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An LA list

Because so many folks posted excellent notes already, and because I'm still hung over from cross-continental flight (or at least that's what it feels like), I'm going with lists today. Because I can do lists, but actual paragraphs seem a wee bit daunting right now.



LA travel notes

1. Reading John Green's books on the airplane is a Very Good Idea, because they make the time pass quickly and pleasantly. (Katherines out, Alaska back.)

2. Reading John Green's books on the airplane can be disconcerting to other passengers (and, if one gets embarrassed about such things (which I do not, by the way, but I know folks who do), to the reader as well). Because all the laughing aloud and, in some cases, visible distress and crying, may draw attention.

3. Baggage claim sucks in LA, and sucks harder in Philadelphia.

4. The Super Shuttle in LA may be cost-effective, but having spent the better part of an hour driving around the airport to make sure that everyone was uncomfortably wedged in before he'd head to the hotel, I can say that I'm not sure it's worth it. Although I did meet Kim (aka kidlit_kim) when she trundled into the van.


Kim and I hanging by the pool


LA hotel notes

1. The Hyatt was a bit streaky in its customer service when we got there -- they botched people's reservations (Lisa Schroeder and John Green among them), and my room wasn't ready yet. As in, at 10:30 at night, it hadn't been cleaned yet. All together now: Ewwww.

2. The Hyatt jumped on making things right. So my roommate, juliewinkler and I were comped a room service meal that night, plus we got free breakfast for the duration of our stay. Maybe it was because I hugged the desk guy? Or maybe not. But I did hug the desk guy.


Roommate Julie Winkler

3. There was a giant eye in the middle of the road in front of the hotel. Julie Winkler says it's to do with CBS, whereas I believe it has something to do with A Series of Unfortunate Events.


I suspect Count Olaf was in the red car, but cannot be certain.

4. The conference rooms were great. The area where they did critiques was odd. Oddly odd. Like "they'd carpeted part of a parking garage" odd. The visible janitorial equipment (which resembled mini-Zambonis) didn't add to the ambiance in there.

5. The food provided for scheduled events was good.

6. The food provided for sale was overpriced ($7.50 for a terrible sandwich, $4.25 for a 12-oz. can of soda, $3.00 for a bag of chips (the size that's usually 99 cents at 7-11). Thank heavens for the nearby mall.

7. The restrooms were always clean, functioning, and well-stocked with toilet paper. I've been to enough conferences to know that's not always the case, and I really appreciated it.


Children's Writers are Wonderful

1. I loved seeing people I'd met before, like carriejones and Greg tem2.


Carrie hates getting her photo taken!

2. Meeting blogging friends was like coming home. Here's who I remember meeting (with apologies to anyone whose handle I may have forgotten): kidlit_kim, lisa_schroeder, Tammi tamarak, cynthea, Anastasia at Create Relate, Nancy naturespeak, Stephanie from coloradowriter and Adventures in Writing, Jay and Robin from Disco Mermaids (I somehow missed meeting Eve), Meg bluemalibu, pamm, Kelly Herrold Big A little a, Sarah from Finding Wonderland, Heidi seaheidi, jenlyn_b, Jo jo_no_anne, lisayee, Stephanie sruble, Gregory K Gotta Book, liz_scanlon.

3. I met some new blogging friends, too: Lindsey grizzlygirl1, lisaalbert, Flora fdoone, kimberleylittle to name four.

4. John Green from Sparks Fly Up and Lisa Yee lisayee and Linda Sue Park lsparkreader are even nicer and smarter in person than they appear on their blogs and in their books, and that is saying something.

5. Lee Bennett Hopkins is a wonderful, wonderful man. More on that later in the post.

Take-aways from the speeches and whatnot

1. Walter Dean Myers is a god. No, really -- that's what he said. When he writes, he's god, and so is every other writer: "Everybody who wants to write, creates a world." If you include enough details to make the character come alive to the reader, you've done well.

2. Peter Brown writes what he knows, but he writes about emotions and qualities like curiosity, resourcefulness, frustration, creativity and uniqueness. He said that the mark of a good picture book is that you can still get something out of it on repeat readings.

3. Emma Dryden emphasized that kids are trying to find a way to grow up, and to face their fears, even in what she referred to as a "media-multitasking" world. The issues are the same as kids have always had; they fear the future, being alone, being different, being "the only one", abandonment, and losing a loved one. And through books, kids can learn to find the light. Kids need "connection, identity and hope."

