You see, the toughtest thing about having the conference in NYC, for me...is that I don't stay at the hotel. I have to venture home to Brooklyn on the train. I much prefer hanging out til all hours, stumbling into the hotel elevator at the break of dawn and then rolling out of bed in the morning, steps from the conference. But alas, I have to wait til NJ's conference in June for that experience. AND the LA conference in August, which I am totally planning on attending.
Anyway....my recap continues...
- Welcome and Introduction The morning was kicked off by the beloved Lin Oliver and Stephen Mooser--who informed us that not only was today Groundhog's Day, BUT it was Lin's birthday! What a wonderful way to celebrate, surrounded by 999 kidlitters. I think I will start to send out invites now and maybe they will all celebrate my birthday in April. :)
- Keynote: "So When Are You Going to Write a Real Book, You Know, For Adults?" --Meg Rosoff I have very little notes from Meg's speech, probably because I was soooo moved and taken by everything she had to say. But haven't we all been asked this very question? In fact, I sometimes feel it doubly because I don't even write children's NOVELS. I write picture books. Most people think ANYONE can do that. Ugh. Anyway, Meg's response "Haven't you ever read the Velveteen Rabbit?" is perfection.“Real isn't how you are made,' said the Skin Horse. 'It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.'" - The Velveteen RabbitThe official SCBWI Conference blog writes: When asked by students about the best book she's ever read, Meg replies that the best books she's read were read before her twenties. Because as a teenager, she was at the exact right age to have her life changed by books. Meg read from an email that she received from a reader, and it's the reason she writes for teenagers.Some people think of young readers as lesser versions of adults. They don't get it. As an author, you must write truthfully. You shouldn't apologize for writing for teens or children! You're writing about the emerging people your readers will become. And you're changing lives.Now I don't know any better validation than that! Thank you, Meg! If you ever have a chance to hear this amazing fireball speak, run don't walk!
- Keynote: Booksellers Panel: What's Selling This was an interesting panel, as I know that many of us have been worries about the state of the indie bookstore in these changing times. Mary Brown (owner Books, Bytes and Beyond in Glen Rock, NJ) says that her market has changed. There is little foot traffic into the store and the bulk of their sales are now schools and libraries who want paperbacks and titles with Common Core tie-ins for educational use. Robert Brown (Scholastic Book Fairs) is upbeat about the children's book publishing industry. The biggest challenge is to get kids to read more. The book fairs provide unfettered access for kids to be in direct contact with new books, not only the bestseller listers, but wonderful midlist titles as well. In addition, it's a community event, families come to the fairs and the events continue to be well attended, with robust sales and enthusiasm on all sides. Finally, I thought it was such a wonderful idea to invite Jon Fine (Director of Author & Publisher Relations, Amazon.com). So often in our circles we talk about Amazon.com being the big bully to independent bookstores and writers, alike. However, he talked about a growing appreciation and understanding of the importance of the community around books and how the digital age features in that through Skype, ebooks and transmedia. Thank you, Jon for attending this panel and allowing me to see that bottom-line we all want the same thing...for great stories to be told and read by the masses.
- Breakout Session #1--What Hooks Me: Jennifer Besser, GP Putman's Sons, Penguin Young Readers Group Now, when it comes to the Breakout Sessions at an SCBWI Conference, I think it is fair to say that one of the bonuses of attendance is being able to make a connection with editors and agents who might not otherwise be open to submissions, but make an exception for attendees. For that very reason, I am not going to go into great detail about what Jennifer Besser is looking for or how to submit to her (which is what the bulk of her presentation is about). However, some of the highlights are 1) make an emotional investment in your work as an author so that you are selling your heart, 2) read often and everything, even if it is not in the genre you write, and 3) when it comes to picture books, understand page turns.
- Breakout Session #2--What Hooks Me: Kate Fletcher, Candlewick Press Again, just a few highlights...but I have to say that Candlewick is such an amazing publishing house. They are independently owned (the employees and authors own the stock shares) and they publish children's books exclusively. They are definitely a press worth learning more about. When it comes to picture books, Kate says she is loves text that gives good material for illustrators. A good book, for her, has heart, humor, originality and great writing. Easy, right? :)
- Keynote: "Internal Migrations"--Shaun Tan There is a really good reason why Shaun's books sold out at the conference bookstore minutes after he concluded his address. And why he trended on Twitter that evening. And why he basically was the star of the conference (sorry, Julie Andrews). The fact is, Shaun is brilliant. He is funny, poignant, intelligent, humble and indescribable. I almost did not offer to write a recap of the conference this year because I know that everyone will be wanting to hear all about Shaun's speech...and to tell you the truth, I am unsure I can put it into words and do it justice. But, according to his own quote, "I know a story is good when I can't entirely explain what it's about" Shaun's story was a brilliant one. It was captivating. What I do recommend is to sit down with one of his stories, perhaps "Eric"--the story of a foreign exchange student in a curious world. Sit, read, explore and you too will be absorbed into Shaun Tan's world of the unknown and the quizzical. And then walk into your own world and look at the ordinary in an extraordinary way....that is what Shaun gave me through his address. Thank you, Shaun.
Join me tomorrow, as I recap Sunday's Conference of keynotes from Emma Walton Hamilton and Julie Andrew, Margaret Peterson Haddix and the fabulously funny, Mo Willems.