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Current Reports

SCBWI 2007 Conference Internet Report

November 1, 2007

My dear readers,

This report has been long in coming. It is the Internet edition of my report on the gathering of writers, illustrators, editors, and publishers and all who are interested in the world of books for children and young adults.

La Vergne

Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators
Annual Conference – Friday, August 3 – Monday, August 6, 2007
Hyatt Regency Century Plaza, Los Angeles, California
La Vergne Rosow

At the 2007 SCBWI annual conference icons of the children’s, youth, and young adult publishing world were displaced in large part by new names (to attendees) with a new way of viewing the conference that is designed to rejuvenate and refresh writers of any ilk for any audience.

The location, the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza in LA, is more suitable to a smaller crowd of more affluence than the starving writers and illustrators who filled the meeting rooms and halls, eager to grab that one tip that might break the code that opens the door into the most exciting of all literary fields. A graphic illustration of the hotel’s inadequacies was that, following an alleged extensive renovation, one of the men’s restrooms on the main conference floor had to be converted to a women’s.

In addition to writers and illustrators, the presenters and panelists included enough editors and publishers to show (not tell) attendees that not all editors or publishers are created equal.

Notably missing from the here-to-fore perennial line-up of presenters were Tomi De Paola, Bruce Coville, and Sid Fleishman, all of whom have given generously of their trade secrets in past years.

SID FLEISCHMAN, for whom the SCBWI’s Humor Award is named, was present to deliver his trophy to this year’s winner and to counsel those who knew how to seek this ever-insightful ideas.

AUTHOR AND POET CRITIQUES Nightly critique sessions (open to all on a drop-in basis) were well-attended, as always, so much so, in fact, that time limits had to be imposed on presenters.

LOGISTICS I recommend arrival on the Thursday night prior to the start of the conference and strongly suggest making your reservation as soon as the system allows and staying at the hotel.

The sessions start early and end late and there are informal gatherings even earlier and later. Attendees who attempted to commute from friends’ or relatives’ homes dug an easy two or more contact hours off of these information intensive days.

Every minute matters at this event, where precious few hours must sustain for an entire year.

While my journals are chock full of details I would be delighted to share with you from sessions and plenary gatherings, I will only touch on a few highlights for this report.

DASTARDLY FIRST PAGE OFFENCE – The quiet, unassuming children’s librarian, Susan Patron, took the liberty of introducing an untouchable on the first page of her 2007 Newbery Award winning The Higher Power of Lucky, a middle grade novel.

Placing the anatomically correct word in print, she simply described where an unfortunate little hero dog got bitten as it saved a family baby from a rattlesnake and so launched one of the most frantic book banning scenes of the new millennium.

Censors may shudder to think of her as a prominent member of the Los Angeles County Library Collection Development Team.

A FRIENDLY NOTE Friends and colleagues who hover expectantly for more details about this Lucky text incident are advised to read the book.

KADIR NELSON, whose Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom won the 2007 Caldecott and Coretta Scott King awards, who began by tracing cartoons of things he could not draw, showed the power of being in the midst of like-minded professionals. While studying illustration and working as a library TA, he began to read about other influential artists. That caused him to change to an illustration major.

Rather than hire models, he dresses up like the character he needs, sets up his camera and runs to take photos of himself to work from.

He also spoke of the need to research how things look, for example, how the sunlight hits a barn in South Carolina.

ELLEN HOPKINS, is an award-winning author and poet who, after writing over twenty non-fiction books, moved to Young Adult fiction. She gave a beautifully crafted seminar on writing prose, during which the participants produced the first draft of a story opener.

Perhaps the most useful image Hopkins gave us was the notion that “setting is sensory detail.”

TAMORA PIERCE, fantasy novelist, whose Trickster’s Choice won the ALA Best Book for Young Adults, suggests that fantasy is a real thing or incident that you push over the edge--like a tattoo that grows.

ARTHUR LEVINE, an SCBWI perennial and Scholastic Editorial Director of Arthur A. Levine Books (of Harry Potter fame), endeared himself to this reporter one more time when he suggested that Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree, the story of a tree that keeps giving to a boy who just takes and takes (apples, swing, shade, and finally branches and trunk for home furnishings) was one of the most masochistic stories ever told. Why aren’t we allowed to recognize that?

NOTE ON THE GIVING TREE After reading an early draft of this report, a number of colleagues have affirmed their secret loathings for the message delivered in the well told tale of the old apple tree. As I think about it, the fate of the tree is not unlike that of the Little Match Girl, Poor Nell, or any of a world of literary martyrs. What do you have to say about it?

BYAMBAJAV ULAMBAYAR, affectionately known as Byamba, reigning world Sumo champion, came from Mongolia with his entourage to share notions of humanity and friendship from that rarely visited part of the world. Yep. Got pictures.

Selected Works

Classical Literature, Reference, Teen, Adult, and ESL Readers, Literacy, Annotated Bibliography and Teaching Ideas
Easy to Challenging titles will help those who want to discover or rediscover the books English readers have always loved.
Non-Fiction; literacy case studies; adult and family literacy
Theory-to-practice connections for pre-literate and low literate adults and children.
Reference and guide for teaching reluctant readers, new readers, and English language learners
This is a collection of great book titles sorted according to themes that appeal to adult and teen readers. Themes progress from picturebooks to challenging texts.