This past weekend I went to my very first writers conference ever - and boy did I pick the right one to go to! I was at the 40th anniversary SCBWI annual conference in Los Angeles. In the opening presentation when the faculty of the conference was introduced, someone said if an earthquake hit LA the children's publishing industry would be decimated, they weren't kidding. The faculty read like a who's who of Children's publishing from authors to editors to agents to illustrators. For me, it was definitely an event of a lifetime.
I'd say that the highlight of the conference for most attendees was probably the presentation with Judy Blume. Yes, Judy Freaking Blume! You couldn't talk to a conference goer without them blubbering about a pivotal moment in their childhood that was somehow related to Judy Blume saving their life. It was emotional for most people and I have to admit to being blown away by her candid honesty. But the best thing Judy said that I loved her for was when an audience member asked her what she wanted her legacy to be. To which Judy responded "I don't think about my legacy. That's dangerous. But I want a tombstone that says, Are you there God? It's me, Judy."
Yes it was incredible to be in the same room as Judy Blume both for the presentation and at breakfast the next morning where I got to gawk at her from ten feet away. But my highlights were different. From the conference events, the highlight for me was Libba Bray's fantastic keynote presentation. I loved her new novel Beauty Queens and it was amazing to hear her speak - to hear how clearly her authorial voice is also her true voice. She blew me away! I admit to having the hugest fangirl crush on her. And not only is she beautiful, smart, and hysterically funny - she is also incredibly nice and warm. How do I know this? Because I had dinner with her. Yes - dinner with the Printz award winning author Libbay Bray! How did it happen? Well, since I'm agented by the incredible Joe Monti, I'm part of the Barry Goldblatt Agency family and me and the beautiful Jenn Reese (another wonderful author repped by Joe and a fabulous writer friend) were invited to dinner with Barry and Libba for dinner. Not only is Barry wicked smart, funny and an all around amazing person - he's married to Libba Bray!!! I had a truly great time with all of them and it is a memory that I will never forget. I was even gauche enough to bring my copy of Going Bovine to dinner in the hopes that Libba wouldn't mind signing it. Did I mention she is the nicest person?
One of the best things Libba said during her presentation was when she asked everyone to look around the incredibly packed, standing room only, audience. She asked what do you see? So many white faces and not enough people of color. This needs to change.
She's right. Publishing is still a predominantly white industry. It would be great to see more writers of different ethnicity. And it would be great to see more characters of color represented in our books. They don't have to be by minority authors only. I would love to see all authors challenge themselves by writing outside their comfort zone and embrace our multi-cultural world. All I ask is that they do it with integrity and represent us honestly and not as some stock stereotypical character. It's not hard to do if you do your research and treat your characters with respect. Like Libba does.
Anyway, going back to my hero worship, I mean the conference. I was able to take some pictures with Libba at breakfast the next day.
I think my zombie is definitely scarier.
So how do I top meeting Libba Bray? Well, I can't top it, but I can equal it. I had the incredibly great pleasure of hanging out with my Ninja triad buddies Mike Jung and Martha Flynn. And I got to be roomies with the truly wonderful Cindy Pon.
And my Enchanted Inkpot buddies! Lisa, Gretchen, Amaris and Robin! Yes that is THE Robin LaFevers - author of the Theodosia series that me and Oldest are so in love with! And she is as wonderful in person as she comes across in all her interviews! And let me tell you, my sweet buddy Amaris gave me one of the best presents ever! You guys may or may not remember my obsession with the Last Avatar animated series by Nickelodeon. Well Amaris works on the sequel The Legend of Korra and she brought me a poster that was signed and illustrated by the creators and animators of the Last Avatar!!! They even drew little cartoon characters next to their signatures! I freaked out when she gave it to me! Not only did she blow me away with one of the most incredible and thoughtful presents I've ever gotten, it's a present that means so much to my girls also. When I brought it home my girls ooohed and ahhed for a long time, refusing to let me put it safely away so I can get it framed.
There were many more wonderful moments during the conference but this post is already way too long and I don't want to bore all of you anymore. All I can say is that if you haven't gone to an SCBWI annual conference yet, don't miss it. It will be an experience that you'll never forget.