Part 2: LA SCBWI 2011 Play-by-Play

SATURDAY: Another early morning. Although it was very sad that John Green couldn’t be at the conference, they found one heck of a replacement–the one and only Judy Blume! She and conference organizer Lin Oliver sat down on stage and had a wonderful Q&A session and we were all impressed to hear her story. She truly is a class act.

David Small gave a heart wrenching presentation about his childhood and a heart warming talk about his first book signing. I am very ashamed to say that I had never heard of him until I signed up for the conference, but the fault is my ignorance, not his lack of talent as a writer and illustrator, that’s for sure! His latest bookStitches is a coming-of-age graphic novel/memoir that many of us wanted to buy from the bookstore after his speech, but it sold out very quickly. I’ll be buying the book soon, though! Here’s a link to it:

So many more workshops and presentations that I can’t go into or else I’d never finish this post. Met so many lovely people. Then at the end of the evening, we had a big pajama party in the courtyard. I have to say that even though I just graduated from college, these publishing people party harder than I’ve ever seen before! I’ll never forget the sight of 1,300 authors/illustrators/agents/editors screaming the words to “I Kissed a Girl” at the top of their lungs while jumping up and down to the music. I’ll be posting a video of the conference on my youtube channel soon (see right column of links) so if you want to see some of the outrageous costumes, go there.

Me and my roommates at the pj party

SUNDAY: Listened to a panel of agents (who came on stage in their bathrobes in protest of the early morning) talk about an assortment of children’s book topics. For some reason agent Barry Goldblatt’s workshop reminded me of a more outspoken version of Artie from Warehouse 13. Maybe it was his talk about his authors being his family (literally in the case of his wife Libba Bray) and I could see Shannon Hale and Holly Black having a blast calling him up on a Farnsworth asking for advice on artifacts.

We had a very fancy lunch and the star of the show was the dessert. I think nearly everyone took pictures of the little chocolate 40th anniversary books, but just in case you haven’t seen a picture already, here’s one:

Laurie Halse Anderson gave a closing speech and almost convinced me that cloudy cold Syracuse has some sort of writing magic and I should move back since there is a long list of writers living there. Then she went onto the main theme of her truly inspirational speech, urging us to “Dare the Universe.” This may sound trite, but I’m not big on motivational speeches and there are very few that I would ever sincerely call inspiring. However, this one really touched me. I seriously was tearing up at the end of it. If anyone finds a recording or a transcript of it, let me know, because I will seriously frame that speech.

My signed copy of Wintergirls ❤

That night, I joined a huge posse of conference peeps at The Pink Taco, a local watering hole. At 9 pm, agent Mary Kole had a crazy Pitchathon for anyone gutsy enough to try. She and the guys from Boys Don’t Read took over a table right in the center of the busy restaurant and let authors sit down and take 30 seconds or less to pitch their book to her. Mary warned everyone ahead of time that she was putting on her meanest grizzly bear personality and was intentionally going to give everyone a hard time. She roared taunts at us and loudly drilled writers with questions.

And you know what? I actually gave it a try!

You might think this sounds terrifying, but she wasn’t really being that serious and there was a lot of laughing going on. Now, while this was still pretty gutsy of me, I didn’t actually pitch my novel because I knew it was a little too personal to me. So I pitched my Little Mermaid short story, which is one of the simplest concepts to explain to someone. Literally: “It’s a young adult Little Mermaid retelling where the main character is Ophelia from Hamlet.” DONE.

It went pretty well all things considered (except for the part when I thought she said “Does the witch die?” and she’d actually said “Does the bitch die?”) and I went away feeling proud of myself for being fearless.

This was the only picture I could find of the pitch session. In reality, Mary was pounding the table a lot more than she is here. 🙂

MONDAY: This wasn’t a conference day for me because the Monday Intensives had cost extra money. But my flight didn’t leave until 3:30 that afternoon, so I was able to mingle a bit. And I’m really glad I did because I met some great people while waiting in the lobby, including Jenn Klein Kompos, who went to Westmont, so she must be cool. We’re going to talk about Great and Terrible Beauty sometime since we didn’t have much time in the lobby before her shuttle came.

Then my college friend and ex-roomie Rose drove up and we hung out for lunch. After a weekend full of strangers, seeing her familiar face was a relief. It was also really nice not to have to ask her what kind of stuff she writes, since I already know!

And then I flew home and gave my couch a great big hug. I was happy to see my bed too, but it’s not quite the same relationship.

So that’s the diary/story version of the conference, but I didn’t want to lose all the gems of the “What I Learned”, so believe it or not, I’ll be writing ANOTHER post that will be a list of stuff I learned. And it will be a lot shorter than what I’ve written so far.


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