4. John Green says that all writing is an act of translation as much as it is an act of creation -- you're taking an image from inside your head and trying to make it real to others through the use of words. And yet, if a writer does it correctly, a reader feels like it's an act of co-creation. In addition to his keynote, I also saw a breakout he did with his editor, Julie Strauss-Gabel, in which John emphasized that a novel is not created only by the author, but in collaboration with an editor, and that a book happens (or doesn't happen) in revision.


Nerdfighters!

5. Kadir Nelson is hot. But I digress. He was extraordinarily motivational, really, because of his passion and his obvious integrity. After noting that "nothing denies negativity like beauty," he talked about taking negative energy and turning it into a positive by using the energy to create something else, be it a picture or a text. He also said that everyone's trying to get "there," but that "there's really no 'there' -- you have to keep working."

6. Rubin Pfeffer, Senior VP and Publisher at S&S trade imprints for children, said that "a great book is one that sends a child off to read another book." He emphasized that writers should not allow the current state of publishing to influence their writing decisions.

7. Ellen Wittlinger made me cry. She was witty and earnest and inspiring. She talked about teens developing what she calls a basement -- it's the necessary looking inward that comes with their development, a sort of heavy inner life. It was her obvious love for teens, and in particular her desire to help GLBTQ teens to feel not so alone (and to help other teens to see them as being just people, as they are) that moved me to tears (in case you were wondering).

8. Linda Sue Park and her editor, Dinah Stevenson from Clarion, talked about creating books together. Their mutual respect and admiration was nearly palpable. From Linda Sue: "The story is more important than me or my feelings." From Dinah: "The editor isn't your teacher or your mom." (Meaning that you don't have to listen to them all the time. But you should at least try what they're saying, in case they were right.)


Linda Sue laughs as Kelly makes crazy eyes at the camera

9. Marla Frazee and her editor, Allyn Johnston from Harcourt, talked about making picture books together. I was vastly entertained, so much so that I took almost no notes -- but I did like Allyn's assertion that for her, picture books need an emotional core: something that breaks your heart open so you can make a connection.

10. Kirby Larson made me cry too. She opened with a movie (which rocked). She offered a few concrete tips about reading as a writer, then talked about her publication journey and the need to "write through the bad stuff." But it was when she spoke about her dead grandmother pulling strings for her Newbery honor win that tears spilled.


Here I am, hoping some of Kirby's talent will rub off on me

11. Lisa Yee spoke about ethnic diversity in literature. Bottom line? If you're going to write about someone of a different race, religion, gender, background or sexual orientation, you'd better get it right. Along the way, she noted that the trouble with labels is that they're easy to put on, but not very easy to get off.


Note that Lisa is actually much taller in person

12. Lee Bennett Hopkins noted that "all writing is poetry." And then tore the place up with a bunch of excellent poems.

Random bits and bobs

1. I love Carrie Jones. She is so seriously talented, and so unaware of how really brilliant she is. And no amount of trying can convince her otherwise, but I've got her number. And two more copies of her book, Tips on Having a Gay (ex)Boyfriend, because what my kids wanted most from the conference were signed copies for themselves. Before the stickers go on. And Carrie's hubby, the D-man, is a wonderful, wonderful guy. And not just because he bought me drinks.

2. I love Lee Bennett Hopkins. And I will probably be unable to articulate why, and how much, exactly. He is warm and kind and nurturing and supportive. He loves poetry, and poets. It emanates from him almost like visible light.


I heart Lee

3. Cecil Castellucci is a force of nature. Gracious, witty, warm and honest -- just as you'd think she is from her blog.



Coming soon: More photos. And further rambling. You've been warned.





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Comments

( 55 comments — Leave a comment )
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lizjonesbooks
Aug. 8th, 2007 05:11 pm (UTC)
Great stuff! I wish I'd been able to go, but this makes up for it a bit!
kellyrfineman
Aug. 8th, 2007 05:43 pm (UTC)
I'm glad. It would've been awesome to actually meet you in person, though!
(no subject) - lizjonesbooks - Aug. 8th, 2007 06:10 pm (UTC) - Expand
linbinwriter
Aug. 8th, 2007 05:14 pm (UTC)
Wow, you should do lists more often or be jet lagged more often or something because that was very enjoyable. And I'm so happy you weren't too tired to digress.

