Gaithersburg Book Festival 2012

This year was the 3rd annual Gaithersburg Book Festival, and with perfect weather, there were crowds of people celebrating books.  This was my second year attending, and I was again impressed with how well-organized and professional the event was.  More people showed up this year, but you still had easy access to some really talented and amazing authors.

Below is a synopsis of each author I heard speak:

Meredith Goldstein
Author of the book, The Singles, and columnist for the Boston Globe, Goldstein was honest and funny as she spoke about the writing process for her book which is about five single people invited to a wedding.  Timed to come out during the wedding season, the book explores how five different people (3 men, two women) cope with going to a wedding alone.  Most of the authors I was familiar with were later in the day, so I stumbled upon Goldstein in the morning by chance.  I’m definitely happy I heard her speak, and will definitely be checking her book out.

John Corey Whaley

Winner of this year’s Printz award for Where Things Come Back, Whaley was sarcastic and self-deprecating.  He joked about the sweat he was mopping off his forehead with a southern boy handkerchief, and spoke of how his first year teaching at his alma mater was a terrible experience where he learned things about his former teachers he never wanted to know.  On the topic of his book, Whaley shared how a news story and his small hometown in Louisiana inspired Where Things Come Back.  While his book doesn’t sound like my typical read, I’m definitely intrigued.  I bought a copy of the book, had it autographed, and it’s now sitting in my massive to-read pile.

Michael Buckley

I’d heard Michael Buckley (author of The Sisters Grimm and N.E.R.D.S.) speak before, and as he is a former stand-up comedian, I knew I wanted to hear him again.  The beginning of his speech, I was distracted by a rapidly melting ice cream cone dripping all down my arm (and trying not to get chocolate on my white skirt).  But the second half of his speech he spent answering questions for adoring little girl fans.  He had witty responses for all of them, but my favorite was:

Q: What made you want to write for children?

 A: J.K. Rowling’s payday. 

Michelle Ray

Michelle Ray was by far my favorite author of the day.  She was a cheerful and engaging speaker.  I have not yet read her debut novel, Falling for Hamlet, but knew Ray would be one of my must see authors of the festival because Hamlet is tied with Romeo and Juliet for my favorite Shakespearean play and the idea of a YA modern retelling from Ophelia’s point-of-view is AWESOME.  Ray spoke of her love of Shakespeare and how she strives to make Shakespeare not-so-scary.  (She wore an awesome Cafe Press shirt that said “Shakespeare Sucketh Not”)  She showed us her writing notebook (which is very similar to my own crazy scribbles).  And when I got my book signed, she was so genuine and personable.  She is a teacher as well, and that makes her extra awesome because it gives me hope that the stress of teaching will not prevent me from achieving my own writing/publishing goals.  Can you tell I was impressed?  Her book is going near the top of my to-read pile (right after my mandatory grad school reading… or will I slip it in early for a break… we’ll see!)

Other authors I heard:

  • Buzz Bissinger, author of Friday Night Lights and his new book Father’s Day: A Journey into the Mind and Heart of My Extraordinary Son
  • Siobhan Fallon, author of You Know When the Men Are Gone which is a collection of short stories about the men, women, and families of the U.S. Army. 
  • Marvin and Deborah Kalb, authors of Haunting Legacy: Vietnam and the American Presidency from Ford to Obama  This father/daughter team spoke about the impact the Vietnam war on the American Presidency from elections to foreign policy.

Meeting Kristin Cashore

Kristin Cashore has a special place in my heart.  I adore her books, but the reason she’s extra special to me is because she indirectly led me to the graduate program I’m currently in (and love).

About 3-4 years ago I was applying to Masters programs.  I knew I wanted to write fiction and specifically for teens/YA.  I applied to a nearby, prestigious school’s MFA program… and got in.  But they promptly told me I would have to write for adults, not children.

I was very discouraged and frustrated because I didn’t see the difference in writing for adults versus writing for teens.  A good story is a good story.  Good characterization is good characterization.  Good pacing is good pacing.  Good writing is good writing.  I just wanted to study writing, to grow, to learn, to hone my craft.  However, I didn’t want to be forced into writing for a particular audience.  And I certainly didn’t want to take classes with a faculty that was so elitist and narrow-minded.  I didn’t know what I was going to do because I had to take classes close to my job, and that limited the schools I could apply to.

