Sunday, February 11, 2007
Luminaries, Censorship, New Friends
(this is my editor, Timothy Travaglini, with whom Jim & I spent much quality time these last few days, and who is starting to feel like an old friend already. And, by the way, who is awesome.)
Another SCBWI conference has come and gone. So much inspiration smooshed into so few hours! The keynote speakers this time were -- get this -- Katherine Paterson, Susan Cooper, Ann Brashares, Brian Selznick, and Robie H. Harris. Um? They've written a few books and won a few awards between them. WOW!
"We couldn't live without editors, but copyeditors. . . I'm not so sure." - Susan Cooper
"Writers are very private people. . . who run around naked in public." - Katherine Paterson
"With each new book we must dare failure, or worse: mediocrity." - Katherine Paterson
"Make it fun. I've heard it said that there's one book in a person's life that turns them into a reader, and it's probably not The Brothers Karamazov." - Ann Brashares
some comforting things to know:
- Faeries are becoming a huge trend in children's books, says the picture book buyer for Borders. Yippeee!
- Fantasy remains hot hot hot, says the ages 8-11-fiction buyer for Barnes & Noble. Yippeee!
- The marvelous Jane Yolen (whose birthday is today -- Happy birthday, Jane!) is also a revise-as-you-go, rather than a blaze-through-the-first-draft kind of writer, like me. I try to force myself to write straight through sh___y first drafts, as advised by Anne Lamott, but I just CAN'T. It's not in my nature. Not that I won't keep trying. But it's always strangely comforting to find out that very successful people share your hang-ups and methods. Along those same lines:
- Susan Cooper is not a fast writer. For her, 5 pages in a day is phenomenal output.
some un-comforting things to know (okay, only one thing):
- People are still out there, in this very country, trying to ban children's books for the most inane reasons! (On the bright side, librarians are still out there, fighting the good fight, day by day.) The writer Robie Harris was someone I am sorry to say I had never heard of. Her books, such as "It's Perfectly Normal," are honest, sensitive nonfiction books for children about serious subjects like death, sexual health, body development, etc. And she is one of the most embattled writers in the field. I didn't know how it worked, but apparently when a "concerned citizen" wants a book removed from a library shelf for indecency, they file a "challenge" and the librarian in charge has to defend her/his professional choice to keep the book in the library. Librarians have described the process to Robie and terrifying, like a kind of witch trial. And some of the reasons books are challenged? Because children shouldn't have to know about death, even treated in the most respectful possible way -- what child hasn't experienced the death of a pet or grandparent or someone? Really. And breastfeeding. Some people believe that is an inappropriate subject for children. Um? Like it's really a mystery to them, of all people? Anyway, I didn't know what to expect from her talk, and it was a scary and fascinating discussion of censorship. (She was very pleased to see that despite all that the Dixie Chicks have been through these last few years they're nominated for 3 Grammies!)
I say it again to you writers: Go to conferences. Meet your peers. Meet the mysterious wizards behind the curtains of publishing. Get your manuscripts critiqued. Show your portfolios. Hear luminaries talk about getting their starts, about how they too are fearful with each new book. Drink cocktails or coffee with people from around the world (including Mongolia!) who do what you do. Go forth!
And, as always happens at conferences, we spent time with friends we only see at events like these, like Jamie and the other fabulous "Washington girls" as Jim and I call them (Sarah & Jolie: you need to start blogs!), and we made new friends, like Sarah, whose first book is also fantasy, also published by Penguin, and also coming out in June. So she's my June-Fantasy-Penguin Sister! I also got to meet another blogger who also attended the conference!
A ragtag assortment of us walked over to the Donnel Central Children's Room of the New York Public Library, right across the street from MoMA, to see the original stuffed animals owned by the real Chrisopher Robin in the 1920s. There actually are real stuffed animals that inspired Pooh and Eeyore and all the rest, and they live in a case in this wonderful library! There also happen to be FIVE original N.C. Wyeth paintings just hanging on the wall there. Jim and I really couldn't believe they could be real and just be. . . hanging there. But they were. And they do. The other night I had the pleasure of meeting a librarian who works in this library, and who also happens to blog copiously about children's books here. Oh, and this is me, holding up a copy of my Cricket Magazine cover from last year, like a big dork. Can you just imagine my big fat grin when my book is out???
And, I forgot to mention last week, that when we went to the Natural History Museum, we had the wonderful good luck to run into one of the stars of The Best TV Show Ever Made. Ever. Yes, you know: The Wire. What else could I be talking about? Seth Gilliam, who plays Carver, was there with his little boy, and when we stopped googly-eyed before him and told him how much we love the show, and how much we love the growth of his character over the course of the four [brilliant] seasons, he was incredibly gracious, even though he was on one of those hands-free phones and we hadn't noticed. That was our New York celebrity sighting. Yay!
Here is Jim with his painting that he entered in the conference art auction (he got 7 bids, and we found out that the girl who won just graduated from the same art school Jim and I went to):
And here is a shot of NY to prove we actually did go outside (though not much the last few days):
Early flight tomorrow. Late. Good night!
Posted by Laini Taylor at 7:33 PM