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Apr. 18th, 2014

09:33 pm - Photos: SCBWI-LA Writer's Days 2014 (Saturday and Sunday)

Hello, Friends! Photos from SCBWI-LA Writer's Days 2014 are up!

SCBWI-LA Writer's Days 2014
Sat. & Sun., March 22-23, in San Gabriel, CA

Click here for the Flickr album, where you can download pictures.
Click here for the Facebook album, where you can tag yourselves and each other.
These photos will also appear in the upcoming Summer 2014 issue of Kite Tales, the SCBWI-LA/Tri-Regions newsletter. (As always, if you use any of these photos on your blogs, Web sites, etc., please credit me, Rita Crayon Huang. Thanks!)

Some personal highlights:

Newbery Award winner Katherine Applegate, "Frog and Toad at The Hunger Games: 10 Rules for Genre Jumping and Career Building from a Seasoned Hack . . . I mean, PRO"

My takeaways from Katherine's talk: She and her husband, Michael Grant, are funny. They used to ghostwrite Sweet Valley High. They gave Jessica her first period.

Children's Book Buyer and Author Catherine Linka, "What Every Writer Needs To Know About Retail Book Buying Today"

Look at Catherine's awesomeness. The glasses, the pointer, everything. She's got something to say, and she's going to say it!

Catherine's talk was really interesting. She showed how different versions of your author bio get used to convince book buyers to stock your book in stores, among many other things. And she had insight into what book buyers think when they see what's coming out. It's not what you'd assume.

Writers doing writing exercises! Every speaker gave one this year.

The hand model above is Robin Reul, who later won one of this year's writing contests. Note this hand. It's going places.

The Sunday intensives included an Agents Picture Book Track taught in the morning by Danielle Smith (pictured here), and in the afternoon by Jen Rofe;

the Agents Novel Track, taught in the morning by Jen Rofe (pictured here) and in the afternoon by Danielle Smith;

Jen kicks off her intensive with an example from her favorite movie.

the Editor Track with Heidi Fiedler, "Work For Hire and Trade Publishing";

and a plotting intensive with Martha Alderson, "The Plot Whisperer," which I attended.

Martha Alderson talks about the four energetic markers in stories.

I spent a thoughtful five hours analyzing my novel, sitting amongst good friends. It was like a writing retreat!

At lunch on both days, everyone made the prettiest little tableaux you ever saw, everywhere, of writers having fun. Seriously, these friends could not have made more diverse portraits if they were posing for Benetton ads.

All this pic needs is me! the Asian. ;)

Actually, most of the pics didn't need me. ;)

Look at the colors everyone's wearing in both of these pictures above: Red, green, blue. Red, green, blue. Perfect.

I remember my glory day (singular) of having won a Writer's Day contest once. That's why I always take pictures of winners getting announced now, no matter how haphazard. That moment glows.

Remember that hand in the dark sweater sleeve? Congratulations, Robin!!!

Congratulations to all of the winners! And congratulations to Sally Jones Rogan for winning this year's Sue Alexander Service and Encouragement (SASE) Award. It's well deserved!!

Sally is our new SCBWI-LA Assistant Regional Advisor. She's the best! And so nice.

There's a whole lot more, so check out the full album on Flickr here and on Facebook here.

This year's Writer's Days was my first significant time away from my baby. I was more nervous about pumping than anything else. But it went great. Sally and Lee and Sarah found classrooms I could sneak off to during breaks. I felt so triumphant each time I had finished pumping for that day, knowing I had done it. I didn't get to pal around as much as usual, at this conference, but I was giddy to be back among writers.

Lee gets everyone to sing the names of our respective intensives--"Plo-t!" "Novels!" "Picture Books!" etc.--in harmony, using a pitch pipe app on his phone. This doesn't exactly illustrate what I was just talking about, but he's giddy, too.

Even more amazing, everyone knew about my baby and asked after him, and commented on photos I've posted to Facebook. I've tried not to post a lot, but there you have it. We are one big happy family.

Topanga Maria with my baby, after my husband brought him to pick me up Sunday. This guy has a following!

That is some crazy shiz, social media, that you can bring the whole world in, when I feel like I've fallen out for a little while.

