Writing quote

Sure, it's simple writing for kids...Just as simple as raising them.
— Ursula K. LeGuin

Sunday, August 7, 2011


  A truly brilliant day of conference speakers and workshops today, starting out with the fabulous Donna Jo Napoli who talked about the need for writers not to shy away from writing difficult stories about kids going through tragic, depressing, terrible things. Sometimes those stories need to be told, especially for kids in dreadful situations, so they know they're not alone. She stressed that "We must write not only from our place of joy, but of pain." 
   This was followed by David Small who showed excerpts of his graphic autobiographical novel about his difficult childhood. I don't think there was a dry eye in the house. But he ended with a whimsical, hilarious take on booksignings with a chain bookstore vs. an independant bookstore. I love his humor, and the way he can look at himself and present himself in such an honest, open way.
   Then the BIG surprise of the conference—which wasn't such a surprise anymore because Lin Oliver let the cat of the bag yesterday—and much anticipated appearance by the one and only Judy Blume. Lin conducted a casual, breezy chat with Judy on plump yellow love seats a la Oprah. Judy was so personable and unassuming, I felt like she could have been sitting in my living room having a chat with me! She was totally endearing and charming, and I loved knowing that even she struggles with plot and not knowing where she's going in her writing at times.
   The workshops with Libba Bray on creating characters and Verla Kay on using the internet to promote your books were extremely helpful. Verla had handouts,  website information, and lots of sources—the kind of workshop I love because there is something tangible I can take home. Check out her message board here.
   I did the smart thing today, and snuck up to Starbucks outside of the regular break times so the lines were not so long. I picked up my breakfast as well as a sandwich for lunch, thus avoiding the extremely long lunch line. I met two fellow attendees and engaged in some very stimulating conversation about the digital future of publishing, the need for perseverance, plot and structure and other writing struggles. Thank you, Abi Estrin and Steve Micciche for making it such a pleasurable lunch. Steve writes poetry on his blog: www.poetryfortoughguys.blogspot.com. Check it out!
Keynote speaker Jon Scieszka
   After lunch, keynote speaker Jon Scieszka had us all rolling around in the aisles with his photographs, stories of his childhood, excerpts from his books, and experiences at school visits. He has a great sense of humor. Then there was Norton Juster and Mary Pope Osborne whose talks were both inspiring and encouraging—It was like Oscar night for writers!
   I skipped the pajama party though. I just didn't have any more energy, and ended up falling asleep on the couch at my brother's place where I'm staying, watching a program called, "When Fish Attack". Okay, it's a bit morbid, but fascinating, especially when a 40 foot Right Whale breaches and lands smack right on top of your sailboat, or a pilot whale drags you thirty feet under, or a 100 lb. Marlin jumps out of the water and stabs you through the mouth. You don't feel so bad falling asleep because when you wake up, you can pick right up where you left off—more fish jumping out of the water and spearing people. Yes, a tad morbid, but sometimes you need those shows...

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