Around this same time, I read Graceling.  I absolutely LOVED the book, and promptly went online to look up Kristin Cashore.  In her short bio, I read this:

During my stint in Boston, I got an M.A. at the Center for the Study of Children’s Literature at Simmons College. (Thank you, Simmons, for the scholarship that made this possible!) Grad school almost killed me, but I felt a lot more alive than when I was almost being killed in college. The Simmons program is stupendous. It got me thinking and breathing YA books. It got me writing.

I immediately went to Simmons’ website, began reading, and probably started glowing a little.  I requested more information about the program… but I did not end up going to Simmons.  Just two years into my teaching career, I was reluctant to leave when I had just received my tenure.  Simmons would have required that I move to Boston, and I wasn’t ready to do that.  (Though some days I do wonder what my life would be like with a degree in hand by now as a Bostonian and without the stress the past three years of teaching has brought me.)

Someone at Simmons e-mailed me and suggested I check out Hollins University (because it was closer to where I live and also because their program could be completed over 3-5 summers).  And here I am now, 24 credits into my MFA in Children’s Literature and I couldn’t be happier with my choice.

So that’s why I indirectly credit Kristin Cashore with leading me to my graduate degree.  I honestly don’t know if I would have discovered that there were Masters programs in Children’s Lit out there… had I not read her bio.

One thing I hate about book signings: you never have time to tell an author everything you want to say to them.  There’s people behind you in line and you’re being moved along.  But… if I was an author… I’d like to hear how I’ve impacted people.  Not just sign my name for an hour.

My solution to this problem: I wrote Kristin Cashore a card and handed it to her when I got my book signed.  Worked great.  My card looked like this:

And said this:

We must find time to stop and thank the people who make a difference in our lives. โ€”Dan Zadra
Inside: Thanks for making a difference.

And I wrote her more-or-less the story I told you above.

Now, as to what Kristin spoke about at her talk/signing:

She read two excerpts from Bitterblue, which got me quite excited to read the book  ๐Ÿ™‚

She then had lots of pictures of her manuscripts and stressed how difficult writing is and how failure is a huge part of the writing process.  She told us how Bitterblue is the most difficult book she’s written.  She showed us pictures of handwritten pages with huge sections crossed out.  She showed us the 700 page first draft.  She showed us pictures of the piles of paper that would be the seven drafts Bitterblue went through.

Kristin then went on to answer questions from the audience.  She got all the typical questions:

  • Where do you get your names from?
  • Do you want Graceling to be a movie?
  • Would you want to have input in the movie production?
  • Who would you want cast in the movie?
You tend to hear a lot of the same questions at these things.  Probably the most interesting question was about the feminist influences in the books.  Kristin spoke a bit about how her strict upbringing and experiences with sexism probably influenced how feminist ideas have manifested themselves in her books.

She was very humble and so clearly LOVES WRITING.  I really enjoyed seeing her in person, and think she’s a very cute and inspiring young author.

My final words to Kristin were:
“I love how you write about strong women.  And men who like strong women.”

Meeting Maggie and SCBWI Fall Conference ’11

I had the most awesome weekend ever and am now feeling so totally in love with books and writing.  This is seriously my calling.

First bit of awesomeness: Meeting Maggie Stiefvater

 Maggie ranks up there in favorite authors.  She’s in the top 10.  I’ve read all of her books (BalladLamentShiverLingerForever) and follow her blog religiously (she has a fantastic sense of humor on her blog and gives great writing tips).

I’d always seemed to miss her book signings because they were in the summer while I was away at graduate school.  But her new book, The Scorpio Races, just came out this week, and she was having a launch event in DC at Politics and Prose.  This time I could go!  And I had no school the next day!

The afternoon started out with me wanting to cry because it took me over 2 hours to get down to DC for the event and I ended up being 30 minutes late.  I quietly walked in, found a seat near the front, and basked in Maggie’s awesomeness.

