Monday, May 23, 2011

NE SCBWI Conference Report from Mid-list Maggie

I feel remiss not having blogged about the New England SCBWI conference last weekend.  I came home to a flurry of work and never got around to it.  That seems to be my usual style.  I like to mull things over before I write.  Blogging is probably not my ideal format since it was designed for an instant audience.  Spewing words without much thought is not my style -- no matter what my family says.  So, I'll let my colleague Mid-list Maggie take over.

Hey! What a weekend.  Nonstop talking, nonstop listening. Exhausting!  I got to put faces to names, particularly Lin Oliver and Stephen Mooser.  They've always been West Coast phantoms - heard but never seen.  Now I seen 'em.
Jane Yolen - terrific - stood in solidarity of all of us mid-listers - junkyard dog types who shed their fluffy puppy personas years ago.  I loved her Big Sagging But -- Notice the spelling!!! -- the but that comes in every rejection letter. She reminded us to "mine the but,' learn from it. Something I often forget to do.

Tomie dePaola - loved him. Favorite line - "Wanted to be a monk, but the silence got to me."  His story of having to copy a pilgrim, Indian and turkey in school probably rang true for every illustrator.  He had a gift early on -- not his talent for drawing - but a gift of hardwired individuality that he would not, could not give up. Most kids start out individuals, but school crams them into matching shapes and it is only the strongest willed, perhaps most annoying kids, that come out still free formed.  Tomi was one of those kids.  What I learned -- In picture books, even for illustrators, "The word comes first."

I sat in on different workshops  - like fantasy world building -- and now have a better appreciation of the different kinds of writing people do.  Creating a bible with all the laws, mores, and customs etc. of your story world seems overwhelming to me.  I can barely handle the rules in this one. 

My one regret was missing the midget wrestling that was going on next door.  Lesson learned - seize every opportunity no matter how tired I am.  I mean, when am I going to be that close to midget wrestling again?? Plus, it might have made a good story. 

That's it for me, Mid-list Maggie. See you at the next conference.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Bertie and the Headless Chicken

This week has been kind of crazy.  I'm not whining. It was all  my fault.  He took me by surprise just outside the mall entrance.  I had just run in to grab a gift and had no plans other than to head home.  That's when I saw him.  His dark eyes were sleepy and sweet. He wore a satiny tuxedo coat of black and white that gleamed in the sun, but it was the wrinkles that endeared me to him.  His coat was too big for him.  So were his feet. He barely made a sound, just a whimper, and I knew my life would not be the same. I brought home a 2 month-old puppy. 

It was bad timing to say the least, but my husband said he was on board.  That was until the first sleepless night.  Bertie, a lab-pitbull mix did not want to sleep in a crate.  He missed his litter mates and needed a warm body to snuggle up against. Lily our Golden Retriever did not volunteer. The surest way to a night's sleep was Bertie in bed tucked up in my armpit, his head resting on my shoulder.  The surest way for him to sleep, anyway. 

I forgot how all consuming a puppy is.  An endless cycle of eat, pee, play, sleep, eat, poop, play sleep. Thank heavens for the sleep part.  If anyone out there has advice on how to get a 2 month-old puppy to sleep by himself, please let me know, 'cause I have work to do before I leave tomorrow for the
SCBWI New England conference!

I have been the proverbial chicken with its head cut off, running around making sure all my work is done or accounted for.  The article I am writing on regional publishers is not going well, so I asked for an extension, which is not like me normally, but what do you do when of the 15 editors you queried only 4 respond?  I sent out reminders, offered to do the interview over the phone, queried a few other editors just in case.  So, extension time - I hope when I get back there will be lots of responses waiting for me. 

But I have to say that the editors I have interviewed have been wonderful.  It makes me wish that I had a project about the Tex-Mex border lands, the Pacific Northwest, Hawai'i, or the Catskill Mountains, that I could send to them. The editors at Cinco Puntos Press, Sasquatch, Bess Press, and Black Dome (respectively) are devoted to their books, their geographical regions, and their authors. You can read more about them in the 2012 Writer's Guide.

Then yesterday I get a barrage of questions about a book I thought was finished and ready to come out in the Fall.  I don't mind the work, but the timing. I dragged out my box of research and answered all the questions like a good kid. I wasn't snarky at all. Still haven't googled the agents and editors who will be at the conference, or really checked out the books written by some of the presenters.  And of course I haven't packed yet either.  I know one pair of pants that won't be going with me - the brown chinos that Bertie ripped. Did I mention Bertie's diarrhea? Anyway, if I time this sleep break correctly, I can finish this blog, toss in some wash, and... Uh no. He's awake!

Bertie - 6 lbs of crazy

Bertie with Lily's skinned soccer ball

A sleeping angel!