It's great to be back!

Me and the indomitable Greg Pincus, my original carpool buddy for SCBWI events--and this year's Writer's Days social media guru. His book, The 14 Fibs of Gregory K., just got announced as a Crystal Kite Award finalist!


P.S. And don't think I've forgotten about those Summer Conference pics I said I would post, too. Those are coming. Maybe by next Summer Conference. :)

Aug. 1st, 2013

01:56 pm - The SCBWI-LA Summer Conference starts TONIGHT. :)

The annual, four-day SCBWI Summer Conference starts tomorrow! For some of us, it starts tonight—with some pre-conference karaoke (woo hoo!!). And for some, it started yesterday.

But I'm not attending this year! For the first time in over a decade. Because I'm pregnant. Due in a few days.

But, the baby isn't here yet. So now, in addition to karaoke-ing tonight, I'm hoping to stop by and say hi to many good friends, get coffee, hang out . . . The other reason I'm not officially attending the conference this year is that SCBWI discontinued my Summer Conference photography arrangement with them of several years. It's nothing personal. There have been some shifts in the main office, and the new crew is not as aware of the work I've done for them, alas. But the fact that I'm pregnant is a much more cheerful reason.

I hope to see many of you there!

I will see many good friends at karaoke tonight—woo hoo!! My husband is bringing our new video camera, hoping to capture me shaking this pregnant belly to some hip hop (which is so wrong). This will definitely be his last chance.

Unless . . . I make an appearance at the SCBWI party Saturday night . . . ?? This year's theme is "Black and White," and this body would make a perfect penguin . . .

I'm just sayin'. ;)

P.S. Time permitting, I may still post a few informal pictures from around the fringes of the conference, afterward. There look to be some promising goings-ons this year.

So check back!

Apr. 12th, 2013

09:24 am - Photos: SCBWI-LA Writer's Days 2013 (Saturday and Sunday)

My friends!

Photos from this year's wildly successful SCBWI-LA Writer's Days conference on "Diversity" are up!

SCBWI-LA Writer's Days 2013: "Diversity!"
Sat. & Sun., March 9-10, in San Gabriel, CA

Lovely contest winners from this year's SCBWI-LA Writer's Days. From left to right, top row: Lori Snyder, Erin Fry, Mary Williams. Second row: Christine Bernardi, Judy Kay Slowey-Sly, and Axie Oh.

You can view the full set from both Saturday and Sunday on Facebook here, or on Flickr here.
From Flickr you can download the image files directly by clicking "Actions"-->"View All Sizes"-->and then selecting the size you need. Please credit Rita Crayon Huang if you use any of these on your Web sites, blogs, Facebook, etc. If anyone wants the full-size originals--like, if you wanted to print specific photos out--contact me and I'll send them to you directly. Thanks, and enjoy!

This year's SCBWI-LA Writer's Days conference theme was "Diversity," and--as you will see from the pictures--our regional advisors Sarah Laurenson and Lee Wind put together a stellar lineup of speakers who really spoke to the topic and examined it from all angles--and were really fun and dynamic to listen to, to boot! (I could make a collage out of Daniel Nayeri's expressions alone--but, I will refrain.)

This was the second year SCBWI-LA has added Sunday intensives to Writer's Day, creating Writer's Days plural--a full, weekend event. I took the World Building intensive on Sunday, along with several good friends (and we all did the reading quite diligently). The class was called "Setting As Character: Building Your World," taught by Malinda Lo, and it was super helpful. I loved how you could tell that everyone in the class had come ready to roll up their sleeves and work. Everyone's comments smacked of experience.

Sunday Intensives, World Building Track: "Setting as Character: Building Your World" with Malinda Lo

Thank you again to all of the hardworking volunteers who participated, and most of all to Lee, Sarah, and Sally Jones Rogan for putting on a spectacular two-day event! I really learned a lot and had a blast doing it!

And congratulations again to all of the contest winners--and to Sue Welfringer for winning this year's Sue Alexander Service and Encouragement (SASE) Award. And to Edie Pagliasotti for winning a special SASE Award.

I hope you all enjoy the photos, :)


Dec. 5th, 2012

02:13 am - Photos: LA Kid Lit Holiday Happy Hour--and Book Drive!--2012

Hi, Everyone!