I actually ended up missing any speaking that was done by her and arrived just as she was handing out prizes.  The girls next to me gave me one of the raffle postcards that were sitting on the chairs while Maggie began calling out numbers.

And guess what???  I won the big prize!!!  I won a copy of Scorpio Races with beautiful horses drawn on the cover by Maggie herself!  This is not only the first thing I’ve ever won, but by far the coolest thing I could ever possibly win.  I’ve admired Maggie’s artwork whenever she posts pictures on her blog.  Especially her Sharpie guitars, but as I have no use for a guitar, the book with her art was perfect!

I got the book signed by Maggie, told her I’d read all her books, told her I loved her blog, told her I appreciated the writing advice she posted because I was in an MFA program.  She was so personable and cheerful.  Book signings can be awkward sometimes, but there was none of that.  I give her top marks!

I can’t wait to read Scorpio Races, and will definitely post about it when I do!

Second bit of awesomeness: SCBWI Conference

I attended the SCBWI Fall Conference on Saturday.  For those of you who don’t know, it’s a writer’s conference sponsored by the Society of Children’s Book Writer’s and Illustrators.

There were 280 people in attendance!  We were packed into a ballroom in the Holiday Inn in Dulles for a day of speeches and advice regarding writing for children.

I’m not providing specific play by plays of the presentations because the material is copyrighted, but here is a brief rundown of the awesome day.

Author/Illustrator Brian Lies (Bats on the Beach, Bats in the Library, Bats at the Ballgame) spoke about marketing your book.  His presentation was magnificent and offered great ideas creating hype about your book and making a book signing more exciting.

There was an Agents Panel with Jennifer Rofe of Andrea Brown Literary Agency and Quinlan Lee of Adams Literary.  They gave lots of informative answers to questions about the writer/agent relationship.

Chelsea Eberly of Random House gave a talk about how to create the perfect “Hook for your Book” and how having a hook will both catch editors’ attention and help them sell your book.

The keynote speaker was author Han Nolan.  She was so sincere and inspiring.  What really resonated with me about her speech is striving for excellence when we’re writing, and reading the best books out there (award winners) so you know where the bar is set and to inspire you to reach for it.  Which is exactly what I’m doing by taking this course on Newbery books!  ๐Ÿ™‚

There was an author panel (Meg Medina, Anne Marie Pace, Wendy Shang, Amy Brecount White) about the highs and lows post-publication which offered a very realistic look at what it’s like to be a published author.

And finally, there was an Editor’s Panel on creating credible characters.  Chelsea Eberly (Random House), Caroline Abbey (Bloomsbury), and Abby Ranger (Disney-Hyperion) offered some constructive advice on common character flaws they see in writing and questions to ask yourself to create stronger characters.

This was a regional conference, meaning I didn’t have to travel far and it was relatively cheap (around $100).  The quality of information was excellent, and I came away feeling motivated and excited about writing and literature.  If you are a writer for children, I highly recommend you look into attending an SCBWI regional conference!

National Book Festival 2011

Here is my annual post on the DC National Book Festival!  Best FREE book event in the country!

Authors I saw speak (in order of appearance):

Sarah Dessen

Teen author, Sarah Dessen

I knew she was popular and has been writing for awhile, but I haven’t read anything by her.  I’ve never been a big reader of teen girl realistic fiction.  She was so charming that I downloaded one of her books on my Kindle while sitting in the audience.  She joked about how she was a very ordinary person and how when she came to events like this, she wanted to bottle up all the wonderful love and adoration from her fans.  Then, when she was home, doing laundry or dealing with crying children, she could be like, “See!  People think I’m amazing!”  She also jokingly said that she owes all her sales success to Mandy Moore.  Once Mandy Moore was on the cover of her movie edition, her books sold like hotcakes.  She joked that her family thanks Mandy Moore for everything in their house.  “We thank Mandy Moore for our refrigerator.”  One other cool thing that she does in her books that was a completely new concept to me, is instead of writing the sequels that her fans beg for, she has some of her characters from past books make guest appearances in new novels.  I thought this was such a cool idea!

