Hey, dear friends, I'm back from the City of the Angels. Thank you to the Society (after years of not knowing what to do with the big name of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, I have decided to just call us the Society, like the film folks call themselves the Academy.) Thank you to Lynn and Steve the Grand Poobahs of the Society. If you want to read about the Society's summer conference in great depth try The Official SCBWI Conference Blog.
I have a mega-load to cover today so please forgive a longer post.
I'm always nervous about conferences. Will I know anybody? Will I fit in? Will I make any new friends? Most groups have been a bad experience for me. I know what it is like to be an outsider and unwelcome. The Society is such a wonderful thing. I saw Jesse Watson, Richard Watson and Kevan Atteberry on the flight down, and they set the whole tone for me. I was hanging with my folks, my people, my peeps. Soon, I was chatting with Laurie Thompson, Chris Eboch, Chris Cheng (the Society's member of the year and one of my co-authors of THE FOUR WINDS, our novel in four voices), Gail Carson Levine, Verla Kay, Sue Ford, Marion Holland, my roomie Melody DeLeon, blog friends: Michelle Griskey and Molly Hall(rising stars in the Society in my opinion). I made some new connections: Illustrators -- Shane Watson, Dan Santat and Joey Spiotto. Writers -- Jenn K and all the Houston and the Austin Society folks. I think I wore some of these folks out, hugging their necks so much. In the Society, I'm with a family I'm not born to, but belong to anyway. I can't help hugging them. It's a great gift to be a part of them and it makes me feel like one of the most blessed people ever.
One of the big draws to this conference for me was the chance to really hear some of the genius that is Tobin Anderson. I'm going to focus on his talks in this post because there is no way to cover this whole conference. I'm also to gush a bit about him some. I have dreamed of meeting M.T. Anderson for a long time. I've read a number of his books: FEED, The OCTAVIAN NOTHING series, WHALES ON STILTS, BURGER WUSS and THE GAME OF SUNKEN PLACES. I did go up and say hi. I'm sure I was just a face in the sea of faces, but it was the best moment on my part.
In one session, when Mr. Anderson brought up THE MONSTER AT THE END OF THIS BOOK written by Jon Stone and illustrated by Michael Smollen, two fat tears trickled down my cheeks. I'm a blue collar girl who depended on the public library, my school library, and the wonder of what I call affordable books (mass market) as my connection to great literature as child. THE MONSTER AT THE END OF THIS BOOK was a big favorite of mine and in a magical way made me feel like Grover was a personal buddy with all the same neurotic fears that I have. I was glad to hear such a world-renowed author recoginizing the genius of this book without an ounce of literary snobbery. A good book is a good book regardless of how it happens. Sometimes people seem to get too caught up in the shiny jacket, the weight of the paper, and the price point, and forget the content. I'm all about the content.
I offer two fiery ideas shared by Tobin in a session. First, ask yourself dangerous questions. Stop being so safe and contained in your stories. Shake it up. What are you avoiding in your work because it so freaking dangerous? And second, don't be afraid of your own weirdness. This hits home for me. I'm practically Piglet with all my worry. Yes, I have watched every episode of every Star Trek series and every episode of Dr. Who. I do not understand anyone's obsession with sports, any sport. I can always understand animals, people not so much. I am terrified of dentists, losing my glasses and keys, and being considered inconsequential as an artist. I'm afraid if anyone knows this stuff, that I will never get a shot at my dreams.
Thank you, Mr. Anderson for sharing a little bit of your Genius with the Society.
This is a great conference. Marion Dane Bauer and E. B.Lewis made me bawl. The cathartic release of pent up emotion is always a gift. I appreciated the honest stories of their works. Gail Carson Levine, Gennifer Choldenko, and Paul Fleischman all offered expansive writing advice. Michael Reisman made me think that Hollywood was not quite such a bad place. I cannot begin to express the full value of the Society's International Conferences. My advice, start saving your pennies and get to one.
I hope something here gives you a little boost. Seize the day! My son has asked me to include this: Carpe Noctem! Seize the night! (In case you are a night owl. :)!)
Here is a doodle from my conference notebook. It's the Grand Poobahs from several different children's publishing houses. They were all so happy. I was proud to be a part of such a kind and meaningful industry.
Next, I love a great conversation. Here I am with Chris Eboch and Gail Carson Levine having just such a conversation.
I'm shifting gears here at the end for big SHOUTOUTS! Want a good book to read? Two book trailers came out this week from two of my dearest writing friends.
First from Holly Cupala -- the TELL ME A SECRET trailer with a big nod to Paul Michael Gordon who created the trailer.
Next, from Conrad Wesselhoeft -- the ADIOS, NIRVANA trailer.
Last is my quote for the week:
If ever there is tomorrow when we're not together.. there is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we're apart.. I'll always be with you. Winnie the Pooh aka A.A. Milne.