August 4th, 2007

chaco

SCBWI Saturday

Was this morning really this morning or was that like three days ago?
Or are days longer here?
Or are we in a time warp?

Granted, I woke up thinking maybe I should've gone to bed a tad bit earlier and sipped on maybe one less glass of wine the night before. But even if I'd been to bed at a proper hour, I think I'd be pretty well walloped. 
In a good way.

Today we started with agents Kate Schafer and Tracey Adams, the latter of whom said, "We're not looking for a reason to reject. We're looking to fall in love. Absolutely."

I swear that people's shoulders relaxed when she said that.

Illustrator Kadir Nelson showed a lot of really pretty slides and talked about evolving as an artist.

"Is this going to give me the opportunity to do something new?" he asks himself when approached with a new project. Because "you don't want to be bored when you're working on a piece of art. It'll show."

Next, I went to hear Linda Sue Park talk about switching genres since she's a master and I'm finding my middle-grade work-in-progress kind of tricky after spending my whole writing life trying to tighten, distill and encapsulate things in very little packages. 

She gave us a whole heap of reasons why not to branch out -- not the least of which is that it confuse the heck out of readers -- but in the end she encouraged going with your gut, listening to the story and giving it the space it requires.

"The best reason to try to write in another genre," said Park, "is because you learn something about yourself as a writer." Which kind of makes it seem worthwhile, don't you think?

After lunch, we got a report on the state of the industry from publisher Ruben Pfeffer. He talked a lot about negotiating the murky waters of artistic integrity and the commercial marketplace and about the value of what it is we do.

He said, "A great book is one that sends a child off to read another book."

In the afternoon, Kirby Larson and Ann Whitford Paul hosted a really great get-together about connections and community. They pulled all the chairs into a circle, which always helps, and by the end they pretty much required everyone to get up and mingle. 

"Little connections can take you to big places," said Whitford Paul. 

An added bonus here was meeting (in person) Kelly Fineman, whom I'd previously known only through blogging. Wasn't that an appropriate time to have that happen??

The real capper to the day was a truly moving keynote speech by Ellen Wittlinger called How Can a 58-Year-Old Write Books for Teenagers (and why does she want to?)

"An older person is just a teenager with no fashion sense or technological skills," she said.

She got a lot of laughs for lines like that but by the end, there weren't many dry eyes. She talked about attending to  the interior lives of teens, about social justice, about prejudice and enlightment. 

She said, "When you write for teenagers, you can be certain that you will touch their lives.... Once you're an adult, it's a lot harder for something you read to change your life."

I still had a lump in my throat when I bumped into Lisa Wheeler and Kelly DiPucchio and Cecil Castellucci and Cynthia Leitich Smith and I don't know who all else. It's hard to keep track of all the really shiny stars around here.

Many of whom came dressed as such to the Light of the Silvery Moon Gala tonight. 
Outside.
By the pool.
Dancing and yummy Mexican food even a Texan could love.

Sweet dreams...