Katherine Paterson and John Rocco

Illustrator Jon Rocco and author Katherine Paterson

Katherine Paterson is a living legend and John Rocco did the cover art for the Percy Jackson series.  The two of them teamed up to create a gorgeous book with 60 color illustrations.  The Flint Heart is a 1910 fantasy story by Eden Phillpotts retold by Paterson in more modern friendly language with more reader friendly pacing.  I bought this book after hearing them speak, and it is a gorgeous piece of book art!  Katherine Paterson and John Rocco were so cute together, as seen here in this picture:

Jack Gantos
Jack Gantos is quite a character.  Very lively, humorous, and full of outrageous stories.  I think several members of the audience were quite shocked to hear about how he went to jail for drug smuggling (I already knew this bit of back story).  I probably wouldn’t have chosen to bring it up at a national event in front of hundreds of people… but that’s just me.  Everything came with a dose of humor, and he got quite the round of applause.

Gordon Korman

Middle Grade author, Gordon Korman

Very cool guy.  One of the better speakers of the day.  And this guy’s book output is off the charts.  I loved how enthusiastic he was about the research process when writing books.  He said how research brings in some of the best plot ideas because sometimes the real stuff is too good for even the most creative brain to make up.  And he REALLY made me want to read all of the 39 Clues books.  The way they connect adventure to history and artifacts is too cool.  His advice to writers was to write about what makes you excited.  (I agree!)  Gordon Korman had one of the highest kid audiences of the day  ๐Ÿ™‚

Cassandra Clare
Cassandra Clare was probably the biggest disappointment for me of the weekend.  Her books are great fun if you are looking for an action-packed paranormal read with hints of romance.  I was hoping she’d be great fun, too.  She read from a script in a tired, flat voice that suggested she didn’t want to be there.  When teen girls flocked to the microphones for the Q&A portion and were showering her with praise… she didn’t seem grateful, and didn’t thank the readers for the compliments.  And then there was one off-color comment.  One girl asked if there was anything that was taken out of the books that Clare had wished had stayed in.  And Clare responded that there were several scenes detailing the villain, Valentine, killing masses of children.  And she thought that part was pretty cool and wished her editors hadn’t made her take it out.  Her editors didn’t think people would want to read about children being murdered.  I quite agree with her editors on this one.

Brian Selznick

Author and illustrator, Brian Selznick

Selznick was definitely one of the best speakers of the day.  I wouldn’t be surprised if his IQ is in the genius range.  He mostly spoke about how he’s trying to do new things with text and pictures through first Hugo Cabret and now with his new book Wonderstruck.  (You should run out and buy Wonderstruck.  It will win awards.)  He spoke of his love of museums and his love of E.L. Konigsburg, which inspired Wonderstruck.  His enthusiasm and innovation really shone through when he spoke about how and why he chose to tell two stories in Wonderstruck.  Two stories are interwoven from two different time periods in Wonderstruck; one story is told through pictures and one story is told through text.  But he thought about WHY a story would or should be told in just pictures and he was inspired by the deaf community who rely so heavily on images.  His speech really blew my mind and I wish it had been recorded (he requested no video recording).  A Hugo Cabret movie by Martin Scorsese is coming out this coming holiday season 2011, and Selznick said Scorsese was diligent in following the book and carried it around on set.  The trailer looks fantastic!

Rita Williams-Garcia
I was really looking forward to hearing Rita Williams-Garcia after reading One Crazy Summer this past weekend, and she did not disappoint!  (I was disappointed at the small crowd, but she was the last speaker of the day and many people were likely tired and hungry.)  Rita was so excited to be at the Book Festival speaking that she literally began by hopping up and down whilst giggling and grinning ear to ear.  She was so full of energy and absolutely adorable.  She said that one thing she loves about storytelling is you don’t need anything to tell a story.  Just your brain and your voice.  She described herself as a character driven writer (which doesn’t surprise me because her characters were so vivid in OCS).  She said she’s asking questions about her characters all the time and constantly thinking about them.  Rita believes that it’s the strengths and failings that make real characters.  She spoke about her own mother and how her mother wasn’t like other mothers (echoing themes from OCS), and did a hilarious impersonation of her bombshell mother walking into a concert at her school.  She was scared to write middle grade because she always wrote for teens.  And when asked about her writing process, she said she writes the moments of greatest impact first, and then fills in the rest.  I thought this was a really interesting method of writing, but it makes sense.  By writing critical scenes and seeing how your characters react, you get to know your characters on higher level, which would make writing the less crucial scenes easier having established your character’s inner workings.

