Moments from the NESCBWI Conference

I’m in Fitchburg, MA this weekend for the New England Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators Conference, and this morning, I’m up early and pretty much overwhelmed with gratitude that I get to be part of this world. It’s been an amazing conference so far. Among the highlights…

  • Hearing Allyn Johnston & Marla Frazee discuss their editor/illustrator collaboration.
  • Listening the inspirational Cynthia Leitich Smith talk about change and challenges in a writing life.
  • A long and unhurried dinner conversation with smart, funny, kind friends. Good pizza, too.
  • Seeing my awesome agent, Jennifer Laughran, in real life for the second time. We live on opposite coasts, and almost all of our conversations are via email, so getting to talk and laugh together face to face is a treat.
  • Giving my workshop on Skype author visits, having all the technology work well, and hearing people say it was helpful.
  • A late-night conversation with Harper editor Molly O’Neill about one of the projects she’s been working on. Listening to Molly tell the story of acquiring a YA novel called YOU that releases in August, I was so impressed with her passion for the book. I think as writers, we’re used to hearing other writers gush about their characters with that kind of excitement, but we don’t often get a chance to hear editors talk about their work. It was a great reminder that they care about our words and stories just as much as we do, and that these are their book-babies, too.  Also, I am now dying to read YOU.
  • Having Jo Knowles & Carrie Jones sign a couple books for my classroom library. (*waves to students*  I am bringing you presents!)  Here are a few photos from yesterday’s book signing. 

Marla Frazee signs ALL THE WORLD, with Frank Dormer & Erin Dionne as autographing neighbors.

Here’s Erin Dionne visiting with a reader/writer friend. See the stacks of Oreos?  Erin brought them to go along with her terrific tween novel MODELS DON’T EAT CHOCOLATE COOKIES.  Because the signing was many hours after lunch, this made Erin very popular.  Erin is funny and wonderful and popular anyway, but you know…Oreos always help.

Here’s Jo Knowles, signing a copy of JUMPING OFF SWINGS.

Here’s Jo, Cynthia Lord, and me at our signing table. See the blue book between Cindy and me?  It’s an ARC of her upcoming novel TOUCH BLUE, a middle grade book set on an island in Maine, and I had a chance to read it recently. It’s beautiful and full of heart, like her Newbery Honor Book RULES, but special in its own different ways, too.  Look for it in August.

The photo that I don’t have but wish I did?

Cindy crawling UNDER the table and emerging from beneath the white tablecloth so she could get over to a different table to have Matt Phelan sign a book. Our signing table was long and pushed back close to the wall, so in order to get out from behind it, you had to squeeze past the other people signing, stepping and tripping over bags and backpacks.  Cindy’s shortcut was much faster.

On the agenda today? A free verse poetry workshop with Kelly Fineman that I’ve had my eye on since the conference program was first released. Kelly is a gifted poet, and I’m looking forward to hearing her talk and taking some ideas back to my creative writing class, especially since a few of our kids are working on free verse novels as their extended projects.  Then I’m talking about blogging on a panel with Jo Knowles and Carrie Jones.

I’ll leave you with the question Linda Urban asked that got us all thinking at dinner last night…  Is there a project that you’ve always wanted to do but don’t feel ready to write yet? 

Those of you who read this blog regularly know I’m a big fan of dystopian novels.  I’ve always kind of wanted to write one, but I never felt like I had the right idea at the right time until this spring, when things came together in my head for an upper middle grade dystopian that I’ve been writing fast and furiously.  My agent recently sent a proposal to my editor, so my fingers are crossed.  And it turns out that a couple other people at our dinner table are in the same place…just beginning to work on that "someday project."

What about you?  Is there a book that you’ve been waiting for the right time, the right inspiration to write? 

35 Replies on “Moments from the NESCBWI Conference

  1. I do have a someday project, that is at least three projects down the road. That’s one reason why I’m focusing so much on the writing right now.

    What a great conference–good to see you at least to wave in the halls, instead of across the lake ;}

  2. Thanks for sharing, Kate! Wish I could have been there.

    Yup, I have two someday projects but have only been working on one of them. I’m still researching my nonfiction 4-part series and have a very rough draft which totally stinks. I know what I want to say, but what is in my mind is just not transferring to my fingertips, as it’s flat, flat,flat, and as boring as a high school book report

  3. Thanks for sharing stories and photos! It sounds like a fantastic time!

    And hooray for someday projects! I have two different books I keep trying to write and then finding it’s not the right time. Both are more emotion-driven/darker type stories than what I’ve published, which I think is my stumbling block. Hopefully someday!

  4. So wish I could be at this conference–sounds wonderful! I’m writing a YA dystopia for our agent, too, and for the same reason–that I really love the genre, but could never quite figure out how to get it to fall together. Good luck w/yours!