Kid Lit Holiday Happy Hour--and Book Drive!--2012 took place this past weekend. I took an even dozen pictures. Check them out on Facebook here, or by clicking the image below:

Karol and me, chief organizers of this year"s Kid Lit holiday event
Karol and me, chief organizers of this year's LA Kid Lit holiday event

About 50 people were there at the height, with several of us lined up before the bar opened, and others hanging out until Happy Hour's bittersweet end three and a half hours later. I didn't bring my flash, though, so I didn't document most of it. (Deliberate strategy, honestly.)

Last partyers standing! Closing down LA Kid Lit Holiday Happy Hour 2012.

Others have posted their pictures at the Kid Lit Holiday Happy Hour--and Book Drive!--2012 Facebook page, so check those out, too. And Karol and Charlie will still be collecting books for the book drive at tonight's SCBWI-LA Westside Writers Schmooze in Santa Monica.

I also took a few token shots at the screening of Library of the Early Mind that happened just before this, at the Santa Monica Public Library just a couple blocks away. I was so happy to see this film at last--and to see so many familiar faces gathered there!

Free screening of Library of the Early Mind, a 2010 documentary exploring the art and impact of children’s literature on our kids, our culture, and ourselves. Above, Lee offers a few words of introduction on behalf of SCBWI Los Angeles, who co-sponsored the event with the Santa Monica Public Library, and Karol gets mad props for making this screening and partnership happen.

As I wrote on the screening's Facebook page,

"Thank you again to the Westside Writers Schmooze (Karol and Charlie!), SCBWI-LA, and the Santa Monica Public Library for putting this together. Those of you who didn't make it, don't despair. Apparently you can also watch this movie on Library of the Early Mind's Web site--for a $5 rental fee. :) But it was so great to watch it with this vibrant group!"

Happy Holidays, Kid Lit Community!!


P.S. Special thanks to D for helping me decorate boxes for the holiday book drive, engaging with the movie (yay! I'm glad he liked it!), and then keeping me supplied with food and drinks throughout the Happy Hour, when he knew I would be too scattered to feed myself. I'm lucky, I know.

Nov. 20th, 2012

05:10 pm - This Dec. 1st: Kid Lit Holiday Happy Hour, LIBRARY OF THE EARLY MIND, & Apocalypsies Book Signing!

Hello, Everyone!

Just wanted to let you all know about three (3) exciting children's book events coming up on Saturday, Dec. 1st, open to all.

1) Kid Lit Holiday Happy Hour--and Book Drive!--2012
is taking place at Wokcano in Santa Monica on Dec. 1st, from 4 to 7:30 pm. An informal mixer with holiday cheer. Come socialize with fellow creators and lovers of children's books! And bring your unwrapped, new and gently used children's books (board books through YA novels)!

Visit the "Kid Lit Holiday Happy Hour--and Book Drive!--2012 Facebook page for more details on this year's event.

Click images above to view pictures from last year's Kid Lit Holiday Party and Book Drive. It was super fun--and produced a lot of holiday cheer for children in need!

2) This year's party immediately follows the nearby, FREE screening of Library of the Early Mind, a documentary interviewing nearly 40 celebrity children's book creators, at the Santa Monica Public Library Main Branch from 2 to 3:45 pm.

Library of the Early Mind interviews nearly 40 celebrity children's book creators, exploring the impact of children's literature on our kids, our culture, and ourselves.

The screening is co-sponsored by SCBWI-LA. For details including parking info, visit the "LIBRARY OF THE EARLY MIND - Free Screening!" Facebook page--and feel free to RSVP/"Join." I have been excited about this movie for a long time. By all accounts, it is wonderful.

3) The Kid Lit Happy Hour also follows the Apocalypsies Book Signing Party at Mysterious Galaxy in Redondo Beach from 2:30 to 3:30 pm, where nine (9) of our celebrated local authors will be signing books. Check out the superstar lineup through the link! People attending the book signing party will still have time to come to our Happy Hour, after . . .

So come one, come all! These events are open to all who love children's books, so please help spread the word!

