In NYC with the Class of 2k9

Last weekend in New York City was the annual Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators conference. I didn’t go. I’ve been several times and it just didn’t fit into the budget this year, especially with all the traveling I will be doing once the book comes out. But I did go up to Manhattan to have dinner with the class of 2k9 authors who were at the conference.

It’s a bit strange; there are 22 of us and we’ve been meeting on the internet through yahoo groups for several months. (Actually, some of them have been meeting for a year; I joined the group in July.) It is very hard to get a full sense of a person through e-mail. All the nuances are lost–voice inflection, body language, eye contact. A sentence can change completely based on these things. There is an exercise I’ve done with students as we learn to read Shakespeare out loud. Students say “how are you” three times, each time stressing  a different syllable: HOW are you? How ARE you? How are YOU? Three competely different meanings–all lost on e-mail. Sure, there’s italics and emoticons and capital letters, but it’s just not the same. In fact, I once almost lost my best friend when she moved to Italy because so many misunderstandings between us were created by too much reliance on e-mail! It took us months to unravel it all once she returned. So I had to go to NY to meet these folks–to get a feel for their personalities, their accents, their shyness or boldness, their whole vibe–or as my friend David likes to call it, their “ness.” And to give them a sense of what my ness is. After all, I am a fantasy writer. They were probably wondering if I wore black lipstick and a cape! (Sorry to any readers who haven’t met me yet: I’m disappointingly normal.)

It was delightful to finally put some real people to the names in a database. There were seven of us at the dinner and two more joined us for drinks later. And they proved to be what you would expect from a group of children’s writers–nice, helpful, willing to share ideas and insights, open, ego-less. Really I have found this true throughout the industry. The word on the “adult” market is that you run into egos, people who think that your success will somehow diminish their own. Not true with children’s. I don’t know if this will change somewhat as publishers’ belts tighten, but I tend to think it won’t. It seems like children’s writers believe there is room out there for all of us.

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~ by ellenjensenabbott on February 4, 2009.

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