to my heart: "Building Character." In my own writing, character is my strength, plot my weakness, so I usually try to focus on plot first. This works because plot is things going wrong, and when things go wrong, it builds character.
As I said to a writing friend last night, the speeches at these events often get me itching to go home and write. Somewhere between Jonathan Bean's speech about working his work around medical obstacles and Rainbow Rowell's about letting a novel come out of sensitive emotional places in herself, that itch began. When I got home, I started trying out a new opening for my middle-grade WIP, one that starts earlier in the timeline instead of having a flashback later. This effort at bringing forth the protagonist's voice in a strong, first-page kind of way at a new moment reinforced for me what a tough school year I've given him. When he gets to this summer in a few pages, it's going to be different from last summer, and working with him last night reminded me that he's also going to be a different person. His year has built character.
Vague as I'm being at this stage, I will say this: if anyone dares to insinuate that my artistic male protagonist is a wuss, I have a list ready of examples of his bravery. It's similar to Eleanor's bravery, and Park's bravery, and the bravery of lots of characters who deal with tough things but aren't defined by them. (Don't worry, Rainbow; Afterschool Special has become such a buzzword for the inverse that those of us who didn't grow up with them still got the reference.)
I highly recommend writing right after a good children's lit event, and this was one. I also recommend writing tired if you need to get past overthinking. Besides, it probably builds character.