August 3rd, 2007

book cover

Poetry Friday: Read to Me

Late last night I arrived to the pink lights and bustle of Los Angeles.
Late late. I'm all foggy-headed. 
A constant stream of gate announcements ran through my dreams

Still, I'm here, sharing air space with zillions of other writers, readers and artists.
OK, maybe not a zillion but a whole lot of folk.
A whole lot of folk whose passion is making good books for kids.
I'm so inspired to be in the thick of it.

Here's a link to a good batch of poems about reading, like this one by Arnold Lobel:

Books to the ceiling
Books to the sky
My piles of books are a mile high...

(Complete poem on the web page...)

I think they might help put you in the mood I'm in.

SCBWI Conference

I think I'm dizzy. 
If this was really just Day One, I'd better catch my breath -- big time -- 
in order to make it through the weekend.
But don't get me wrong, I'm happy happy happy.
I soaked up a lot of good stuff today. 
Like crusty bread in bouillabaisse.

Originally, I thought I'd write long, journally pieces on everyone I listened to, but nix that.
My new plan: One quote per session. 
Is it short-shrifting the whole deal? 
Yep. But that's inevitable anyway, so humour me.

Here goes:

Our welcome came from the warm and funny Stephen Mooser and Lin Oliver of the executive branch of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). 

Lin said we'd come together to "celebrate what it is that we're all blessed to do." 
Oh, she also told us that there were 964 us. Which, like I said, is whole lotta folk.

The deeply talented Walter Dean Myers talked about trying to articulate to others (and himself) exactly what it is he does -- with his time, for money, for love. I really liked his answer. 

He says that as readers, in order to be completely taken by a book, we need more than mere information -- "we need to recognize the details as truth." Isn't that lovely? 

So his bottom line is this: 
"What I do, every single day of my life, is select details." 
That almost sounds do-able, don't you think?

Young-as-a-whipper-snapper author-illustrator Peter Brown gave a little slice-of-life presentation that was particularly comforting to me since I can't draw worth beans. 

Here's my favorite line: 
"You can draw anything and if you give it a trunk and some leaves, it'll look like a tree."

Next, I went to session called "Inside Harcourt" since I have my own new and vested interest in that particular house. Plus, I'm curious about the inside of almost anything, aren't you?

Editor in Chief Allyn Johnston, joined by editor Andrea Welch and editorial assistants Beth Jacobsen and Jessie Dzundza, talked about the inner workings of the house of Harcourt and honestly, my favorite part was when Allyn said, "If it wasn't books that got us into publishing it's the fact that we like opening mail." 

I mean, really, don't we just start thinking that editors dread the dive into the slush pile? So to find out that their fingers itch and their hearts race, hoping to discover the next best book? That's pretty cool. Don't you think?

Editor and publisher Emma Dryden, of McElderry and Atheneum Books (Simon & Schuster) talked about connecting kids and books in the digital age. "Writers find themsleves in their books," she said, suggesting that the sharing of that emotional journey is how we can hope to connect most viscerally to our readers.

From there I got to visit with Susan Patron, Newbery award winner for The Higher Power of Lucky who talked about her 10-year-long writer's block. That'd be a decade. Holy moly. And then she talked about how she pulled out of it. 

Hint #3 was a goodie:
"Act as if you know what you're doing, even if you don't. Trust the rich interior life of your mind."

I think that means we don't have to have outlined everything on index cards or Powerpoints. 

By the way, Susan Patron was introduced by none other than Tim Crow, the Regional Advisor for the Austin (Texas) chapter of SCBWI. (Go, Tim!)

After all this, we were each gifted a cold and creamy Ben & Jerry's Peace Pop.
Mine was Cherry Garcia covered in thick chocolate.
Come to think of it, maybe that's why I'm dizzy.

But wait! To wrap up the day, there was a panel of editors discussing how to receive criticism, during which they tried to de-emphasize the editorial power and mystique we tend to be so weak-kneed around.

Arthur Levine, for example, says that editors are "just people who are having a reaction."

And speaking of editors, I got to have a long, late dinner with Allyn and Marla and I'm having a reaction. 


More tomorrow.
Trailing off....