Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Portmortem: SCBWI 38th Annual Conference

Perhaps you have to be a bonafide introvert to look at this photo of a morgue locker and think it looks-- well, cozy.  Blissfully quiet. And, if you had just the right quilt, a cup of tea and a notebook, it wouldn't be a bad place to hang out for a while. Least that's what occurs to me as I begin our Official SCBWI Portmortem Post!  

Robin and I are just back in from the Society of Childrens Book Writers and Illustrators 38th Annual Conference in LA.  Our mental hard drives are sparkin' and spittin', and our muses are dreamily intoxicated. Mine keeps calling for a cigarette.  After moving en masse with nine hundred and eleven other writers and illustrators for four days, I am relishing deep long breaths-- regathering all my parts and pieces-- settling in.  Good mojo to be had.

I've posted a few photos from our Shrinking Violet table at the Golden Kite Luncheon which was a marvelous event.  The food was lovely, the company delicious, and inspiration came served by the bucket.  Our own Shrinking Violet Donna Gephart was on hand to deliver her acceptance speech for the Sid Fleischman Humor Award, one richly deserved.  We were all so very happy for her!
Pictured  left to right: Thalia Chaltas, RL LaFevers, Katherine Applegate (Yeah, I know--it was all I could do not to shriek!), Sheri Rosen

We were slayed by the speech delivered by Hyewon Yum who won in the best illustration category for her picture book entitled Last Night.  Hyewon spoke of being the child in class who never raised her hand, and spoke little.  She grew up and wrote an completely wordless picture book. (I'm planning on starting a wordless novel this week--a super long one.) What irony, then, that Hyewon won this award and ended up in front of 1000 people, and on a jumbotron, speaking her thanks.  It was very, very moving.  Nary a dry eye at the Shrinking Violet table! We are thinking of electing her our patron saint. 

Richard Peck's keynote at the luncheon was staggering.  I'm hoping they will post a link to his speech.  I have heard him present a few times, and I'm always left with the feeling that I have been in the presence of a real Master.  What a extraordinary privilege.  He is brilliant, profound and the man defines the art of deadpan humor.

This was my first introduction to National Book Award winner Sherman Alexie, and I fell hard for him.  Did you hear the giant thud?  Yeah, t'was my heart falling landing on its arse. He is an extraordinary soul.  I plan on reading everything the man has ever written-- his novels, short stories, poetry. He described being Catholic and Native American as "guilt squared." Love that! He drew an intriguing comparison of both "poor kids and rich kids" as having choices made for them. Later in a session with his editor, Jennifer Hunt,  he had me howling with his wicked humor when he shared an anecdote of an earnest middle grade boy asking him at an event how many times a day he actually did--uh, marinate. :-]

Pictured left to right: Mary Hershey, Sherrie Petersen, Jennie Bielicki

Robin and I extended our stay by a day so we could decompress, and avoid getting the bends by surfacing too quickly.  It was just what we needed. It also gave us some time to do some SVP planning together.  There are some exciting new things that will be rolled out shortly!  Stay tuned for Robin's post about all of that next week.  

If there was a common thread for the two of us in our experience at conference this year, it was that we both felt we'd been given permission.  Permission to be more active business partners with our editors and agents, permission to use social media or NOT, permission to go as dark and edgy or as loose and outrageous as our story dictated.  Permission to choose and tell the story that only we can tell. Permission to honor our voice and our vision no matter what. Permission to grow the things that are important to us, and to let the other things go.  

Even if you didn't attend this conference, we hope that you each will find some quiet time to listen to your own urgings, and the truths that may be calling you. I really encourage you to visit the Team Blog link on the SCBWI site. Many of the sessions and events were covered. There is a wealth of priceless industry and craft information available. Take advantage of it!

A few gems  from my notebook: 
"I wrote because I could not dance."  -- Karen Cushman

"Write something only you can write."  -- Dinah Stevensen

"'Friend' is not a verb."  -- Richard Peck

"We write by the light of every book we ever read."  -- Richard Peck

Pictured left to right: Deborah Gobel, Catherine Stier, Amy Spitzley (winner of the 2009 Fairy Godsister conference grant)


Contest! Contest!  I love contests!  Robin let me do the drawing for those of you that correctly submitted the name of Maggie Stiefvater's car.  Its name is Loki!  If your name is Pam Bachorz and you have a soon to be published book entitled Candor with Egmont USA that an awful lot of people were talking about at Nationals, you are the winner of an ARC (advanced reader's copy) of Maggie's new book, Shiver Lucky you, Pam! If you'll email me off-line by clicking here, Robin will get that right off to you. 

Hope you all have a stellar week!  It was a such a rich pleasure to meet some of you this past week in LA.   I hope you'll share some of what you experienced here with us!

Mary Hershey


Sherrie Petersen said...

This was my first national conference and I was so glad to spend a good part of that time with you guys! There was so much to learn, so much inspiration.

Two things from Sherman Alexie's speech stood out for me:

Writing for children changes lives in ways an adult book never can.

No matter who you're writing your book for, you're going to save at least one person.

That's pretty awesome.

tanita✿davis said...

I enjoyed so much HEARING about this. It's so much less tiring, and you were nice and thorough. I will nerve myself up to go again -- maybe year after next.

I'm STILL bummed that I wasn't there to elope with Sherman Alexie. *sigh*

PJ Hoover said...

What great pics! I'm so wanting to go. Next year. I'm putting it on my calendar NOW!

Yat-Yee said...

Wish I could have been there. Would have liked to have listened to these wonderful people speaking their hearts. Reading them is one thing, but listening to the voice of a person is so much more powerful.

I give myself permission to feel wistful for a while, and then I'll go back to work. :)

Thanks for sharing your experiences.

Robin L said...

Great wrap up Mary! I am both exhausted and exhilarated and still trying to find my long lost center.

And how funny that in each picture, one of us was sleeping. Or maybe it was an introvert thing and were we hiding... :-D

Kimberly Lynn said...

Thanks for sharing your adventure, Robin and Mary. I'm glad you ladies had a great time!

Anonymous said...

I loved seeing this through your eyes. I must, simply must, get brave enough to go next year.

Robin L said...

You simply must, Susan. I can't believe you haven't been before, actually!

Hm. Do I feel a stretch goal coming on? :-D

Sheri Rosen said...

I am so excited that I got to sit next to you and Katherine during lunch, and that I have a picture on your blog to prove it! You both gave me some great advice, and I'm very grateful. I hope that I too can soon be an introverted published author!

For anyone who is interested, I'm starting a blog called, "The Worries and Triumphs of an Unpublished Author." The industry is so hard to crack that I wanted to create a space where unpublished authors can connect and encourage each other to reach their dream. If you're interested, please stop by at www.sheribr.blogspot.com. Hope to see you there!

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