Many MANY thanks to the organizers--especially Karol Ruth Silverstein this time around, who played an instrumental role both in bringing the screening to our area and getting this year's Kid Lit Holiday Happy Hour and Book Drive underway.

Cheers, and have a wonderful Thanksgiving. I hope to see many of you on Dec. 1st!

P.S. Feel free to "Join"/RSVP at the above linked Facebook event pages. RSVPs are purely optional, but always appreciated.

Nov. 14th, 2012

08:43 am - Photos: SCBWI-LA Illustrator's Day 2012

My Friends,

Photos from this year's SCBWI-LA Illustrator's Day are up!

SCBWI-LA Illustrator's Day 2012
Saturday, Nov. 3rd in San Gabriel, CA

Winners from this year's SCBWI-LA Illustrator's Day portfolio and illustration contests.
(L to R:) ID contest 3rd place - Megan Hartfelder, People's Choice portfolio winner - Mary Lundquist, ID contest 1st place- Ashlyn Anstee, ID contest 2nd place - Kent Culotta, Judge's Choice portfolio winner - Andrea Offermann, Judge's Choice portfolio winner - Keika Yamaguchi

The contest winners look so happy, don't they? You can see the full Illustrator's Day photo album on Facebook here or on Flickr here. As always, please include a credit if you use any of these images on your own media. Thanks!

To see illustrations entered into the contest, including the winning pieces, check out SCBWI-LA Illustrator's Day's Facebook page, or go directly to the Facebook Illustration Contest album.

The fascinating thing about shooting Illustrator's Day is that it happens in the dark, because everyone brings visual aids. So, for example, I started out shooting from the speakers' left, because I wanted to piggyback off light from the screen and avoid some bright windows in the back. But I later realized those windows were giving everyone a silvery halo from behind, and tried to capture that on purpose. You find little things. :)

Most people don't realize these pictures are taken in the dark (I hope).

"I can see your halo (halo, halo . . . )"

This picture of Dan Krall, James Burks, and Mark Fearing from the early morning made me laugh. They look like the Three Little Monkeys--See No Evil, Hear No Evil, and Speak No Evil--except they didn't put up their hands!

Which little monkey is which? It doesn't matter, because these three see, hear, and say everything.

Mary Peterson spotted me taking this photo and gave the grouping another name, which I won't repeat here. She's hilarious.

I love-Love-LOVED Merideth Harte's outfit on this day, though I'm scared to say what it made me think of, in case she didn't do it on purpose. (I personally wore my red pirate shorts and black lace-up boots on this day, so I hope she DID do what I was thinking on purpose. But maybe it was just me--and the angles and lights in the moment.)

Looks a bit like juggling . . .

And lion taming . . .

20121103-SCBWI-LA-IllusDay2012-21 20121103-SCBWI-LA-IllusDay2012-22
Plus being a ringmaster, and Awesome.

Seriously, though, at one point someone said something that was unintentionally awkward and Ms. Harte answered in a way that played that up, which made it funnier. And then she . . . *ahem* mimed opening a door and walking right through it. And I was like, Can those skills be accidental??

These thoughts led me to include one more picture at the end of the album that I normally wouldn't--but, this time, couldn't resist.


Am I allowed to post funny pics of luminaries I don't know?

I also had a good time taking pictures of friends all day long, like my good pal Mark Fearing, who gave a talk on digital apps.

Mark giving his "vignette" on creating apps, aptly named, "App talk"

You know, I originally didn't use that photo in the official album, because I second guess too much what people will like. But I'm adding it now, because I realize I don't want to blog the pictures I did put in. *eloquent shrug*

From the end of the day:

Mark Fearing is left autographing books long after SCBWI-LA Illustrator's Day 2012 has ended

Mark signs hundreds of books (though they seem mostly to be by Peter H. Reynolds)

He is a very serious author/illustrator.

I also loved Dan Krall's opening talk, "Look, No Hands (or How I made a career in illustration without ever learning to draw hands)," which was so, so great. He said some things I really needed to hear right now with my work, about how if you really focus on conveying your ideas well, people won't notice your shortcomings in craft, that maybe you've been obsessing over for way too long. I especially loved the graph Dan made tracking artistry (along the vertical axis) to age (along the horizontal), showing his personal journey. It was hilarious and felt true.

