LA SCBWI 2011 Play-by-Play (Part 1)

Alright, I am BACK and even though I nearly talked myself hoarse this weekend, I have returned full of words! The conference was absolutely fantastic  and I really hope it wasn’t a once in a lifetime experience because I would love to go again next year if I can. I made so many new friends that I can’t wait to find online so I can keep in touch. This was the biggest SCBWI conference ever. They had 1,300 people and it was the first time the conference had sold out.

Here’s my personal recap of each day:
THURSDAY: Arrived at the hotel and met my three roommates Linda, Sandie, and Clare. Over the course of the weekend, we mostly saw one another at night when we were back in the room and chatted about the speakers. Even though I’m such a baby bird compared to them, they accepted me with open arms and we really bonded 🙂

My mission this weekend was to make the most of every second of the conference and push myself to heights of extroversion previously unknown to me. This was what my motto:

I’ve been raised to conserve my energy, walk with purpose, don’t talk to strangers, and avoid crowds at all costs. This weekend, I forced myself to swim upstream and go against all of my natural inclinations, starting with NOT chilling in the hotel room before the first early morning of the conference. I wanted to hit the ground running, so I went down to the bar in the lobby, hoping to meet some fellow conference people.

I grabbed a stool and ordered “a Shirley Temple in a fancy glass” because I don’t like the taste of alcohol (it’s like cough syrup–yech!). Yep, I felt pretty classy and grown up. So I turn to the only person at the bar who isn’t already engaged in a conversation and say, “Hey, you here for the conference?”

And he’s not! But he’s still pretty cool and not a creeper, so I talk to him anyway. I decided to consider it a good warm up exercise in making conversation.

FRIDAY: It was like the first day of college all over again! Up at 6:30 am for orientation where I meet a bunch of other newbies to the conference. I quickly learn that the best place to keep my business cards isn’t in my backpack, but in my name tag holder where I can easily grab them to hand out. Then everyone met at the huge ballroom in the hotel basement for the first keynote speech. Bruce Coville, one of my favorite fantasy authors as a kid, welcomed us by talking about how every little action can change the world. I think it’s funny that Bruce and I lived in the same city (Syracuse, NY) for 20 years and I meet him in California.

Me and Bruce Coville

I don’t want to go into details about every moment, so I’ll just skip to the biggest moments. I attended illustrator Paul O. Zelinsky’s workshop. Even though I know nothing about illustrating, I love his work and the session was about fairy tales, which are totally my cup of tea. I’ll be writing an article about his presentation for Enchanted Conversation, so I’ll just say that it was great and he is one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met.

Of course, illustrators have the fanciest signatures *very jealous* 🙂

Norton Juster signed a copy of Phantom Tollbooth for my friend Zack.

That evening, I stood in line to get some books signed by the authors and illustrators who were giving presentations that weekend. See the awesome Norton Juster autograph on the right.

After that, I went to a special book sale where all the published conference members sat behind tables with copies of their books that we could buy. Just to clarify, these weren’t the ones who were on the faculty/speaker list. This was a lot less intimidating and rushed, which made it possible for me to strike up conversations with two authors:

Looking forward to reading Tracy Barrett's book

1. Tracy Barrett–She’s written around 18 children’s books, but the one that she had for sale at the conference was The 100-Year-Old Secret, the first book of The Sherlock Files, a series about two modern day kids who are Sherlock Holmes’ great great grandchildren. We spent quite a while geeking out over everything Holmes (she is a fellow fan of the new BBC Sherlock tv show) and she was kind enough to sign the book after I bought it.

2. James Riley–He has just published his first novel Half Upon a Time, which is chock full of those quirky fractured fairy tales that I can never get enough of. I’m even more excited for his next book Twice Upon a Time, which comes out next April because it’s about Bluebeard, who never gets fun books written about him. I don’t know nearly enough about Bluebeard (yet!) but I do know that  EC is doing a Bluebeard issue in the future, so James was able to give me a quick rundown of the tale, which somehow led to talking about a hilarious conversation about lobsters in Maine, don’t ask me how!


5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. slappedactress
    Aug 10, 2011 @ 05:59:45

    Sounds like you had a most excellent time, Tahlia! I cannot wait to hear more!


  2. Sandie Sing
    Aug 10, 2011 @ 06:13:24

    I was extremely happy to be one of your roomies. We had fun learning and experiencing the joy of rubbing elbows with the real writers and illustrators. I loved reading your blog and getting a sense of your perception of the conference. Great write up!


  3. Jolie Stekly
    Aug 10, 2011 @ 17:01:43

    Hey, Tahlia! I LOVE your fearless picture. Seems like you did everything just right and enjoyed the heck out of yourself.

    Can I steal your idea for keeping business cards in your nametag for the next orientation (I’ll give you credit). You’re so right. They need to be in an easy access spot.

    Even though you were a baby bird (as you said, and so appropriate given the stamp) seems you spread your wings and soared through the conference.



  4. MissMystra
    Aug 10, 2011 @ 17:18:40

    Hey, Jolie! Thanks for the comment! Well, confession time: The business card/nametag idea wasn’t mine, so you won’t be stealing it. I just saw someone else doing it and thought, “That is the smartest thing ever!”


  5. Dave & Cherie
    Aug 29, 2011 @ 02:16:24

    We really enjoyed your very descriptive blog. But then, why wouldn’t we?
    I mean we are your

    Nana & Mr. Dave!


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