It was interesting (and maybe a little alarming) to observe my own reaction upon settling back into the comforting glow of my laptop and re-immersing myself into the online world. AAAAAAAHHHHH…my relief at restoring my connection to Twitter, Facebook, the Blueboards etc. had a nearly psychotic intensity to it. Then, of course, I was overcome by a blubbering attack of gloom as I realized SCBWILA10, a wonderful, wonderful event, was truly over. Okay, it’s true that I’m one of those sensitive new age guys who gets the weepies for what often seems like no discernible reason. But yo, even if this makes you question my manhood…are you questioning my manhood? ARE YOU? Because I swear, I’ll tell Colleen Ryckert Cook to beat you up for me. She’ll totally do it, too.
Anyway, SCBWILA10! I had a FABULOUS time. It’s hard to sum it up in a blog post, partly because it was such a rich, layered experience, partly because I’m really tired, and partly because I’m kinda lazy. But here we go, the old college try:
My first SCBWI national conference was 2008, and this was my second, but both times I walked out of the conference feeling like my identity as a writer was stronger, brighter, more assured. I like to say in 2008 I walked in feeling like a rank amateur, and I walked out feeling like a writer. Well, in 2010 I walked in feeling like a tentative new resident in the neighborhood, and I walked out thinking “DAMN. These people are my TRIBE.”
The aforementioned Colleen Ryckert Cook threatened to tear my head off in order to purloin my notes from Arthur Levine’s master class, but in reality she’s one of my new favorite people. In fact all those Kansas SCBWI people are fantastic – I met a whole slew of ’em, and my only regret is that Lisha Cauthen, co-leader of the #rebelsagainstmikesempire, wasn’t among them. One of these days I’ll drag my sorry carcass out to Kansas, because that’s a group of people worth knowing, and I wanna hang out at some smaller-scale bookish event with them.
I also hung out with envelope-pushing picture book author Boni Ashburn! Boni rocks! And historical PB author/Blueboard founder Verla Kay! And fantasy author, blueboarder and new bud Amaris Glass! I chatted with Bruce Hale in an elevator, boldly introduced myself to Dan Santat, flipped through the ARC of Julia Karr’s debut novel, talked about sequels with Lisa Schroeder, had a $96 bagel & coffee breakfast with the Inkies, got berated by Martha Flynn for skipping breakout sessions, got an autographed book from the awesome Kathleen Duey, threw down some NorCal vs. SoCal smack talk with Amy Goldman Kass, and had the grooviest lunch ever with Amaris, Cindy Pon and Gretchen McNeil. Much of this uncharacteristically outgoing and social behavior happened during the Heart & Soul Gala, for which I put on a subtle, understated costume that landed me a spot on both Jolie Stekly’s blog and the Team SCBWI Autograph Party recap.
I learned a lot, of course, and the big kettle of inspiration in my brain is still hissing and steaming like mad – the keynotes were so good. Jon Scieszka! M.T. Anderson! Carolyn Mackler! Rachel Vail! Gordon Korman! Mercy! And while I did wear a sign saying “My expectations for this class are reassuringly low” in Arthur Levine‘s class, that was just for Arthur’s benefit. Okay okay, I was entertaining the crap out of myself too, but Arthur was a little nervous. But dude, what a class – there were some procedural glitches, sure, but I can’t tell you how cool it was to see the editorial thought process of one of the most highly accomplished and respected voices in the world of children’s publishing. There’s a reason for all of Arthur’s success, and we got a small-but-invaluable taste of how it all happens.
I must say that something I found terribly gratifying was the collection of moments when I really felt how far I’ve come over the past two years. Occasionally I found myself chatting with someone I’d just met and thinking “yo, this person is in the same place I was two years ago.” (Uh, I didn’t do that when I was talking to you, just to be clear. You had 100% of my attention! Really! I love you!) Here and there I found myself giving…advice. IT WAS AWESOME!
So I am really, really tired. I am a timid creature who normally slinks through the fetid, unlit places of the world, writing my little books, crouching over my little laptop, cackling insanely and all that, but I am full up to the brim with happiness over my jaunt down to SCBWILA10. It was outrageously fun to hang out with friends, new and old. It was so inspirational, I thought my hair would burst into flames, which would have been tough because I feel humiliated every time that happens. It was deeply educational, and I’ll never stop needing that. And it was, once again, a game-changer. It changed me, for the better.