Or maybe just to Delaware. There are over a thousand attendees here, people. It’s a mighty force, and my first day in the pack was fun, focused and only slightly overwhelming. I always have a first day at a new school feeling at these things but the NW regional hangout at the end of the day helped to ground me and this national conference reminded me of how utterly kick-ass our regional conference is in Western Washington. I’ve attended three, and at them I had seen two of yesterday’s keynote speakers and, through the organization, taken a social networking class with the mighty Greg Pincus who is here giving workshops to the masses. John Scieska gave the very funny and passionate opening keynote and it was like listening to an old friend. Hats off to the volunteer leadership. Talented writers all, they could organize an airlift and are all winsome as hell. But I digress. It was just good to see my peeps.
To Delaware: who would have thought this blasted heath of a state would emerge as a theme? Or that so many of the keynotes and workshops would be sprinkled with fully delivered song? The day began with parade of over 80 presenters entering to the theme from Raiders of the Lost Ark (SCBWI folk love their movie themes), each delivering a one-word description of themselves. A similar stream of Regional Advisors trooped in to do the same. This accomplished three things: established silliness and fun as a central tenet of the conference, allowed a brief glimpse into the presenters’ personalities and style and branded Delaware and West (?) Virginia as the Bermuda Triangle of the SCBWI universe, since not one attendee was here from either state.
M.T. Anderson (or as all of his dear, dear friends here call him, Tobin) followed Scieska’s keynote and, eerily, Delaware quickly surfaced in his address, since he has a recent series that features the state, and he was speaking on the authorial use of place in story and grafting the landscape of fantasy onto the America we think we know. “I wanted to create a sense of plenitude of place.” Cannot wait to begin these books. He closed his erudite (what pleasure to hear, “Sigmund Freud, the great Viennese quack…”) and funny talk by singing his composition, the Delaware state anthem in strong, nay, impressive voice and bringing down the house. See, he’s the kind of guy who makes you start writing sentences like that. Plus he’s a stone fox.
I received the following advice at my first conference: go to at least one breakout session that’s outside of your immediate interest while at the conference. When the workshop I had chosen was full, I heard this advice in my head and wandered down the hall to Writing Biographies with Elizabeth Partridge. What a fabulous piece of advice – Elizabeth (as we dear, dear friends call her), was so direct and knowledgeable and filled with information that my inner research wonk rejoiced. But then how can you go wrong if your grandma is Imogen Cunningham and your godmother is Dorothea Lange? You are raised in beauty and regard and have some wicked smart genes to work with.
I had planned to post my notes from the session with Josh Adams, of Adams Literary but I have to get ready for Day 2 and they need nipping and tucking. Email me if you want a copy – that’s a can-do. I was apalled and humbled to hear they receive upwards of 8,000 queries a year – 200-250 a day. And they read them all. Gee, I guess that’s why you want a really tight synopsis and polished manuscript. oh the humanity.
Must hustle my bustle into some togs and get my ass downstairs. Gordan Korman ( a life in writing) and an agent panel (view of the marketplace) await. Tomorrow: pictures. Cheers!