Kazu Kibuishi
This young Asian graphic novelist, creator of Scholastic’s Amulet graphic novels, was such a cool speaker.  I want to show his speech to my students.  He spoke of how difficult it was for him to figure out what he wanted to do for a living.  His parents wanted him to be a doctor.  He thought he wanted to be a writer.  He went to film school.  Was hired by Disney, left Disney.  He always denied his love of drawing.  He wanted to tell stories.  But when he finally discovered he could meld his love of storytelling with the love of drawing he’d been suppressing, he discovered his career as a graphic novelist.  I love seeing young, positive male role models for young people, and he definitely was one!

Graphic novelist, Kazu Kibuishi
Kazu drawing characters from Amulet

Rachel Renee Russell
What I didn’t realize was that the Dork Diaries series (essentially the Wimpy Kid series but for girls) is done by a mother/daughter team.  Mom does the writing and daughter does the drawing.  The presentation was very cute and kid-friendly.  While mom talked, the daughter was drawing people in the audience in the cartoony style of the books.  Kids were so thrilled to see themselves drawn as cartoons.

Author, Rachel Renee Russell
Russell’s daughter, Nikki, drawing a member of the audience

As soon as the book festival was over, I started wondering who I would get to see next year!  Such a great experience!  I’m so lucky to live near DC!

Who do you hope to see next year?  My number one hope for next year’s festival: Scott Westerfeld.  Fingers crossed!

Conference Pt 2, American Girl, and Veg Offering @ Panera

Yesterday was the last day of the conference and I attended two sessions.  The first session I was really excited about.  It was called “Children Marked by Death” and was going to discuss several books I had read: Unwind, Graveyard Book, Harry Potter.

I didn’t end up going to that session because, stupid me, I wrote down the wrong room number.  If I hadn’t been sitting smack dab in the middle of the room where it would have been disruptive and rude of me to leave, I would have left.  I was especially sad because I could hear the applause and laughter in the correct room which was on the other side of a thin wall.

One of the three speeches interested me though.  It was about American Girl and how the company’s emphasis on clothes and accessories detracts from the more serious issues in the books.  For example, in one of the Samantha books, Samantha goes to the African American part of town in search of her seamstress, Jessie.  Samantha is shocked by how different this part of town is: crowded, old, poor.  When she returns home, Samantha describes how much comfort she feels in putting on her soft, white, ruffled nightgown and climbing under the covers of her beautiful bed with her doll, Lydia.  The speaker argued that the clothing and accessories serve to distract girls from the real issue and are what girls remember instead.

I could see the speaker’s points.  But I think the American Girl series and products have so much to offer.  I think the values of the series far outweigh many other play/toy options for girls that age.  The history, morality, and focus on appreciating girlhood (not rushing into being a teenager, make-up, boys, etc.) make American Girl a refreshing option in today’s society.

They are opening an American Girl Store in Tysons Corner Mall, and there was an article about the American Girl series in the Washington Post.  The series is celebrating its 25th Anniversary, and I’m very happy to see that the company is still going strong.  Though I don’t agree with their decision to retire the classic dolls.  (Samantha, Felicity, Kirsten are all retired.)

The other conference session I attended yesterday was about “Teachers as Writers.”  There was a panel of writers who were also teachers.  They spoke about the challenges of balancing teaching and writing, how both jobs require a similar kind of creative energy.  That is a huge struggle for me.  Teaching drains me in every way: physically, mentally, emotionally.  Teaching also saps a lot of creative energy.  To come up with consistently engaging and unique lessons drains me of creative energy.  The panel spoke about how they often feel drained of creativity from their day job teaching and ways they recharge so they have energy for their writing.

