"Keep working on a plan. Make no little plans. Make the biggest you can think of, and spend the rest of your life carrying it out." Harry S. Truman

Friday, August 22, 2008

My belated notes on the SCBWI national conference in Los Angeles

It was fun, fun, fun, fun, fun !
What else?
Well, I got to see old friends, to meet new ones, including one of my critique partners Linda Lodding, an expat like me who lives in Holland. I heard moving, inspiring authors (Bruce Coville comes way up on the list, and Susan Patron, at the end, brought tears to my eyes ), funny editors (Oh, how I envy anyone working with Arthur Levine. Lin Oliver kept saying he's adorable, and she's right, that man is irresistible), and I danced the night away in a red sari.
This was my second time at the conference. I knew my way around, and some people, and so I didn't feel as overwhelmed as the first time. And I managed to sleep at night, so all was well.

Oh, by the way, this year's theme, embedded on the now traditional red band that we received, was : READING IS POWER. How is that for being current?

Here is a personal selection of pictures with a few sporadic and very disorganized notes (some of the pics are dark, but I was never close enough for my little flash.)

Lin Oliver (below) opened the festivities with her usual wit and a few statistics: there were 915 attendants from 44 US states, and 14 countries; 746 were women, 135 were men, and she pointed out that the numbers don't even out to make a total of 915 attendants because there were 96 people whose names did not permit to identify them as belonging to a gender or the other. That drew quite a few laughs, of course. Out of the 915, 402 were published authors. I can't remember whether this was preceded or followed by the traditional parade of the faculty, each person saying a chose word at the mike. 

Bruce Coville gave the first talk titled "The Art of the Heart. Writing True for the Child." He mentioned that kids need heroes, role models provided by children's books. He then listed the Seven Deadly Sins of Bruce Coville (Dullness, Repetition, Cliche "dead and lead on the page, but so easy," Sloth or the necessity to exceed expectations, Inattention, Perfectionism "the enemy of achievement," and Clumsiness.) Then came his personal catalogue of Virtues (Passion, Sensuousness, Wisdom, Guile or the art of distracting your reader to better surprise him or her, Humor, Courage, and Joy.)

He also gave a workshop on "Plotting : The Architecture of Story" during which he climbed and lied down on chairs and all. It was fun as well as instructive. Here he is:

Arthur Levine (above) set out to prove that "Picture Books Live", with a little story and a number of graphs that he obviously enjoyed showing to all these literary people. His talk was really funny and as far as I'm concerned, he gave the conference its "jingle" with his series of "Oh Nooooooo" cried in a high-pitched voice. My friends and I repeated that "Oh Nooooooo" every chance we got even after the conference had closed, to the obvious perplexity of friends and family who wondered what was so funny about crying "Oh Noooooo", and then laughing and giggling like a bunch of schoolgirls. I now do that in my mind from time to time, because it's just not as funny when your friends are no longer around to share the laugh, but I still like to remember the good time we had being so silly. Thank you, Arthur Levine, for maintaining that "there is still a large audience for Picture Books." A number of editors didn't share your point of view, but I like yours, so that's what I choose to remember.

The Pro Talk allowed published authors (still can't believe I belong to that distinguished club) to display and sell one book published during the year. I got there quite early, but as I approached the table and kind of hovered around for a few minutes, I panicked when I realized that people were not climbing over one another in order to get to my book, and... I ran away. It was sheer torture to be there. I came back much later, and the first person I saw when I entered the room was carrying my book. Boy, oh boy, I literally jumped at him and would have kissed him if I hadn't been loaded with notebooks, books, AND my Macbook (I had spent my hiding-away time using the free wireless internet connexion in the lobby to check emails). Still, I thanked him profusely.

Saturday night was Party time! This year, the theme was "Paint the Town Red, and we certainly did, as you can see below.

And here I am in my red sari, with my dear friend Rilla, acting silly - something we like to do immensely.
One of the beauties of going to a SCBWI conference is that you get to meet lots of like-minded people, read women and men obsessed with writing and/or illustrating books for children. I'm so glad I met Lea Lyon (below), who has illustrated two books for Tilbury House. Her work with watercolors is truly lovely. 

But good things always have an end, and SCBWI conference are not exception. Here is the last picture with my favorite conference pals: Rilla Jaggia seating next to me, who's been my dear friend ever since we met, oh, so serendipitously, at that same conference, two years ago, the very, very talented illustrator, Stephanie Roth Sisson, who was Picture Book page winner of the portfolio showcase (if you were at the luncheon and heard a lot of shouting when her name was mentioned, it was us, at the back of the ballroom) and Stephanie Jefferson, my new friend and super roommate.

These notes are anything but exhaustive. I didn't mention the extraordinary Leonard Marcus, who regaled us with quotes from Ursula Nordstrom (made me want to reread Dear Genius, have to get it out), Rachel Cohn, who talked about "Embracing (and Resisting the Urge to Throttle) Your Inner Teen, and reminded us how self-absorbed teenagers are. "Think how an adult would think or act and do the total opposite", she advised. She was funny, and very touching. Etc, etc...

It was all over too soon. Must now follow the number one rule for all writers : Butt In Chair. And write, write, write... Until next time.

1 comment:

rilla said...

hey, hey, hey...did you send me that last picture on the couch??? i don't remember it!

yeah, sillie rillie, that's me all right. it was sooo great to see you again, even though you spent half your life on the internet writing home!

and now that i won't be visiting my hometown too much any longer, you are just going to have to come to california more often! at least, every august. is it a date?