I don't think it was just me because everyone I spoke with and saw was so darned happy to be in Austin attending our conference. Lots of winning smiles and glowing attitudes. Even though the weather kept things fresh with temperatures in the low 40s, it didn't dampen peoples spirits. In fact, it electrified things even more. We had about 205 people in attendance and we were deeply saddened that bad weather grounded a few attendees from making our event. Sometimes Mother Nature can be nasty showering places with her icy voice. Thankfully those that made it had read the awesome pre-conference emails from Tim Crow, regional advisor, and registration, parking and breakfast all ran smoothly.
I can't say enough about the speakers and their presentations. I didn't catch every word by the speakers but I heard what I needed to hear. I heard Kirby Larson speak about the four year process it took to write her first novel and how she didn't let the fact that she hadn't written a novel before stop her from charging full-steam ahead with the project. She dove in, head first. Bravo! Kirby! And her Newbery Honor book Hattie Big Sky reflects her dedication, attention to detail and passion. Isn't it funny how we always seem to be in the right place at the right time to hear what we need to hear. Never give up. Believe in yourself. Dive in no matter how cold the water is.
I caught bits and pieces of Marla Frazee's presentation, and I'm still in awe of her process and what she does to truly understand the text and story before she begins to sketch. I don't think I'll ever write a story again without hearing Marla's voice in my head. Liz Garton Scanlon and Marla spoke about their collaboration process as did senior editor Cheryl Klein, from Arthur A. Levine Books, and author Sara Lewis Holmes.
I didn't catch a lot of agent Mark McVeigh's presentation or agent Andrea Cascardi or editor Stacy Cantor from Walker Books for Young Readers. But I heard from writers and illustrators that they were fabulous. Also missed most of Cheryl Klein's words but again...conference attendees couldn't say enough good things. In fact, I can't say I heard one grumble or negative word about anything. What I heard again and again were three words. Wow! Wow! Wow!
Throughout the day Tim Crow squeezed in remarks from the "Rock Stars" of the children's literary community; Liz Garton Scanlon, Marla Frazee, Jacqueline Kelly and Chris Barton. The American Library Association (ALA) had just bestowed some of the highest accolades in the kid-lit industry on them and Tim wanted to give them their moment to shine and shine they did! Again. Wow!
As Debbie Gonzales, newly appointed Austin SCBWI regional advisor, slipped off for her critique, I took over her duty letting the speaker know when it was time to wrap up their presentation. This allowed me to hear the very funny Lisa Graff who is now a full-time writer. She left Farrar, Straus and Giroux to focus on her passion to write. Her talk was inspiring and I will try and remember to remove my construction helmet editor hat while I'm wearing my Dr. Seuss writer hat. It was hard to keep a straight face listening to Lisa. Her energy sizzled and I cracked up throughout the presentation at her jokes. I'm truly eager to write more like an author and revise like an editor. I'm eager to question every children's book I read even if it means taking longer to read the story. I wish I'd had a pencil and paper. I would've liked to have taken notes. They were back in the kitchen with my book bag. It was a good thing we had such honest people in attendance because I don't think I saw my purse all day except when I grabbed my check book and headed to our conference book store to buy books before the autograph party.
As Donna Bowman Bratton set-up for the autograph party (and many many other duties) I was timer for agent Nathan Bransford and his humor and talk answered the many questions for attendees on how to find the agent that is right for them. He also looks a little like Tom Cruise, don't you think? He has a book of his own Jacob Wonderbar and the Cosmic Space Kapow that will be in book stores in 2011from Dial Books for Young Readers. The title has me hooked already! Aren't you?
I'm afraid I couldn't sit down and listen to the Rock Star Success Panel moderated by author Julie Lake but I did catch some of the words floating over the speakers out in the narthex. I chuckled on several occasions as author Philip Yates crafted a poem about the vibrant authors and illustrators in the Austin area. And luckily for us author Brian Anderson didn't show up with a gun (inside private joke but anyone who knows Brian knows he has a hilarious sense of humor and there was never any threat of a gun). Nor did I get to see Tim Crow receive his much deserved gift from the community of writers and illustrators who appreciate all he's done for the Austin SCBWI and us. He will be sorely missed at the helm. I was able to participate in the standing ovation for Debbie Gonzales and she will be an awesome fearless leader like Tim. And at the end of the day I stood humble as I was given the Meredith Davis Volunteer of the Year Award. Yes, I'm still in shock and overwhelmed by the honor especially since Lyn Seippel was the recipient last year, and she's a hard act to follow. Last but not least, Illustrator Clint Young won the portfolio contest.
To wrap up, the conference weekend was a huge success thanks to the committee volunteers who gave tirelessly, the positive attitudes of the attendees, and the wow, wow, wow speakers! Not to mention, the selfless Leitich Smith's and the Davises who opened their homes and fed many of us with their support and food. I know I'm forgetting something or someone so please forgive me. I can't wait until we put on the next event because it's so awesome to be able to serve with others and be around people who love children's books as much as I do.
I'm also attaching links to the Texas Sweethearts (P.J. Hoover, Jessica Anderson, and Jo Whittemore) and Devas T. Rants and Raves (Don Tate) blogs for more recapping. Don't forget to check out Cynthia Leitich Smith's blog Cynsations later in the week for her update!