Saturday, January 31, 2009

SCBWI Conference Day 1


What an amazingly exciting day. When my alarm rang this morning I wasn't so sure i even wanted to go. It was far and early and cold and what if it was lame and what if I had nothing to say and what if people tried to talk to me that I didn't want to talk to and what if and what if and what if. But I mustered up the energy to fake it and upon arrival realized such energy was not needed. I had my coffee and walked right into a wonderfully inspiring and fun day.

The first speaker was Jarrett Krosoczka and he was perfect; one part 30 something ironic hipster, one part earnest, adorable, engaging, sentimental artist. He seemed like somebody I could kick it with, the guy that would get the dance party started no matter the occasion. In a room full of a thousand mom types, it was nice to someone who felt like a peer.

First break-out session was perfect; warm and instructive. I felt like she and I would happily be in the same book club, connecting to the same titles, and reading them as catalyst for introspection. If I ever finish a full length manuscript, hers is the first desk I want it to land upon.

Break-out session two did not land in the same way with me, although she was professional and personable.  It hit home the notion that rejection letters really are about an incorrect match, not an incorrect manuscript.

Lunch. Good bread and cheesecake. Appetizers and entrees were conference hall-wedding food all the way. Oh well.  

Jay Asher spoke next, and spoke he did! Man, that was an overtime presentation- but his raw vulnerability, sense of humor, and the story itself carried my attention throughout.  Speech writing tip: never use a timeline, because then people can really measure where you are in the speech versus how much further you have to go (it's like in staged readings of plays where I find myself checking out the binders in their hands to see how many more pages there are to flip through!).  He spoke about the 12 years of rejection and missed opportunities that ultimately led him to write and publish a phenomenally successful debut novel, Thirteen Reasons Why.  I was most moved by his retelling of the absolutely integral role that his wife, and her support, played in his perseverance and confidence in himself. I was tearing up as he told it, and then when he choked up himself, I could no longer hold it in. I hope one day to have such a partnership.  I also heard in his speech that those 12 years were necessary for him to achieve the emotional maturity and strength to realize that, although he was a very funny guy, the story he needed to tell was a deeply personal and somber one, about suicide no less.  Without all of the experiences in his twelve years of delayed publishing satisfaction he might not have found his way to the courage necessary to write his truth. This message rang out clearly to me, although it was not explicitly stated, because I see this as my great challenge as well. 

Final break-out was fun and upbeat, another peer. When she said, without a sniff of self-pity, that she had just been laid off I wanted to offer to take her out for a beer...but I didn't want to seem creepy, so I kept it to myself, although I think she would be a really fun person to know.

Final speaker was a legend in the publishing world. But the microphone was too low and his speech to dense and me too tired for the full power of it to reach me. I wish I had a written out copy, I'm sure it would rock my world.

But the best part was afterward, a whole bunch of folks from the Blue Board on the blog headed across the street for some post-conference discussion, food, spirits, and general merriment. I found myself seated with a great crew and we were trying to come up with some winning entries for the SCBWI Joke Contest. Of course, I found myself taking a giant step over the appropriate line and we never quite recovered...but we did laugh quite a bit! Here, for your reading pleasure, are some of those off color suggestions that I may or may not decide to enter tomorrow morning:

Set-up: Imagine a character form a children's or young adult book as a guest on Oprah. What would the title of the show be?

1. Humpty Dumpty- I do it for the crack!
2. The Saggy Baggy Elephant- plastic surgery disasters
3. Winnie the Pooh- My Depends dependency
4. Piggy (Lord of the Flies)- I can't stop touching my conch.
5. Christopher Robin- I'm into Furries.

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