I’ve had talks with several people who care about me, and how I need to do a better job of balancing my work (teaching) and my personal life.  I give way too much of myself to teaching, and it has to stop.  Next year, I already have plans in place so that I take more time for myself.  I am going to take an online course with a teacher I love.  I am signing up for writing conferences throughout the year, which will also be opportunities to travel and get away.  Traveling always helps me to refocus my life and realize there’s more to life than my classroom.  Plus, I think when I’m happier, I treat my students better.  Not that I’m even a “mean” teacher, but I noticed this year that when I was stressed, I had less patience and was more likely to snap at a kid when I don’t mean to.

And finally, Panera has a vegetarian sandwich!!!  They’ve had their Tomato/Mozz panini for awhile, but that’s really their only offering in terms of veggie stuff.

I don’t remember seeing the Mediterranean Veggie Sandwich on their menu, and I ate so much Panera last year that I am pretty sure I know their menu offerings by heart.  So I’m pretty sure this sandwich is new, and I tried it today.  Delicious!

On their yummy tomato basil bread: feta cheese crumbles, cilantro hummus, black pepper, salt, green leaf lettuce, red onions, fresh tomatoes, fresh cucumber, and zesty peppadew piquant peppers.  A very hearty vegetarian sandwich with a spicy kick on truly scrumptious bread.  I’m a fan.

Now, if Panera would just make a grilled eggplant panini…  I would be a happy girl.

Conference and Library of an Early Mind

This week my grad school is hosting a conference, and I got free admission by being an on-call tech help person today.  I really only had to solve 2-3 problems: not knowing the password to log in (though it was posted), switching between diplays, and switching from PC to Mac (the girl even brought her own dongle).  Pretty easy tech day considering it saved me a couple hundred bucks!

Here’s a list of some topics of speeches that I got to listen to:

“Kick-Ass Slayers and Teen Terminators: Recent Trends in Lethal Little Girls”
“Girls on Fire: Gender, Authority and the Female Child-Warrior”
“Dystopic Epiphanies and Kierkegaardian Disallusion: An Exploration of the Average vs. Exceptional Hero in Feed and The Giver
“Demystifying the Illusion of an Adultless World–Forty Years of Fearing the Children in Science Fiction”
“Like, Vampires? A Study of American Teen Slang in Young Adult Fantasy Literature”
“M.T. Anderson’s Feed and the Linguistic Situation of Tomorrow”
“Young Adult Fantasy in a Visual Age: The Book Trailer as a Gateway to the Written Word”
“Hermione Granger, Ginny Weasley and the Journey to Womanhood in the Harry Potter Series”
“Utopia and Anti-Utopia in Lois Lowry’s and Suzanne Collins’s Dystopian Trilogies”
“Media Drives Revolt: Ways Rebels Use Media Throughout Literature from Historical Fiction Through Futuristic Fantasy”
“Youth Rebellion, Dystopic Fiction, Identity Crisis”

Some summary points:

  • Hunger Games was by far the most popular topic.  I am sick of listening to people talk about Hunger Games.
  • Violent girl heroines is an emerging theme in popular culture.
  • I really enjoyed the session on book trailers.  Super interesting and different.  And the girl highlighted Maggie Steifvater’s book trailers, which I completely agree are innovative and exceptional.
  • The one session on Harry Potter was packed and fun despite the fact that two of the three speakers were no shows.  The session turned into a discussion of female characters in Harry Potter.  And I subconsciously gave this one girl a really dirty look… I brought up Pottermore and JKR’s announcement, and the girl said, “She didn’t even really announce anything.  Basically it’s just a Potter version of World of Warcraft.”  RAWR!  JKR said NOTHING about an online GAMING experience.  She said online READING experience.  And she said safe for people of all ages.  And she mentioned eBooks.  And addittional Potter World content from her.  NOTHING that would even make you think WoW.  Hence my dirty look that made her wither in her seat.  Dumb chick.  RAWR!

I also got to go to a free screening of this awesome documentary film called Library of the Early Mind.  Sooooooo amazing.  I want to buy it.