Glad you had such a wonderful experience.
kellyrfineman
Aug. 8th, 2007 05:44 pm (UTC)
Kadir is really, really hot. Tiki Barber hot, and that is saying something.

It was a wonderful, inspiring, exhausting trip.
kristydempsey
Aug. 8th, 2007 05:17 pm (UTC)
Yes, please! More rambling! And then more and more! Thank you. :)
kellyrfineman
Aug. 8th, 2007 05:44 pm (UTC)
Hee.

Careful what you wish for . . .
seaheidi
Aug. 8th, 2007 05:30 pm (UTC)
Wonderful recap, Kelly!! Thanks for including me. =)
And I'm so happy I'm not the only fangrrl who requested a posed pic w/ He-Who-Is-John-Green.
Can we go back now?

Oh, and grizzlylgirl1's name is Lindsey Bell!
kellyrfineman
Aug. 8th, 2007 05:45 pm (UTC)
I knew she was Lindsey/ay. I am, however, brain-addled. D'oh! Will fix it NOW.
volleypop
Aug. 8th, 2007 05:39 pm (UTC)
I loved your ramblings! ;)
kellyrfineman
Aug. 8th, 2007 05:45 pm (UTC)
Thank you. Thank you very much.
(Deleted comment)
kellyrfineman
Aug. 8th, 2007 06:10 pm (UTC)
You are too kind. Seriously. Particularly when you can see at least 3 chins in some of those shots.
giogas
Aug. 8th, 2007 06:10 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the list (though if that's a list, I'd LOVE to see the detailed version hinthint). I was really bummed I couldn't go this year, but living vicariously through you & others helps.
kellyrfineman
Aug. 8th, 2007 06:19 pm (UTC)
I'm not sure I've got a more detailed version in me, in all seriousness. The post took over 3 hours to write and assemble. Yeesh.

Your absence was totally understandable. Good luck on Friday!
lisayee
Aug. 8th, 2007 06:19 pm (UTC)
It's true!

(I am taller in person.)
kellyrfineman
Aug. 8th, 2007 06:20 pm (UTC)
You totally towered over not only me, but also John Green. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.
tamarak
Aug. 8th, 2007 06:21 pm (UTC)
It was four days of pure joy, no?

Well...except for that hour of wooziness I suffered on Sunday morning....pure joy!

kellyrfineman
Aug. 8th, 2007 09:09 pm (UTC)
You poor thing. Without naming names, I gave you as an example of what party animals we kidlit writers can be. My 12-year old is suitably impressed.
(no subject) - tamarak - Aug. 8th, 2007 09:10 pm (UTC) - Expand
de_scribes
Aug. 8th, 2007 06:41 pm (UTC)
I love what Kadir said!
And I love this post!
(And you look tall next to John. And purty, too.)
kellyrfineman
Aug. 8th, 2007 09:10 pm (UTC)
I so loved what Kadir said. You'd be seriously crushing on him (in a married lady way, of course) if you'd heard his whole speech. He was so earnest, and said that he's considered himself an artist since he was three. And his parents were so, so, so supportive of that. It made me want to find his folks and hug them. Truly.
kidlit_kim
Aug. 8th, 2007 06:53 pm (UTC)
OMG! You met Liz Scanlon? I tried to find her the whole time and never found her :-(

Fantastic recap.
kellyrfineman
Aug. 8th, 2007 09:11 pm (UTC)
I did meet Liz Scanlon. And she was lovely. Had I known you were looking for her, I'd have played matchmaker. (I'm like that, you know.)
kimberleylittle
Aug. 8th, 2007 07:02 pm (UTC)
GREAT photos, Kelly! And a great wrap-up of the conference. Enjoyed every line of it!
kellyrfineman
Aug. 8th, 2007 09:11 pm (UTC)
Thanks!
susanwrites
Aug. 8th, 2007 08:26 pm (UTC)
Great list. Of course I did a doubletake as I was speed reading and read random bits and boobs. I figured you were reading John Green, so it was possible.

