This is basically one big journal entry so that I can remember all the great stuff from my amazing weekend at SCBWI LA. It is going to be long and I really don't expect anyone to read it. However, if you are interested in finding out more about the people who write the books that your kids and I read, these are the authors and illustrators I'll be talking about below and in this order: Gary Schmidt, Patricia MacLachlan, Karen Cushman, Dan Gutman, publisher and editor Elise Howard with Algonquin, Tony DiTerlizzi, Deborah Underwood, Chris Rylander, Ruta Sepetys, Jon Klassen and Eugene Yelchin.
Also, if you ARE a children's book writer and/or illustrator, thinking about becoming one or are interested by the process in ANY WAY I strongly suggest you join SCBWI. This incredible organization is a vital resource for anyone who has anything to do with children's books, from authors and illustrators to agents, editors and booksellers. From workshops to classes to conferences, chapters all over the country are supporting, encouraging and producing authors and illustrators at every point on the path to publication. So many of the faculty at this conference, published, award winning authors, came from this place, this home, this tribe. One moment that served as a prime example of just the kind of loving family that SCBWI is and inspires came at the start of the Golden Kite Awards Luncheon on Sunday. Lin Oliver and Steven Mooser, executive director and president of SCBWI, introduced their staff, including Lin's daughter-in-law and Steven's daughter, who had just given birth and were pregnant, respectively. Then the women held up quilts that had been made for their babies which included squares with artwork by an amazing list of names. For a great look at the weekend, visit SCBWI LA Blog, run by Lee Wind and his staff.
I am completely overwhelmed, exhausted, starstruck and utterly excited by everything I heard and saw this weekend. It would take a week's worth of posts to talk about SCBWI LA as much as I would really like to. Sadly, I only have time for a nutshell library version. But, before I write anything else, I have to tell you this about the people (at this conference, anyway) who write and illustrate the books you buy and read to your children - they love your children, all children, and care very deeply about giving them the best, most inspiring, fulfilling books possible. Gary Schmidt, author of two Newbery Honor books (click his name to read my reviews) gave the closing keynote speech of the conference and he beautifully, emotionally, summed up this pervasive attitude and had me choking back tears several times. Aside from his personal story of being pegged as an underachiever in first grade and not learning to read until, several years later, a teacher plucked him out of his class of "track 3" kids and took him to her "track 1" class where she passionately, lovingly taught him to read, Schmidt spoke eloquently about why he writes what he writes. I'm going to paraphrase here, but Schmidt encouraged the writers and illustrators at the conference to "write the stories that will give your readers more to be human with," and this definitely comes through in his writing. He also told the audience that the place to start is to "love the world and everything in it," before writing about it. Finally, he expressed the opinion that we are "a culture that has ceased to cherish our children," and framed it by referring to an article he read examining the social and cultural norms of the 1950s and 60s - things we think are horrendous today like smoking, corporal punishment, etc. He wondered, when society looks back 50 years from now at us, today, what norms will they find obscene and brutal? Sending our children out to play football despite the known facts about the effects of concussions? The legality of automatic weapons? The continual slashing of school and public library funds? While every single person in that room and every one of you reading this blog, no doubt, cherishes children, I think Gary Schmidt is right. As a society, a country, we do not cherish our children. A sad acknowledgement, for sure. But naming the problem and owning the problem is a start.
My last talk of the weekend was given by the incredible