Reporting: The Rutgers One-on-One Conference (Part One)
So pop quiz, hotshots. What is the Rutgers One-on-One Conference? Is it,
A) A tournament conducted by the Professional/Amateur Pinball Association (or PAPA)?
As they say in Kalamazoo, I’ll give you three guesses and the first two don’t count.
Yes, the Rutgers One-on-One Conference is a volunteer-based gathering where new names can meet with insiders in the field and get some much needed advice and guidance. And no, I’d never heard of it either. Librarians don’t make much of an appearance at these kinds of things, and so when I was invited by agent Linda Pratt to speak on a five-person panel I was very flattered and mildly baffled. I couldn’t quite wrap my head around the fact that I’d be speaking to authors/illustrators, agents, and editors instead of my own kind. "So… what you’re trying to say is that there will be NO librarians in the audience? Really?" Since this conference fell on the same day as Bookfest at NYPL, I suppose I could have been the only local librarian there anyway. Timing-wise and all.
This year the conference was held on Saturday, October 13th. I hitched a ride with some very kind editors and agents and I’d like to give a shout-out to Ellen Greene at Harcourt for sending along for me the lovely full-color illustrated reissue of The Life of Pi. Have you guys seen this book? Stunning.
Anyway, after I managed to get the car lost within 10 minutes of stepping into it (all true) we made our way to Rutgers and its lovely campus. Now the conference is set up so that mentors eat their breakfast in one room and mentees in another. In the mentee room the arrivals listen to an author or illustrator who was once like them and has since gone on to success. You may recognize the speaker since this year it was none other than magnificent blogger and author of Defining Dulcie, Paul Acampora. I found myself in a room of mentors instead. All about me they were carefully reading the works of the people they would soon be paired with. That suited me to a tee since I had a presentation to give on advice re: blogging. I’m not one for speeches but I’ll have to give a couple in the next few months and I felt this might be a good way to test my public speaking skills. So while everyone else was line editing, I was hyperactively writing notes in my margins on top of my already existing notes in the margins.
Author Vivian Grey is the Council Chair for this event (the Council on Children’s Literature, to be exact). She gave the welcome and then we broke for the one-on-ones. I was unencumbered (they offered me a mentee but I figured that my advice would be better suited towards drafting people into library school). I sat in on one discussion and found it to my liking. Issues were addressed. Advice given. All that good stuff. Truth be told, I spent much of it staring at the clock in a kind of deadened fascination as it ticked closer and closer to the moment when I would have to speak. After the break I was up.
And up I was! My fellow panelists included agent Alyssa Eisner Henkin (who also shared my car ride) with Trident Media Group, editor Nancy Mercado of Dial (anyone fond of Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell Out of the Tree can credit Nancy with that discovery), illustrator Thomas F. Yezerski, and two time Newbery Honor winner, author Jim Murphy. Mr. Yezerski gave a great speech and Jim Murphy’s a hoot! I wish I’d remembered he’d written Desperate Journey last year. I seriously thought that was a great book that didn’t get enough attention. As it fell out, I was placed between these two artists, which made me second in line to talk. My speech was okay. The ending dribble off and I don’t think I used enough time, but people said nice things and Judy Freeman, bless her soul, actually gave me a very useful written critique. Therefore I’m going to say that on the Suck-o-meter I rank somewhere around a mild, "Meh" and a Gaul-like shrug.
Lunch was delish and I ended up talking with author Susan Campbell Bartoletti. Not too long ago I saw her speaking on a PEN panel discussion. She’s a great lunch companion and with her on my one side and Judy Freeman on my right we had a high old time. Good food too.
(CONTINUED IN PART TWO)
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About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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