Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Recaps and News

The SCBWI WWA conference was the first true writing conference I have ever attended. I don't know what to say except that it far exceeded my expectations. I think I imagined there would be a few lonely, disgruntled, awkward writers feverishly gathered around an "industry pro" trying to sweet talk them into some kind of contract. Instead, I joined hundreds of authors and illustrators, from every walk of life, and felt a sense of true community and support from all sides. I met novices and pros, young folks and old, agents and publishers, artists and scientists. And in every conversation I felt a kind of kinship. We knew the same dreams and fears. We spoke the same language of love.

I don't know how the organizers of this event did it. I am sometimes quick to judge people, especially when I feel small and unimportant myself. I sometimes withdraw if I feel I've been forgotten. And yet, I left the conference with deep respect for the people and presenters there and felt I had been respected in return. I had been with my tribe. In fact, this conference inspired me so much, I left it ready to change my life. More on that soon.

Highlights from the weekend, in no particular order:

  • Mac Barnett's keynote on play, imagination, and the space between truth and lies = fiction.
  • Sophie Blackall's keynote on play, adventure, making a mess, and haphazard success.
  • Kelly Milner Hall's keynote on being proud to be weird.
  • Robin LaFevers' keynote on the drive to write and the voice within. Finding the center from which to create. Probably my favorite keynote... brought me to tears more than once.
  • Joanna Volpe's workshop on Publishing 101. The ins-and-outs of contracts. She was incredibly generous with her knowledge and impressed me immensely.
  • Kendra Levin's workshops on character and the agent/ client relationship.
  • Roundtable critiques with Kendra Levin and Stacy Whitman. At first I was terrified of this component of the conference, but it went well. My work was well received and genuinely encouraged. 
  • Stacy Whitman's workshop on diversity in speculative fiction.

A few weeks later, I had yet another chance to connect with writers and to learn from a master: John Crowley. Again, this event did not disappoint. Clarion West hosted a full (Mother's!) day workshop on plotting at the University Bookstore.

I've been a fan of John Crowley since a close friend recommended I read Little, Big. This book blew my mind and immediately found a place among my top ten books of all time. It goes without saying that I was a touch nervous about meeting the genius behind it.

And genius he is! I did nothing but listen and scribble and think and wonder for six straight hours on Mother's Day. I had woken up that morning with a stomach bug, but somehow powered through... and am so glad I did. I'm still reeling from all the information and inspiration of that day. There were only 14 people in the workshop, (including Darian!), and again, I can honestly say that this community was inspiring and uplifting. What a gift for a tired and tummy-troubled mama. Many thanks to Michael and Nana and Pops for making all of these events possible.

Lastly, I have two bits of happy news to report:

First: My sweet friend, Kelly Jones, just signed with literary agent Mandy Hubbard. Huzzah! Kelly is a talented, driven writer who has worked hard to earn this reward. I had the pleasure of meeting her at a SCBWI critique session earlier this year and I got a glimpse of her middle grade book, featuring magic chickens. I thought it was fantastic and clearly, Mandy Hubbard also has good taste. What's more, Kelly is a kind and generous person who has been helping me navigate the writing life ever since we met. I am sincerely thrilled for her and looking forward to learning more as her journey continues.

Second: Another dear writing friend, Jennifer Adam, will have a story published in the next edition of Scheherezade's Bequest, from Cabinet des Fee. Kelly and Jennifer have both been mentoring me a bit and to see them succeed is absolutely heart-warming.

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