In February, before the virus pandemic crisis gripped the world and turned everything upside down, I attended the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators conference in New York City. It is always a great pleasure to be in the company of people who are anywhere from incredibly famous, published writers and talented illustrators, and the people who aspire to be.
The Grand Hyatt hotel held several hundred people who have all sorts of ideas in their heads for stories and pictures that will educate, delight and inspire children and young adults. Kudos to Lin Oliver, the executive director, Sarah Baker, the associate executive director, and many others who worked to give us all such a wonderful opportunity and conference.
James Patterson spoke about inspiring kids to become readers, after being introduced by the legendary Kwame Alexander. We learned from people like Jerry Pinkney who talked about the idea of connection and getting to the heart of each story with his illustrations.
Kate Messner spoke about curiosity and wonder. She talked about how wondering sent her in directions she never thought she would go in. As she talked, I was doing my own wondering. Wondering if I could connect with people who could help me learn and research about a particular topic that I would like to write a book about. Just as I was doing my own wondering, Kate asked the audience to take a moment to think about something they wonder about. Had she read my mind?
Breakout sessions on many topics were filled with eager minds, and I came out of the sessions with new story ideas and ways to write them. People of a variety of interests had opportunities to get together, awards were given, jokes told, connections made. An agent/editor panel gave valuable information and insights.The illustrator showcase held magic in every portfolio I viewed. Derrick Barnes closed out the conference on Sunday afternoon, pledging to write the Blackest book ever, as he talked about his love of writing for black children.
People are creating stories that change lives, speak to kids in different ways when they feel different than other kids, who want to learn about the world and beyond, or just want something that makes them laugh and sparks their imagination. The world is hungry for stories, fiction and non-fiction. Conference attendees have an endless supply of desire to create these books, and their enthusiasm is boundless when they meet.
While I was in the city, I seized the opportunity to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the New York Public Library, and see the New York City Ballet perform at Lincoln Center. I filled my brain, fed my soul and got ideas for stories to write, things to learn about, be inspired by. Be curious about. I wonder what I should do first?
P.S. I’m so grateful that we were able to have the conference before the virus arrived and is virtually changing every aspect of our lives. I’m appreciative of all the people who are working to take care of us, those who are sick and those who are trying to stay healthy. People who are working in the stores that are open, night and day, to keep things stocked as best they can. People who are trying to maintain order and decency on our streets. I’m sure there will be stories written about the brave, the lost and the way something that we can’t see can change the world.