Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Random Notes from SCBWI's 40th Anniversary Summer Conference

—How does Judy Blume look so darn good at 73?

—Editors' panel predicts next big trend in YA: suspense, thriller, sci-fi, and horror. Makes sense to me!

—David Small bares his soul with humility and hope; must read his autobiographical graphic novel about his abusive childhood, Stitches.

—Gary Paulsen is everything his books might suggest and more, a mountain man and one of the funniest, most down-to-earth speakers I've ever heard. He doesn't trust the government or the publishing industry and has been stomped on by a bull moose. He'd rather be attacked by a bear than a moose, moose are so vicious. Yep. [See photo below.]

—Note to self: When Libba Bray gives a workshop, go. She would be funny reading the obituaries. And quirky doesn't even begin to cover it.

—Eating out at RockSugar with online critique group buddies is a superior activity. Marsha Skrypuch is a genuine woman warrior, kc dyer is a free spirit and loads of fun, while Linda Gerber knows absolutely everybody and is a genius at networking. Four storytellers = great conversation. Four friends = humor and heart.

—Annual braid check of Co-Regional Advisor for Australia and New Zealand reveals that Christopher Cheng's still got it, that two-foot long gray Rapunzel-esque icon. Nominate it for SCBWI mascot?

—Lin Oliver is funny even with laryngitis. Maybe funnier.

—The only thing more happy and rowdy at a poolside party in their jammies than authors would be illustrators. The conga line made up of people dressed up as a number of the 101 Dalmatians is a special treat. (They are allegedly from San Diego.)

—All awards luncheons, and indeed, all conference luncheons, are constructed around a chicken dish, and SCBWI is no exception. (But the dessert, a dark chocolate book-shaped box filled with whipped cream and topped with "40th," is pretty impressive.)

—Richard Peck is the most eloquent person on the planet. Bar none.

—Remember to attend on SCBWI's 50th. Seeing the historical photos of its early days in honor of their 40th is a hoot. Thanks to Lin and Steven for starting this thing up—simply because there wasn't one and they were beginning to write for children without a net.

—Smartest person in the room? That would be Donna Jo Napoli, author and linguistics professor who graduated from Harvard and did postdoc work at M.I.T. An earnest and thoughtful speaker, Napoli addresses why we should write about difficult topics for children—if they've suffered, it will comfort them; if they haven't, it will teach them empathy. [See photo below.]

—Editors used to accept submissions from conference attendees for a couple of months afterwards even if they normally weren't accepting unsolicited manuscripts. In fact, this is how I sold my first book. Now they tell you all about what they're looking for in their workshops and talks, but then, you can't actually submit to them without an agent. A little contradictory? (This also means that, more than ever before, agents are the gatekeepers of the children's publishing industry.)

—Biggest bummer? John Green had to have emergency surgery and couldn't come. He is missed—hope he's doing better!

—It is clear that although all of the guest editors and agents worry about money and the business end of things, they really do love-love-love children's books for their own sake, too.

—Bruce Coville and Laurie Halse Anderson are the introductory and concluding keynote speakers. Both of them speak with passion about the powerful role of children's book creators in young peoples' lives. Truly inspiring. (And it turns out all the best writers are from Syracuse, NY. Go figure.) [See photo, left. That's Laurie, not Bruce!]

—End result? For me, the conference always gets my creative juices flowing. I come home rarin' to write! For that matter, I remember why I write.


Anonymous said...

Hmm, my sister's been trying to convince me to move to Syracuse ... maybe I should start looking into it more seriously?

Love the idea of why we write difficult topics for children, and that dessert sounds heavenly!

Rachel Brooks said...

It sounds like you had a great time at SCBWI. Thanks for sharing all the info!

Also, I’m a new follower— wonderful blog! Stop by my blog and follow me too? :)

KateCoombs said...

E. Louise--Yes, mysterious, magical Syracuse! (Reminds me of M.T. Anderson's transformation of Delaware in his Pals in Peril books...)

Rachel--Thanks for stopping by! I checked out your site and added you to my blog roll. Great stuff!