I’m headed to the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators summer conference in LA, four days of keynote speeches and breakout sessions, master classes (not for me, they filled up early) and manuscript consultation. I fully expect to enjoy hanging by the pool and hobnobbing as much as the learning I know will be at the center of my experience. I am looking forward to saying an in-person hello to the life-size thumbnail people I follow and talk with on Twitter, and to meeting some folks whose blogs I follow.
Mostly, I can’t wait to be in the room with lots of other artists and writers who are passionate about young people and the books they love, who want to tell our own stories because we love those books too. We started young and never stopped, and adults who are beginning to cross the aisle in greater numbers to the YA section are discovering what we have known all our lives: books for kids and kids-on-the-way-up reach us where we live. What person in their adult life doesn’t encounter paralyzing moments of doubt and insecurity? Now and again everyone feels like they left the house with the perfectly wrong clothes on. Most take quiet joy in friendship and the natural world, and at some point must make their way on a path fraught with difficulty, magic or otherwise.
My childhood summers were all about reading. I’d flop on a cot in the family cabin near Estes Park, CO or scramble up the big rock we used as an outlook over the valley below, and dive into a story. I read Carolyn Keane and E. Nesbit, Tolkein and LeGuin. I read below my grade, borrowing books from my little sisters, and over my head (one solid week during my twelfth year was lost to Gone With The Wind). I consumed the worst and the best of popular fiction, and prowled the comic book racks at the YMCA, a glorious old lodge with a soda fountain and a gift shop.
Nights, the family would play cards and board games by lantern light and thrill to Treasure Island read aloud, or, one memorable summer, Twain’s Life Along The Mississippi. The keeper of the tiny library in town knew our family intimately. Each of us checked out our limit of five books (or seven, if they were picture books) every week.
I feel a little bit like I did when I packed for the cabin. A Hyatt in LA is not the Rocky Mountains, but it happens to be summer and this is my summer vacation, though I am flying instead of joining my family in a station wagon for the long trip from Berkeley. I know there will be librarians in attendance (aren’t they the best?) and tons of books of every kind. My story notes are ready for my manuscript consultation though I still have to get a couple of pitches crafted. Hey, there’s tons of time. I have my iPad stocked with middle grade books and YA and mystery and smarty-pants literary fiction. Baby, I’m down. Bring it.