Thanks for sharing.
kellyrfineman
Aug. 8th, 2007 09:12 pm (UTC)
I am so glad I was not drinking a beverage just now -- random bits and BOOBS was hilariously funny.
lisaalbert
Aug. 8th, 2007 09:04 pm (UTC)
Kelly, it was great to meet you and hang out. Great post!! :)
kellyrfineman
Aug. 8th, 2007 09:12 pm (UTC)
I very much enjoyed meeting you and getting to know you a wee bit!
robinellen
Aug. 8th, 2007 09:35 pm (UTC)
It does help to live vicariously through you, Kelly :) thanks for sharing!
kellyrfineman
Aug. 8th, 2007 09:39 pm (UTC)
I am glad you enjoyed it. Sometimes I worry that it's like rubbing it in that folks weren't there, but really, the post I put up today is the sort of thing I love to see from other people when they go places I couldn't.
(no subject) - robinellen - Aug. 8th, 2007 10:22 pm (UTC) - Expand
boreal_owl
Aug. 8th, 2007 10:46 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the fun notes and pics!
kellyrfineman
Aug. 8th, 2007 10:50 pm (UTC)
You are most welcome.
cynthialord
Aug. 8th, 2007 11:07 pm (UTC)
Great list and photos! Thanks for sharing them!
kellyrfineman
Aug. 8th, 2007 11:14 pm (UTC)
You're very welcome!
nancy_v
Aug. 9th, 2007 01:24 am (UTC)
Almost felt like I was there.
Thanks, K!
kellyrfineman
Aug. 9th, 2007 01:29 am (UTC)
You're welcome.
deenaml
Aug. 9th, 2007 02:00 am (UTC)
You are adorable in those pics! And thanks for sharing! I agree that EW is brilliant and makes you laugh and cry -- just like her books.
kellyrfineman
Aug. 9th, 2007 02:22 am (UTC)
Thank you for the kind words.
coloradowriter
Aug. 9th, 2007 02:22 am (UTC)
That was the best experience of my life! I loved every second!!! I didn't take enough photos, though! Next year!
kellyrfineman
Aug. 9th, 2007 02:23 am (UTC)
I carried my freakin' camera all over with me, and basically neglected to take a lot of the photos I should have. But at least I have some to remember things by!
kmarcus
Aug. 9th, 2007 02:32 am (UTC)
Wow! Thanks for sharing! And I heart Lee Bennett Hopkins. Oh yes, I do.
kellyrfineman
Aug. 9th, 2007 02:58 am (UTC)
He is the sweetest man.
sruble
Aug. 9th, 2007 03:13 am (UTC)
Your notes and pictures capture the spirit of it - thanks for sharing!

BTW, Julie looks like someone famous in that picture, but I can't think of who she reminds me of.
kellyrfineman
Aug. 9th, 2007 03:22 am (UTC)
I think she looks great there, but she wasn't happy with the photo.
writerross
Aug. 9th, 2007 10:09 am (UTC)
Thanks, Kelly, for sharing words and photos post-conference. It is very taxing to condense All That into All This. You did a nice job pulling back the curtains and giving us a peek or two.

Gratefully read,
Pamela
truckin...
kellyrfineman
Aug. 9th, 2007 05:08 pm (UTC)
I'm glad you enjoyed it!
writerross
Aug. 9th, 2007 10:11 am (UTC)
p.s. Would love to hear about your Poetry Class with Lee Bennett Hopkins. How was it done and what did you do? {}
kellyrfineman
Aug. 9th, 2007 05:20 pm (UTC)
Lee made it clear the first day that we wouldn't be writing poetry, and that he wasn't going to be teaching us to write poetry. Which was a slightly surprising turn of events to most of us, to be honest, but I understood his point. With only one hour per day to do something, it was impossible to engage in any meaningful writing. And truly, you were either in go mode or sleeping most of the time, so quiet time for writing would've been hard to come by unless you were skipping things.

Useful tips included things like this: Study the award-winning children's poetry books closely, and it will help you see what works. But the most important thing is for you to find your own voice. Lee offered concrete suggestions as to which rhyming dictionary and thesaurus he prefers, and suggested a few books on form and metrics. He also offered advice on revision (in a very minor sense) -- getting rid of the "horrible, dirty words" the & and wherever possible.
c_moonshower
Aug. 9th, 2007 04:54 pm (UTC)
It was GREAT to meet you in LA! And yes, to all of the above!
XO Candie
kellyrfineman
Aug. 9th, 2007 05:21 pm (UTC)
Ditto. I got so inspired to write, and find I'm still too excited to do anything very useful about it!
(no subject) - c_moonshower - Aug. 9th, 2007 06:16 pm (UTC) - Expand
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