The following day, we enjoyed hearing Walter Dean Myers, Tamora Pierce, Hot Man of Kidslit Kadir Nelson, and Ellen Wittlinger, and I decided to attend one of the illustrators’ workshops, which I’ve been curious about since I first attended the LA conference two years ago. Now, I primarily do fine art and random design projects—very rarely do I do anything connected with illustration—but I’m naturally curious about the illustration part of the business. I did spend several years, when I was a teenager, wanting to be an illustrator, before I got sucked into the art-for-art’s-sake side of things.
Anyway, “Fresh Eyes: A Zen Drawing Workshop” with Anna Grossnickle Hines (a lucky duck who lives in one of the most beautiful spots in California) was a nice change of pace, as was the small-but-lively kidlit blogger lunch attended by Kelly F., Kelly H., Deborah Davis, Carrie Jones, Tracey from Jacketflap (who gave us all cool hats), and a couple of others. So I was relatively refreshed (though still in sleep deficit) by the time of the poolside gala, By the Light of the Silvery Moon. Thanks to Jay Asher, I was sporting a little bling in the form of a disco ball necklace, which was my only real silvery item besides my metallic nail polish and a few sparklies on my dress—I was no competition for some of the excellent costumes, including the Disco Mermaids and a truly terrific and somewhat terrifying Marie Antoinette (click for pictures).
Though I spent the first hour or two of the gala primarily in wandering aimlessly, eating free food, and trying to make a dent in my ample supply of drink tickets (a faculty perk), eventually I did manage to locate a few people—Kelly F., Jay Asher, and all three Gregs (but not all at the same time)—and, by the end of the night, actually found myself in conversation (albeit brief and peripheral) with John Green and his editor Julia Strauss-Gabel. This latter conversation was mainly thanks to Kelly F., who is a formidable and fearless woman. If it were left up to me, I would have probably just stood around shyly, people-watching, feeling obliged to utilize my drink tickets, until I had enough and went home. I’m still afraid that I may have said something weird to John Green, though I’m sure it was a fairly unmemorable exchange…one hopes.
Speaking of John Green, it was fascinating to see him speak on Sunday and Monday. Sunday’s highlights also included fellow blogger Lisa Yee and more Tamora Pierce, and Monday’s keynote by Kirby Larson was funny and fabulous—it included a short film which she created because, as she said, if celebrities can write picture books, then writers should be able to make movies. (Memorable quote from her speech: “Sometimes when life gives you lemons, it shops at Costco.”) John Green’s take on contemporary YA novels was quirky and interesting, but even more interesting to me was the array of fellow authors who turned out to see him: Susan Patron, Lisa Yee, Kirby Larson, Carrie Jones, Ellen Wittlinger, and Sara Lewis Holmes, among others.
One overwhelming message that came to me out of all the speakers I saw was that we as writers have a responsibility to our readers, to children and teenagers, to be authentic, to speak the truth, to care and love and teach without being didactic or smothering. This message really resonates and applies equally well to bloggers—our responsibility is NOT to appease our critics or to promote ourselves, but to contribute something unique to a community that is itself unique; to promote a love of reading and writing, and an awareness of quality literature; and to be just as authentic and caring about our readers and fellow bloggers as writers are about their young audiences. My thanks and admiration go out to all my blogging homies. You do this with every post and interview, every link and booklist.
And one more thing, this time totally unrelated to SCBWI – Neil Gaiman on yesterday’s Talk of the Nation!