After registering and scrambling around for something for breakfast (the Starbucks line was monumentally long), I settled into the second row for my first major SCBWI conference.
Teeing off was Bruce Coville with a welcoming keynote. He started out by reminding us that children are worth our best efforts, not just lip service. He talked about the importance of craft, but said that craft without inspiration is basket-weaving (and inspiration without craft is Jackson Pollock). He read a fan letter and remarked that as children’s authors we make a difference, that like a stone falling into a pond, the ripples go far beyond where the stone fell. He then listed thirteen key points to success as a writer–the first one being Marry Rich.
Next, Jerry Pickney’s keynote presented the illustrator’s side of the publishing equation. As a YA author, I’m very much in the dark about picture books and the illustrators who help create them. Mr. Pickney is a fabulous artist, and even with his work enlarged to display on a giant screen, the images were jaw-droppingly beautiful. He talked about how his childhood and his family history impacted his art and how an artist should present an illustration as if looking over the shoulder of the action.
Next was “Writing about Other Cultures” with author Rukhsana Khan. Since I wrote outside my culture in Tankborn, I appreciated getting a better understanding of what to watch out for to avoid “voice appropriation.” Rukhsana talked about how if an author writes a book about the worst in a culture outside their own, it will probably be a bestseller, but it isn’t fair or completely honest. Instead she urged us to work hard to pay attention to the social construct of a culture, to get the thought process right. We should internalize the values of a different culture, do our research and accept the customs and mores, create that world as we would in a science fiction and fantasy story.
After a very rushed lunch (the line for sandwiches was even more monumentally long than that for Starbucks), it was on to the publisher’s panel, which included Allyn Johnston from Beach Lane (Simon & Schuster), Julie Strauss-Gabel from Dutton, Jennifer Hunt who is newly arrived at Dial/Penguin Putnam, Beverly Horowitz from Delacorte (Random House), and Debra Dorfman from Scholastic. They ran through what their imprints/houses are publishing. Generally PB to YA, although some houses focus more on one end or the other, e.g., Dial is heavier into PB and Dutton leans more toward YA. They all seemed to agree that although the adult market is sagging, YA is doing well. Beverly commented that we have to be optimistic, but realistic, that electronic doesn’t have to annihilate the physical book. Julie pointed out that there’s no single way to publish a book to success and that social media has to be genuine; kids immediately sniff out a forced effort. Debra suggested that authors put themselves out there with school visits, a website, and blog. They finished with a list of upcoming books they’re very excited about, which included Ghost Bunny (note: I could swear I heard this right, but M. Raven tells me in the comments it’s Ghost Buddy. I like my version) by Lin Oliver and Henry Winkler and The Fault in Our Stars by John Green.
After taking a break during which I missed the apparently hysterically funny Libba Bray, I caught the last half-hour or so of a discussion of subsidiary rights by Tracey and Josh Adams of Adams Literary. I’ve heard them speak before and they’re always enthusiastic and informative.
Emma Dryden gave an extensive talk on where we’re going on the digital highway, then we all headed off to the PAL (Published And Listed) reception/booksigning where I scarfed up a slider and too many spicy chicken nuggets. I then trolled for books and bought two (Hot, Hot Roti for Dada-ji and Woolbur). As Ken Min, illustrator of Hot, Hot Roti, autographed his book, he referred to the two of us as siblings since both both our books are published by Lee and Low. Which was one reason I bought his book–after all, siblings have to stick together. When I reminded Ken when Tankborn comes out, he hinted that he might just buy it (being a sibling and all). Autographed books in hand, I staggered upstairs to blog and pray those chicken nuggets would digest.
The only bummer of the day is that my stack of business cards vanished. I’d worked so hard to get them just right, with Tankborn‘s cover and all my contact info. I sent them down on a chair and when I went to leave, they were gone. No idea what could have happened to them. Sigh.