Monday, August 2, 2010

SCBWI LA 2010 - Day 4 - Discovering Authors and Their Books

By far the best part of this conference has been meeting the people, hearing their stories about writing and publishing, and finding like-hearted souls that quickly became friends. Hearing about the trials and triumphs of fellow writers as they struggle with the writing process, and then struggle some more with publishing drama, is reassuring: I'm far from alone on this journey, and the people on the path with me are some of the finest human beings I know.

Also: if you attend a local or national conference that offers a manuscript consultation option TAKE IT. That is money well spent.

This morning I heard Rachel Vail speak and fell in love - with her, her voice, her experiences, and one book in particular: Justin Case: School, Drool, and Other Daily Disasters. Justin is about a kid who worries - a lot. He's an epic worrier. Justin starts like this:

September 1, Tuesday
Okay, yes. I'm worried
I can't help it.
Rachel shared how her second son was born a worrier. She was concerned that it was something she did - after all, her first son was Mr. Zen, which clearly was due to her superior parenting skills (Rachel's natural humor is fantastic). I was hooked immediately, because my first son, Dark Omen is a worrier. He came out of the womb that way, and since he was first I was convinced my epic bad parenting in utero had somehow made him unnaturally concerned about the smallest things in life. I remember very clearly his two year old little self perched on our couch as we packed to leave on a Christmas trip to visit my family. He had that little line on his forehead, a crinkly frown that shouldn't be on any two year old but that had permanent residence on my son. In this tiny voice, he said, "Mommy, I'm concerned that we're not going to make it to the airplane on time."

Yes, this was his two year old vocabulary and way of expressing himself. He was smart. He was articulate. And he was concerned that all was not quite right in the world.

Where had I gone wrong?

Rachel shared a similar story about her son, worried that the bridge would collapse as they drove over it, or worried that his Uncle might eat him (!!). She wrote Justin Case for her son, to help him navigate the tricky waters of middle school. 

As soon as she finished speaking, I literally sprinted from my seat, across the 1200 person conference room, to make sure she didn't escape before I spoke to her. You see, I had to speak to her, to tell her about my son, and most importantly BUY HER BOOK. Her adorable son was with her, reminding me immediately of my own with his self-possessed stance and bright, alert eyes. She graciously agreed to sign a book for me. Unfortunately, similarly moved people had already scooped up the last copies, but we finally figured out I could order a signed copy through her local indie bookstore website (she hops over and signs them before they are shipped). Which I promptly did. 

Discovering a new book for my sons that will rock their world: Awesome
Meeting an author who moves and motivates you with their words and their work: Even Better

She reminded me of what lies in the heart of every children's book writer, including myself: the desire to touch and transform children's lives through the stories that fill their childhood.

I'll probably need a few days to recover from the amazing intensity of this conference, but Ink Spells will return soon!


  1. This sounds incredible. So glad you could attend. Thanks for sharing, Susan.

  2. Discovering books and authors. The most fun thing to do.

    Speaking of discovering books, I'm anxious to discover yours, the copy I happily "won" and that KarenG beat me to a review of. Just as I was ready to begin, got the second revisions of my book back from my publisher that I'm working on now. Wish I could do ten things at once like I used to be able to do when I was younger! But I will get there....

    Hope you're getting a good rest. It sounds like it was a great conference.

  3. "the desire to touch and transform children's lives through the stories that fill their childhood" Hear! Hear!

    Beautiful story, Sue! Thanks for sharing. :o)

    I wish I was there with you, but I'm at least able to live through the experience vicariously here. So thank you!

  4. Great post, Susan! I love going to conferences. I've been to three writing conferences so far, but to lots of educational ones. It's exciting to get into a room full of creative minds. I'm going to a SCBWI conference in September...I can't wait. I didn't go to anything last year.

  5. I wish I could've been there. I'm definitely going to make it next year.

  6. @Sherri You'll have to come sometime - you would LOVE it!

    @Ann Those pesky editors, always getting in the way! Good luck with the revisions - and thanks for still thinking about my book! :)

    @Jackee It was so amazing - if you have a chance, you should go (even to a regional conference).

    @Sharon Thanks!Where is your SCBWI conference in September? I'm going to sign up for my regional one (again) this November (Illinois).

    @Mica I hope I can go again next year too!