10 things from LA SCBWI: Part 2

August 13, 2009

I really had no concept the scope of the LA SCBWI conference before I attended. I knew it was in a hotel, but I didn’t know the hotel had huge rooms for meeting in. I don’t know what I pictured… classrooms? Slumber parties in the presidential suite? And this from a girl who grew up hanging out on the Strip during convention week so I could pick up… er… befriend tourists.
In any event, I really wasn’t prepared for the Blue Moon Ball on Saturday night. I was just proud that I found a dress in my size, and there were people busting out Lil’ Bo Peep, Rainbow Brite, Blue Man Group… wowza. The funny thing was although many people were there solely to party, there was still industry folk mingling.
I found these costumes comical, especially since I think they were talking to an agent/editor at the time. Business in front, party in back

(I can’t make it bigger. She’s wearing a blue butt)

7. FRAFT (um, rhymes with CRAFT. You think of an F synonym for that!)
Yes, there was mingling, plenty of business talk in the ProTrack, but there was also nitty gritty classes on writing. I’m not much of a note taker, so I’ll just do a plug for my favorite Brit Book Lady (no offense other BBL with whom I am affliated. You are also brilliant). Sarah Davies, my agent, did a great class on writing the breakout novel, listing the following things as the most important elements. I missed the first part, which was all just as well because when I walked in she was saying something about a certain pink princess book and I’m not sure how you’re supposed to act when someone is talking about you like that. Do you stare at your paper and pretend to take notes, or check that the hotel has proper emergency sprinklers installed?
Anyway, Elements of a break out novel are:
1. An inspired concept
2. Larger than life characters
3. A high-stake story (the stakes can be internal as well, as is often the case with literary fiction)
4. A deeply felt theme or feeling (she mentioned mine, and I wrote it down because I was so excited. I have a feeling!)
5. A vivid setting
And, because she’s a sneaky minx, a number 6. VOICE
I was so happy she compared writing to other crafts like cooking or playing the violin. She asked "Would you get up and play a huge venue when you’ve just learned A and C?" I believe this so strongly, yet there are so may people who lump writing into a different category for some reason. They think writing is nothing more than picking up a pen.

So I don’t know how you’re just supposed to sit down by author’s whose work you admire and not freak out. I know it’s what you’re supposed to do, I just haven’t figured it out yet (just ask Sharon Creech, the author I asked to rub my pregnant belly with child number 2. Yeah) I don’t do casual very well–like when I met Robin Benway, author of AUDREY WAIT!, I might have said something like I want to be her best friend and go to concerts with her. Or when I randomly got invited to drinks with the cool crowd on the outside patio, I just sat there trying to think of things to say that didn’t sound stalkerish (I love your blog! Your books amaze! I saw a picture of your wife once, she’s so pretty!). Suffice it to say, I mostly stayed mute.
But what would you do if right after one of the most brilliant keynote speeches evah, Richard Peck (author of everything) turns the corner? Why, you would just start crying, right? No? I’m alone in my CRAZY FAN GIRL CRAZINESS?

(Hi! You don’t know me, but I sure know you! I think I love you! You inspire me and I used to teach school and I had this kid in my class and random book plug and you’re so right that we need to lift them up and you’re… you’re…. crycrycrycry)

 Seriously, I went off on his books and my experiences teaching and I was one big blubbery mess (hormones, gotta love ’em) and then, THEN he gave me a hug and my messy tears got on his spiffy sports jacket. Then he fled, leaving me to try to explain to the other people I was talking to (publishing people who are also SANE) what I had just blabbered to ol’ Richie, and then. Of course. More tears.
I’m just so glad I never met Sherman Alexie. Security might have been called.

 This was honestly the reason I went to the conference, to meet friends I’ve known online for years, and to see friends I haven’t seen in person for months. My vanity made me pretty camera-shy (the camera obviously adds about thirty pound), so I have  zippo pics. If you have any, please email me!
Lisa Schroeder, my roomie. She brought ear plugs and wore an orange shirt to bed that said I AM SAFETY. She promised to protect me. I love her to death.

Utah superstars Emily Wing Smith and Bree Despain. 

LK Madigan (and Kimberly Derting in back) eating their healthy breakfasts while I attacked my daily carb creature.

With Blue Moon Hotties Lisa Schroeder, Jo Whittmore, Sonia Gensler, LK Madigan

With rising star Shelli Wells

And finally, me, wearing glasses inside so Magic Johnson doesn’t recognize me and ask for an autograph

It was also great hanging out with LJ buddies, tenners, Debs, Southern Pals like Katie Anderson and Sarah Frances Hardy. I re-nicknamed Varian Johnson MAGIC for obvious reasons and witnessed Matthew Kirby receive the most amazing compliment ever.
Really, every writer I met was great–whether in the buffet line or on the elevator. If I was cooler, I’d list everyone, but I wear sunglasses inside so we all know that’s not the case.

Traveling without kids meant books and sudoko and sleep. It meant I could stay up until midnight, and not worry about my two-year-old aka alarm clock hitting my head at seven in the morning. It meant I could have adult conversations, which it turns out aren’t usually that adult. (like the overuse of another F word I won’t repeat here, which started from Sherman Alexie’s keynote and everyone continued to gleefully quote)
And although I was really looking forward to some Lindsey time, I missed my family something fierce.
And they missed me! Well, my girls missed me. I think my husband missed my mothering skills more. He’s usually good at staying up on house stuff, but when I came home it looked like… oh, I don’t even want to relive what it looked like. Well, I will relive it, because the upstairs pretty much looks the same. And when I gave him the cocked eyebrow, he said, "I just cleaned! You don’t know what it’s like! They destroy it two seconds later. If you’d been here earlier, you would have seen–"
I just patted his cute lil head and went to bed. Talking about my career for a long weekend was fab, but we only had a few more days of summer left, and I needed my energy for swimming pool races in the morning.