Day Two in Which I Earn My Keep: SCBWI’s Western Washington Wonderfulness
A complimentary breakfast, a hop in the car, and here we be. The Meydenbauer Center, home of the Western Washington SCBWI Conference. I’ve done a lot of conference centers in my day and as odd as it sounds, I can’t help but think that the Meydenbauer Center may be the best I’ve ever been in. Now, let me put this in perspective. We were in Bellevue at the time. Bellevue is an odd little city. It’s basically a metropolitan area built from scratch. As you walk through its abandoned streets (weekends empty it out entirely) you can stand on a street corner and see seven skyscrapers in the midsdt of their own construction on your every side. It’s bizarre. A town in the making. Very American. Very odd.
SCBWI prefers to hold its conferences there rather than in Seattle proper because the convention center is far superior, and on this we were agreed. It was a lovely place to go. Speakers got their own little private relaxation room where I was occasionally able to hide out and write a review or two on the sly. You could see Mt. Rainier on a clear day (and Saturday was nothing if not clear). The temperature was never too hot or too cold. It was a vertical layout rather than a horizontal one. And most intriguing was the fact that I was able to peer down a various weirdo functions that were occurring during our conference down below. Everything from college graduations to bellydancers. Here are the bellydancers (at a distance, but still).
Our general assembly began with all of the Keynote Speakers running into the room behind the official SCBWI Western Washington Sasquatch. As I was following the beast I was unable to make any photographs of the event. You will have to take my word for it that it was good clean hairy fun.
Two different panels began the day. The first consisted of local success stories of published peeps. These consisted of Bonny Becker, Tom Brenner, Royce Buckingham, Margaret Chodos-Irvine, Jim Di Bartolo, Laini Taylor, Laura McGee Kvasnosky, and Elizabeth Rusch. Each person took some time to discuss their path to publication and it was often very funny and very inspiring in a kind of weird schadenfreude way. Everyone was eloquent, but it was Royce Buckingham whose story really took home the gold. Royce was responsible for last year’s Demon Keeper, a story about a kid who happens to be a demonkeeper and the dangers of failing to keep your demons properly secured (particularly when you’re on a first date). The remarkable thing about Royce was that here was a guy who worked and waited and waited and worked for years and then BLAM! He get his book sold and his screenplay for that book pitched and sold to 20th Century Fox in a kind of one, two punch. Royce had come to my Kidlit Drink Night the evening before, so I was particularly pleased to see that he was also quite good at the speechifying.
The second panel consisted of editors and agents giving the skinny on what they were looking for. There was Liesa Abrams, Stephen Barbara, Jessica Garrison, Nina Hess, Arthur A. Levine, Laurent Linn, Gary Luke, Randi Rivers, Kate Schafer, Rosemary Stimola, and Marcia Wernick. They were lovely. Were I looking for an editor or agent I would have been taking down notes like mad. Then a quick break and I was off on my first presentation “Blogging and Beyond: Marketing Yourself in a Scary Virtual World”.
Let me just point out that I had never done any Powerpoint presentations before this day. I had rehearsed my spiel the day before, but I was admittedly a little nervous. Ms. Martha Brockenbrough was there to help me through it, but fate worked against us both. I had brought a Mac and when it acted like a sick puppy both Ms. Brockenbrough and author Jim Averbeck were super nice and tried to help me get it to work. We at last had to save the entire kerschmozzle onto my handy dandy flash drive and do the entire presentation via a PC. Sacre bleu! Actually it wasn’t bad at all. I am never more comfortable than when I’m talking about blogging and webby tidbits. My personal itinerary (yes, we all got personal itineraries which makes me want to bribe the women of SCBWI to organize the rest of my life as well) indicated that 62 people signed up to hear me speak. Dunno if that was the final count or not, but whoever came, they were lovely. Very nice, very attentive, very intelligent questions. It made me feel good about my talk.
After lunch it was time for Mo Willems to give the keynote address. He did so with aplomb, though he couldn’t resist offering a bit of advice that had the rest of us scrambling to do damage control afterwards. Mo informed the populace that it’s not enough to read a whole bunch o’ children’s books in order to write them well. You also have to write or illustrate too. Of course, he prefaced this explanation with the advice “Don’t read” which knowing my luck is probably the one thing everyone remembered afterwards.
I got to judge the work in the Art Portfolio Show after that, which was great. As it turned out, here are the three winners of the show:
Second Runner Up
Grand Prize Winner: Paul Schmid
The next day I would find myself wandering around Fremont and I would find at least TWO of the artists that had been in the show displaying paintings in one of those small arty gift stores Fremont seems to be so blooming blessed with.
Other artists I particularly liked the look of included:
Mary Anne Nagy (one of the people I spotted in the shop in Fremont)
Paul Schmid (who took the top honor by the end of the day)
This bloke who did clay kids and whose card I have lost in the midst of unpacking, consarn it.
I had been nervous about speech Numero Uno and it seemed to go okay. Now I had to sit at a table and tell people what I thought about their manuscripts. But this was fine too, in part because as a librarian all I can give is advice. I can’t buy your book. I can’t represent you as an agent. I can review your title, I guess, but that’s the most I can due. Your contact with me will never lead to an exchange of money, and that’s something I was pretty pleased about. As for the women I consulted with on their texts, they were all lovely. They took advice, they made changes. At times they even made changes long before I had even gotten around to telling them what changes to make. They’d just automatically realized the same things that I had about their books. I’d name them here but I’m under the impression that some kind of privacy should be at work in this case, and so I shall zippa the lips.
Chris Crutcher gave the next keynote address. Of all the speakers of this weekend, he was one of the few I never got a chance to speak to privately. And that’s a pity since his talk was just lovely. He discussed his newest novel, of course, and read from his autobiography, but it was the quality of his speech that made him remarkable. Just a lovely fellow.
After this they stuffed us full of wine and cheese, allowed us to mingle, fed us dinner, and off to bed we went. Saturday, as it turned out, had been my easy day.
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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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