Summary taken from the film’s Facebook page:

An exploration of the art and impact of childrenโ€™s literature on our kids, our culture, and ourselves. From the first stories we hear told to us, to those childhood heroes who stay with us for a lifetime, the impact on our culture runs deeper than what we might expect. Featuring nearly 40 prominent authors, artists, and critics.”

http://www.libraryoftheearlymind.com/

LOVE  LOVE  LOVE!!!  You can watch a trailer on the website.

And in final news, I finished the first draft of my short story due on Wednesday.
Word Count: 3,850
Page Count: 16 pages

I might sound like an over-achiever because I accomplished this so far ahead of time, but I still have three novels and two picture books to read.  And a journal entry to do.  I just did the fun stuff first  ๐Ÿ™‚

Gaithersburg Book Festival

Today I attended the 2nd annual Gaithersburg Book Festival.

http://www.gaithersburgbookfestival.org/

We had gorgeous weather and it is held in a really pretty area in Olde Towne Gaithersburg.  It was just as well organized as the National Book Festival in DC with labeled tents, books for sale/signing, food, and detailed colored programs.

The first speaking event was a panel discussion titled “There’s a Children’s Book in Me–How Do I Get it Published?”  The five authors on the panel were very knowledgeable, and I enjoyed listening to them speak about their own personal writing experiences.  They gave out a useful little flyer with commonly asked questions about children’s publishing.

I knew most of the information at this discussion already, but it was nice to reaffirm that I’m doing all the right things, such as joining SCBWI, writing every day, conferences, critiques, staying well-read in my genre, etc.  Not to mention getting my MFA in Children’s Literature.

I ended up buying two of the author’s books because they appealed to my interests.  I bought Jennifer Allison’s Gilda Joyce series for middle grade readers.  It’s a mystery series about a girl who is a psychic investigator that looks like something I would have LOVED as a young girl.  It will be perfect easy reading when I’m done with all my grad school texts.  Jennifer had some good advice about revision, and she also spoke about how she’s learned a lot from teaching and listening to her students.  I really identified with a lot of what she spoke about.  Check out the author’s website below.

http://www.gildajoyce.com/

I also bought Pamela Ehrenberg’s book Tillmon County Fire.  The book tells the story of a hate crime in a rural community through several different characters.  Definitely sounds interesting, and I’m always looking for books that give me insight on how to write from multiple points-of-view.  Pamela also spoke about how she teaches classes at The Writer’s Center in Bethesda.  Once I’m done grad school, this would be a great resource nearby to keep me motivated and writing!  Information about her books and The Writer’s Center can be found on her website:

http://www.pamelaehrenberg.com/Site/Home.html

Another author I really enjoyed listening to is Wendy Shang.  Her first book The Great Wall of Lucy Wu just came out and I loved the excerpts so much that I had to buy it.  I can’t do the summary justice, so here is a summary from Wendy Shang’s website:

Lucy Wu, aspiring basketball star and interior designer, is on the verge of having the best year of her life. She’s ready to rule the school as a sixth grader and take over the bedroom she has always shared with her sister. In an instant, though, her plans are shattered when she finds out that Yi Po, her beloved grandmother’s sister, is coming to visit for several months — and is staying in Lucy’s room. Lucy’s vision of a perfect year begins to crumble, and in its place come an unwelcome roommate, foiled birthday plans, and Chinese school with the awful Talent Chang.

Her plans are ruined — or are they? Like the Chinese saying goes: Events that appear to be good or bad luck often turn out to be quite the opposite, and Lucy finds that while she may not get the “perfect” year she had in mind, she can create something even better.

Wendy was an excellent public speaker (not all the authors today were…), and I connected with a lot of things she said.  She brought up joining SCBWI (I just did!) and applying for grants (I need to do that!).  She also spoke about describing sensory details and how scents and textures can bring a scene to life.  I’m confident Wendy has a long career ahead of her as a children’s writer.  I bought her book and can’t wait to read it!  Check out her website:

http://www.wendyshang.com/

I also heard the following authors:

Newbery Winner, Clare Vanderpool, author of Moon Over Manifest
National Book Award Winner, Kathryn Erskine, author of Mockingbird
Alison Hart, American Girl author
Dominique Paul, author of The Possibility of Fireflies
Alan Orloff, adult mystery author

And finally, two pictures of the event: