#1 moment was having Judy Blume come to the LGBTQ Lunchtime Poolside chat and participate!
Me and Judy Blume! (I'm on the left.)
We had 50 attendees, including luminaries from the faculty Bruce Coville, Emma Dryden, Arthur A. Levine, Laurent Linn and, to our collective delight, Judy Blume. We went around the large oval and everyone introduced themselves, and then we had a Q&A.
One of the main questions was voiced by an author who wanted to know if he includes gay characters in his Middle Grade novel, is he hurting his chances of being published? Arthur A. Levine answered that no, in fact, if the story is well done, having GLBTQ characters in it could help it stand out and get published! (He even shared a story about how that was exactly how one very successful author finally got published- by writing the story with gay characters he'd been afraid to write.)
I took the opportunity to ask Judy how she deals with the challenge of knowing there will be people who won't like what she writes (she has faced so many book banning challenges) and asked her how does she avoid self-censoring?
"that's not what you should be thinking about when you're writing. Be with your characters and don't think about it."
YES - Tell the story that you have to tell! The session was exciting and very gratifying to moderate, and throughout the conference people came up to thank me for it. Awesome! (The official conference blog entry on the LGBTQ Chat is here.)
#2 The two intensives I took, with Bruce Coville and Ellen Hopkins, each provided me with enormous insights and inspiration for two different works in progress. I wrote about my experience in these sessions on the official conference blog, and am so grateful to have attended them both.
#3 Hearing Libba Bray say that in an early draft she'd written in one part of her manuscript: "Gemma is sad here. do you know why she's sad here? 'cause I don't!" I love hearing that even someone as brilliant as Libba has to re-write and revise to get her books to be so awesome. It's encouraging as I re-write and revise!
#4 Marinating in the sense of Tribe and community. I love being part of SCBWI Team Blog, and being a new part of the SCBWI Regional Advisor community, too - and just to be at the conference, surrounded by so many friends, old and new, who appreciate me, meant (and means) so much to me. Writing is a very solitary passionate pursuit, and these conferences are a fantastic counter-point to that. They are my favorite time of the year! And our second ever Los Angeles kid lit drink night was a gigantic success - with over 200 attendees!!!
#5 Throughout the conference there were so many tweetable and great things said. So I've gathered some of my favorites from my notes and share them again here:
"A good book is like other books, a great book is only like itself." - Bruce Coville
"If you get reads and everyone says it's perfect, get new readers." - Tina Wexler
"Story matters most." - Emma Dryden
"Any civilization is built on empathy. If dreadful things happen to you, you learn empathy. ...And for the protected child ...the safest way for them to develop empathy is through a book." - Donna Jo Napoli
"You want to be a different person on the other side of writing this book." - Libba Bray
"You write your stuff and get it out there any way you can." - Jon Scieszka
"One of the important jobs of a writer is to help children understand there is more than one way to look at things, and some of them are strange." - Norton Juster
"By choosing the right details, we can dilate the pores of time and enter time like an oil." - Mary Pope Osborne
"Great writing will always find a home." - Barry Goldblatt
"Beaver is the best meat: 37% protein." - Gary Paulson
"Read like the wolf eats." - Richard Peck
"Voice is personality" - Tracey Adams
"Marketing Survival: you do what you can and then get on with your day." - Susan Raab
"It's determination as much as any kind of talent that's going to get you there." - Judy Blume
"Your muse is you... and she deserves a lot of love and tender care." - Laurie Halse Anderson
It was an unforgettable four days, and I'm so grateful I got to be part of it. And I'm already excited about #NY12SCBWI - SCBWI's Annual Winter Conference in New York City, January 27-29, 2012.
Hope to see you there!
photo by Rita Crayon Huang!