[I did take a picture of that graph, but I won't show it, because that's his and maybe he'll want to give this talk again. But get Dan to show it to you, if you can. Go hear him speak!]

There were a lot more funny moments and celebrity sightings (Hi, Peepy!), so check out the full album.

If you come to SCBWI-LA Illustrator's Day, you, too, can have this much fun! And hang out with beautiful women.

Every year that I've attended, the Coordinators have ended the day by thanking each and every volunteer by name who helped make Illustrator's Day happen. So I'd like to give a shout out to the three fearless leaders who REALLY made this event brilliant:

Thank you, Ken W. Min,

Thank you, Karyn Raz,


Thank you, Wilson Swain

for doing a stupendous job of putting Illustrator's Day together.

Our three fearless Coordinators thank each of us, even though we need to thank them!

Thank you guys for creating an amazing conference, and thanks for letting me participate, too. I love hanging out with all of you!

Visit the Illustrator's Day Web site or Facebook page, or email LAillustratorsday@yahoo.com for more information—both about this year's event and the next. (But, you know. Give our Coordinators a moment to recover. They deserve a vacation!)


P.S. One more personal highlight:

At the very, very end of the day, Mark Fearing lent me money so I could buy a copy of Peter H. Reynolds's Ish and get it signed.

Peter H. Reynolds signs my new copy of Ish at SCBWI-LA Illustrator's Day 2012.
Mark, I still owe you a dollar!

Ish is a sequel to The Dot, which I already love and had brought my copy from home to get signed.

Ish and The Dot, by Peter H. Reynolds, in the SCBWI-LA Illustrator's Day 2012 bookstore

I first learned about The Dot when Lee dressed up as it for our Kid Lit Halloween Costume party last year:

Sara Wilson Etienne, me, and Lee Wind, dressed up as Harriet the Spy, Bunnicula, and The Dot, respectively. When Lee told us the story of The Dot, we all got chills. When I repeated it to my husband later (without having read it myself yet, mind you), I almost started crying. (Oct. 2011: Check out the rest of the Kid Lit Costumes here.)

The Dot is about getting started as an artist. Ish is about giving yourself permission to not do everything "perfectly"--to keep going. As with the message from Dan Krall's morning talk, this was something I needed to hear right now. (Peter H. Reynolds read Ish to us during his end-of-the-day talk.) I also chatted with Mark Fearing and Andrea Offermann on this subject, afterward, so thank all of you so much . . .

And finally . . . 

Did you know there's a collection of my SCBWI event photos on Flickr?

SCBWI Events mosaic
Click on the image to visit my SCBWI Events Collection on Flickr.

Here you can view pictures from SCBWI-LA Illustrator's Days, Writer's Days, and the SCBWI International Summer Conferences from the last several years--including links to their corresponding Facebook albums. Come see what everyone looks like! or what we used to, anyway. :)

Cheers, and enjoy,

P.P.P.S. Hahahahaha--
This just in from Dan Krall, on FB:

Remixed by Dan Krall
Dan: "A photo from the Nobel Awards or the Super Villain Conference, I'm not sure which."

Now I'm REALLY glad I added that photo. :)

Aug. 27th, 2012

12:51 pm - PPS. re: Photos: The 2012 SCBWI Summer Conference (#LA12SCBWI). Part I.5: The TALKS

P.P.S. One more SCBWI Summer Conference talk to add to my previous post in this "two-part" miniseries.

How crazy was it that Deborah Underwood relied on Jonah Lehrer's Imagine: How Creativity Works for part of her keynote, and then had to scramble when the scandal broke out three days before the conference?? (Jonah Lehrer had been caught making up Bob Dylan quotes so his whole book was called into question, and the publisher pulled it from stores everywhere immediately.) I was in the middle of reading it when that happened and had been talking to everyone I know about the content, so hearing Deborah Underwood reveal her dilemma onstage both confirmed and amplified how calamitous this news felt.

Deborah Underwood, "The Power of Quiet" (Photo credit: Rita Crayon Huang, Copyright ©2012.)