  5. Sounds like a great time- I live just outside of Fitchburg, and it’s been tough this weekend, knowing there are so many really cool people that I admire so close by! I wanted to crash the party, but we’ve been busy buying a new truck and planting the garden and then there are the papers that have to get marked…

    I LOVE the idea of a dystopian novel from you!! I’m praying your editor likes your proposal!

  6. Terrific Workshop

    It was a fantastic weekend. Just thought you should know that the workshop you ran with Jo (my beloved former professor/writing guru!) and Carrie on blogging was one of the highlights for me. You guys did a great job — those of us who are newbies really appreciated it. Many thanks!

  7. Great to see you, too! (Even though I wish there’s been more time in between those great sessions to chat!) Hope you had a terrific weekend!

  8. I wish you could have been there, too!

    As for the rough draft, I thought they were all supposed to stink, no? If that’s not the case, please don’t tell me…

  9. It was a great conference, Deva – wish you could have been there, too.

    I love that you start your “someday” projects to find out if it’s time yet. I hope your somedays are soon!

  10. Thanks, Tiffany! I wish you could have been there, too – but I bet your ears were ringing. Jenn was speaking of your awesomeness! Good luck with your dystopian, too – I bet it will be fantastic.

  11. Thanks, Robin! Kelly’s talk was terrific – so specific and helpful, just like her blog. And we did a few great writing exercises, too – one of which gave me what I think will be a great new image to work with on my current project.

  12. Oh, I wish you could have been there, too – but it looks like you and your kids had a GREAT time with Cindy and Mona when they stopped off on the way. So great that you were able to work it out!

  13. Re: Terrific Workshop

    Thanks so much for saying so – I really love presenting on a panel like that (especially with people as smart & talented as Jo and Carrie!).

  14. It was great seeing you – although I didn’t manage to find you for a goodbye hug before you left! We will have to do something to remedy that!

  15. Kate, I liked seeing you write across the room in Kelly’s workshop, and enjoyed the blogging panel. I was sorry I wasn’t at the conference earlier, but Sunday was uplifiting!

  16. LOl, I can’t imagine your drafts ever stinking!

    But in this case, it stinks to high heavens! I have been researching and writing bits and pieces of this story for the past 4 years as it’s one that is compelling me to write it, but I’m not sure if I have the talent to do it justice… not yet anyway.

  17. Thanks for the great discussion on blogging with Jo Knowles and Carrie Jones! Great perspectives!

  18. My first drafts smell like something that’s been lost in the back of the refrigerator for two years – they do indeed stink. But that’s the beauty of revision, right?

  19. Hee-hee…if only we’d had the cameras ready. It was so great to meet you in person, too, Karen. Now I have a three-dimensional face to put with your name when we chat online.

  20. Owed to Kelly: one hug goodbye. Although really, by then it will likely be a hug hello, so…

    Your poetry workshop was wonderful. I had to duck out a tiny bit early because I knew Jo and Carrie were waiting for me to get set up for the blogging panel, but I would have happily sat through another two hours of Kelly-poetry-wisdom.

  21. Hi, Jeannine! I wish we’d had more time to talk – but I was happy to at least say hello, and I’m excited to see you for a long stretch of quiet writing and visiting this summer!

  22. Phew! I am relieved to hear you enjoyed my workshop. I was nervous going in that it might not meet folks’ expectations – free verse is a bit of a hydra to tackle, and an hour just isn’t enough time to really dive in – but it seems like it worked, for which I’m glad!

    Will you be at ALA?

  23. thanks

    Hi, I was at your workshop on blogging at the conference. (I’m one of Jo Knowles’ Simmons students, not some scary stalker.)
    I was so inspired by your work. I’m just starting out in the business, I’m also a teacher, and father, and I couldn’t see myself making it all work. But you’ve shown me it’s possible! Many, many thanks.
    I really see now how I can take my teaching and writing life and meld them together for some sort of blog (which may suspiciously look a lot like yours someday.)

    Anyway, thanks again.

  24. Re: thanks

    Thanks for the kind words about our panel – I adore Jo and think you’re all so lucky to have her as a teacher at Simmons!)

    It’s nice to meet another teacher/parent who’s also writing! Usually, I feel like things balance out pretty well, and certainly, my kids benefit from my writing experiences in the classroom, too. Drop me a note if you ever want to chat about the whole teaching-writing balance!

  25. Yes! I’ll be there – and without too much official business. I’m just signing for an hour at the booth & then free. I will have my kids with me!

  26. You’ll have to let me know when you’re coming and going, so we can plan to meet up. I’ve started to get quite a schedule set up for when I’m there, but there are still plenty of blank spaces – I’m probably going down Friday and definitely coming home on Tuesday: I’ve been invited to the (ungodly early) Coretta Scott King breakfast to cheer for Tanita Davis as she gets her CSK award!