In between the two biggest winter storms the Northeast has seen this year, I scooted down to #ny17scwbi. Friday night was filled with dinner and a tour of the Google offices with my cousin who works there. What a creative and thoughtfully designed space! The views of the city were amazing, even though we couldn’t go out onto the terraces because of the snow...
On Saturday morning, I settled into the back of the ballroom ready to listen and learn. Bryan Collier did not disappoint with the opening keynote. I’ve heard Bryan speak several times (and even have a gorgeous print from Dave the Potter hanging in my house) and each time his thoughtfulness and care blow me away. My takeaway from his speech was to think about all the kids I’m writing for and where I am creating “space for them to dream” and where “their invisible holes” are. I want to both create space and acknowledge and recognize those holes.
I always love listening to people talk about their art and so the picture book panel with Andrea Beatty (Iggy Peck, Architect), Andrea Davis Pinkney (A Poem for Peter), Greg Pizzoli (The Watermelon Seed) and Daniel Salmieri (Dragons Love Tacos) was terrific. I think my favorite quote from that was when Daniel Salmieri said “I mess up so much more than I get it right.” It’s what I needed to hear that day.
Sylvie Frank from Paula Wiseman Books talked about picture book pacing and I left that breakout session wanting to make sure that things are balanced in my writing. I can’t make things too heavy for one character if I’m mirroring dialogue and behavior; it has to be balanced. And those untidy endings are okay, which made me wonder if my endings are too neat...
I could listen to Sara Pennypacker talk all day. She is so knowledgeable about writing and book making and kids. She spoke a lot about making the reader do some work and not letting it all be told in the words. Let the reader fill in the gaps, they can do it.
Tahereh Mafi’s speech was too beautiful to even take notes during. I found myself on the verge of tears the whole time. Thank you Ms. Mafi.
At the Gala Saturday night, New England was well represented. Since I’ve been coming to these conferences for a while now, it’s nice to see familiar faces. After the Gala, I was able to go out to dinner with my agent and some other clients of the agency. (It feels a little surreal being able to say that.) I felt very “New York” going to a restaurant that you wouldn’t know existed until you walked in the door. I love the city at night. There is something about all those lights and people that just feels magical to me.
Sunday morning started off with inspiring words from both Jane Yolen and Tomie dePaola. Tomie told us to “Read. Read. Read. Read. Read. Read everything. Read anything.” Also to, “Find the joy of compassion. The joy of creating something that didn’t exist before… and the courage to do it in the first place.”
I snuck out early and missed my last workshop and Sara Pennypacker’s keynote hoping to beat the storm home. Alas, I didn’t. For some reason the New York SCBWI conference never fails to throw me a curve ball. I had to stop halfway home because the roads were just too bad. It’s okay though, I got to spend more time with writing friends. Even with the unexpected delay, the New York SCBWI conference delivered on inspiration, connections and questions that I needed to ask myself about my writing and creating.
Being part of a crowd of over 1,000 people all thinking about writing and children’s literature never ceases to awe me. Most important thing from this weekend? Books matter. Stories matter. Writing matters.