Amazingly, Deborah was able to email the scientists behind the studies she was specifically citing and get them to confirm their results so she could still give her talk. She started personally checking the book herself! Another of my friends at the conference was in the middle of reading it, too--just one chapter behind me!--so I know there were lots of us super interested in this. I'm still hoping the substance is true, even if the quotes are fudged. (Why anyone would think it's okay to make up quotes in a high-profile book in this day and age is beyond me. But I was getting annoying that all the people in the book talked the same. I thought maybe this was a function of the author being attracted to a certain style of quote, plus the fact I was listening to the audio version so maybe he was giving everyone the same cadence.)

Obviously I was super interested in Deborah's subject. I've been thinking a lot about the role of quiet and taking breaks in creativity (what Sara calls "magic brain"). But it was so cool that Deborah was able to start verifying the contents of Imagine when the rest of us have been left in the lurch, wondering if anyone was going to. The letter of apology she "quoted" from Jonah Lehrer was super funny.

As I mentioned in "Part I," all of my pictures from the 2012 SCBWI Summer Conference can be viewed on Facebook here and on Flickr here

"Part II" is still coming up, :)

Aug. 25th, 2012

04:32 pm - Photos: The 2012 SCBWI Summer Conference (#LA12SCBWI). Part I: The TALKS

Hi, Everyone! Fun stuff! My photos from the SCBWI 2012 Summer Conference are up!

The SCBWI 2012 International Summer Conference
August 3–6, 2012, in Los Angeles, CA USA

Lin Oliver kicks off SCBWI's 41st Annual Summer Conference with our own, very tiny Olympic torch, presented to Dan Gutman.

Click here to view all 234 photos on Facebook, where you can tag yourself and your friends.
Click here to view the same set on Flickr instead, where you can download full-size files.

Please credit Rita Crayon Huang if you use any of these images on your blogs, Facebook, Web sites, etc. Please also tweet, tag, and spread the word! Feel free to untag yourselves, too, if that is your wish. As always, if any picture makes you uncomfortable in any way, message me privately and I will take it down immediately, no questions asked.

I had lots of writer friends on the faculty this year. Here are a few from the Friday morning walk-in:

Authors Jennifer Bosworth; Greg Fishbone--a new friend!; Martha Brockenbrough and Jolie Stekly, also representing Team Blog;
and our very own Sara Wilson Etienne at Friday morning's Welcome & Introduction of Faculty. (Photo credit: Rita Crayon Huang, Copyright ©2012.)

So many of my friends are crossing over to the other side! Slowly but surely, I can feel the tide turning. Crazy how everyone's individual striving is adding up like this.

The talks were fantastic, as always. An obvious highlight this year was Ruta Sepetys's keynote, "You Can't Break the Broken," about how she went to a prison camp as research for her book. I've never seen anyone lay themselves so bare as a human being onstage before. She laid all of us bare in the process--and she did it while being funny. Even when she got to the soul-shaking bits, she kept on going, and she kept on being funny. I know that David Small took us on a profound journey last year, too, down into the deep, dark hearts we all know from our own lives and then back up, into the light--with dancing--but da--ng. Ruta made us confront who we are right now, in our chairs, as adults. It was unexpected, to say the least.

Ruta Sepetys, "You Can't Break the Broken: Writing Emotional Truth" (Photo credit: Rita Crayon Huang, Copyright ©2012.)

Standing ovation for Ruta Sepetys's emotional keynote at the SCBWI 2012 Summer Conference (Photo credit: Rita Crayon Huang, Copyright ©2012.)

I attended Ruta's breakout session on media prep, too, and it was wonderful. (That was before her keynote, so I had no idea what she had in store for us.)

Ruta Sepetys, "Media Prep: Author Tips for Radio, TV, and Print Coverage" (Photo credit: Rita Crayon Huang, Copyright ©2012.)

Did I feel ashamed of myself taking a picture of Ruta crying, by the way? Yes. But that didn't stop me from doing the same thing to my tablemate at the Golden Kite Awards.

Reaction to Golden Kite Awards speeches (Photo credit: Rita Crayon Huang, Copyright ©2012.)

But what I'm trying to say is, awesome talks and breakouts aside--

oh! But I also attended Eugene Yelchin's breakout on thinking "Outside the Trim," which was also fantastic! I went because his answers were so smart during the picture book panel that morning that he made a fan out of me on the spot. During the panel he brought up how, as children's book creators and creators of culture, we're all participating in a larger conversation that spans time and space and topics (my paraphrasing, sorry). We have to be aware of the current cultural moment in order to add what we want.

Jon Klassen, Antoinette Portis, Eugene Yelchin, and Lee Wardlaw on the Picture Book Panel, "The Picture Book: The Dance Between Words and Pictures." Moderated by Dan Yaccarino. (Photo credit: Rita Crayon Huang, Copyright ©2012.)

I was like, Yes!! I had forgotten that's what we're doing! I haven't thought about this business in a big-picture, intellectual way in a long time. You know, I confront the emotions and minutiae of what I'm trying to say day to day, and the audience I'm trying to reach, but not the big space-time continuum of how we fit in. And you don't need to think about that in order to participate--we're all participating all the time--but I'd become ungrounded in terms of how to think about issues like whom we're trying to speak for regarding multiculturalism in our books, for example. We speak for ourselves, always--and we do this by being aware of what other people are saying, and responding. That's all there is to it.

This echoes what Lee Wind once told me Jacqueline Woodson said on the subject of race in her books, which is that it helps to remember we don't have to start the discussion ourselves; we just have to add.

After that I spontaneously went to Eugene Yelchin's breakout session to hear more of how this guy thinks.

Eugene Yelchin, "Outside the Trim: Thinking Beyond the Literal Space of the Picture Book" (Photo credit: Rita Crayon Huang, Copyright ©2012.)

It was brilliant--of course. It was especially eye-opening for me as a writer who's been turning over in my mind how I might use photography in a picture book way someday. Eugene (if I may call him that) broke down a lot of visual concepts and gave me new vocabulary with which to think. I wasn't looking for that, and now I'm excited to take these ideas and play.

Of course, this meant I missed the talk I had originally planned to attend--Jenn Bosworth's "The Conspicuous Writer (Turning Readers Into Fans)"--which I heard later from Sara was amazing. But what can ya do. pang as fomo is confirmed I'm learning to follow the moment . . .

I also went to Matthew Kirby's session on Voice, which was outstanding.

Matthew Kirby, "Voice" (Photo credit: Rita Crayon Huang, Copyright ©2012.)

Everyone there agreed: we'd never heard anyone discuss voice so clearly before. It was just so clear. And it was right, everyone also agreed. We all knew it--the definition of voice--when we heard it. ;)

Ahh. That soothes a complaint I've had for a long time on how people should really be able to define voice, because are we writers or aren't we?? It also led to a revelation for me about what to do with the voice in my book. I had brought my niggling question to ask at the session's end, but Matthew's presentation was so clear that just thinking about how to phrase my question in his terms, answered it.


I hear Mike Jung is giving a talk on Voice soon for which he'll be borrowing heavily from this one (with attribution, of course). So if you want to know what was said, go hear Mike! Or go hear Matthew Kirby. :)

The guy in the hat plans to steal from Matthew Kirby's talkspeak on Voice soon.

And, I attended Sara's session on creating book trailers.

Sara Wilson Etienne, "Book Trailers: Storyboards, Scripts, Lookbooks, and Everything That Puts the 'Tease' in Teaser" (Photo credit: Rita Crayon Huang, Copyright ©2012.)

Amazing also. If you haven't seen Sara's astounding book trailer yet, check it out here. And be on the lookout for her article on making book trailers, which will appear in the next update to the SCBWI Publication Guide. Even though I had heard Sara talk about her trailer while they were making it, it was so enlightening to see the lookbooks and rough cuts she and her talented friends had made. The session was chock-a-block packed with real, how-to information, plus how one should think about different kinds of trailers before getting started. And she showed how much you can get done before you've spent one dollar, which I love.

Okay! But I actually didn't want to talk about the talks and inspiration and craft and business side of the conference--I wanted to talk about the people and the fun! With friends and at yoga and the party and afterparty . . .

All right, you know what? This post has gotten long enough. I'll do the fun stuff in a "Part II" post. Please come back.

So just one more talk--really quick. Because it made a difference.

Amy Goldman Koss said some really provocative stuff during her breakout, "Character Quirks and Credible Jerks! Nailing Character," about how she doesn't believe people change; that they come into the world the way they are. (She said if you believe differently, you can write books that show such, but she has to stay true to what she believes.) She also said the more individuality you give a character, the more you risk that character being disliked by readers. (Good for villains, potentially bad for protagonists.)

Amy Goldman Koss, "Character Quirks and Credible Jerks! Nailing Character" (Photo credit: Rita Crayon Huang, Copyright ©2012.)

I've turned these ideas over and over in my mind. Of course I want to argue, but she used compelling examples, plus I know what she's saying. It's gotten the dialog going pretty awesomely in my mind. I also just read one of her books, Poison Ivy, and wow, that book is brutal but brilliant. I mean, brilliant. And brutal. Those characters are alive in the most stubborn, maddening but real way possible. I recommend it to everyone. (Be forewarned, but definitely read it.)

I've been thinking over how I might test some of Amy's ideas in my book, through a couple of my characters, and the book is definitely benefiting.

Okay! So that's everything I'm going to say about craft, business, and inspiration in this two-part miniseries. Come back in a few days for the fun, fun, fun, okay? =)


P.S. Did you know that I have an SCBWI Events photo collection on Flickr?

SCBWI Events mosaic
Click on the image or link to visit my SCBWI Events Collection on Flickr, including International Summer Conferences and Los Angeles regional conferences from the last several years.

In addition to the latest, 2012 Summer Conference photos, it includes pictures from the 2011 Summer Conference, the 2010 Summer Conference, the 2009 Summer Conference, and the 2008 Summer Conference--with corresponding Facebook links--plus the last several SCBWI-Los Angeles Writer's Days and Illustrator's Days. I just glanced through them and wow. I totally recognize people--faces in the background--that I didn't know back then. And we're all younger. You should check it out.

Cheers, and enjoy,

Aug. 8th, 2012

06:01 pm - "Whoa . . .uh-oh! That's what makes you beau-ti-ful!" ♩♫♪

This is that time of year when I start going through my pictures from the SCBWI Summer Conference, reliving highlights as I discover what I got, all while listening to ridiculously poppy, boppy music (which helps me weed). The experience gets me high, even as I'm sure everyone else is either winding down or has already come back to reality.

Can't wait to share the pictures! In the meantime, please enjoy another delightful, illustrated recap of the Summer Conference--this time by my good friend Ken Min. Ken is an award-winning illustrator who has summed up the full range of what one experiences at the Summer Conference through personal examples, and illustrates his favorite takeaway by putting it into practice immediately--which inspires me. Check out Ken's "SCBWI 2012 Summer Conference Manifesto" here.

♥ ♩♫♪!
"Whoa . . . uh-oh! That's what makes you beau-ti-ful!!"

Aug. 7th, 2012

02:40 pm - SCBWI 2012 Summer Conference Pictures Are Coming!

Well, what do you know. All kinds of ideas are coming to me today as a direct result of the SCBWI 2012 Summer Conference, and I've been stymied a long time. Thank you to all of the good friends and faculty I had meaningful conversations with this weekend! And to all of the friends I'm going to have revelatory conversations with, going forward!

Photos are coming soon! In the meantime, check out this lovely illustrated recap of Mary Peterson's Conference takeaways. Mary is the wonderful illustrator behind such picture book delights as Piggies in the Pumpkin Patch, written by herself and Jennifer Rofé, and the forthcoming Wooby and Peep, written by Cynthea Liu, and was on the Summer Conference faculty this year.

Mary Peterson"s 2012 Summer Conference Takeaways

Says Mary,

Another fun, exhausting, exhilerating, hilarious conference! I love seeing so many old friends and making new ones. The images above were scanned from the notes I took over the weekend. Credits for each bit of wisdom...

1. Personal observation
2. Linda Pratt, Literary Agent
3. John Klassen, author/illustrator
4. Arthur A. Levine, Arthur A. Levine Books
5. Tony diTerlizzi, author/illustrator
6. Rubin Pfeffer, Literary Agent

Shared with permission from marypeterson.com.


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