Wednesday, February 29, 2012

WWU Children's Literature Conference

  On Saturday, February 25 I got up early and drove through the pouring rain (and sometimes snow!) to attend Western WA University's Children's Literature Conference in Bellingham.  It was one of those things where you dread the drive and the time commitment and almost convince yourself not to go, but once you're there you're so glad you went.  More of a lecture series by a trio of outstanding authors than a conference, it lasted only the day from about 9am to 3pm, it was none the less an awesome experience!  I think any time you get to listen to successful, passionate people speak about their craft and their journey, there is always something inspiring to take away. 
  The conference featured Patrick Carman, Laura McGee Kvasnosky, and Gary D. Schmidt- the perfect mix of teen, middle grade, and picture book authors, each with accolades that include a Theodor Seuss Geisel Beginning Reader Award, an SCBWI Golden Kite Honor, a Newbery Honor and Printz Honor, and an E.B. White Award Nominee. 
  Laura McGee Kvasnosky opened with a lovely song quote:

"Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in."

  It is an excellent reminder to us newbie writers hoping to break into this business, because so often we focus too much of our attention on trying to be perfect. Trying to fit some mold of what we think publishers are looking for, instead of just letting the writing take hold.  Instead of letting our hearts speak on the page. We don't need to be perfect.  We need to be open to the insights and opportunities that imperfection provides.  Those are the moments when true grace and inspiration and ingenuity are achieved.  Those are the moments when the light shines in. 

  And Gary D. Schmidt ended his talk with great motivating insights (paraphrased below):

"Is it the writer's job to create something beautiful?  Absolutely.
Should a writer create a work that imparts wisdom and understanding? Yes.
Is it the writer's job to help the reader to grow? Without a doubt.

But those are not the first questions a writer needs to ask himself.
First and foremost a writer must ask himself,
Does the writing serve?
You are called to be a servant. And that is first."

  Such a powerful message that too often we overlook or simply forget.  We are writing to serve. And we are serving because we love. We love the children we write for, we love the characters we create, we love the world and want to be of service to it.  That is first.

Here are some examples of the authors' works:

Patrick Carman: The Dark Hills Divide; Skeleton Creek; Trackers; Thirteen Days to Midnight; Floors

Laura McGee Kvasnosky: The Zelda and Ivy series; See You Later Alligator; Really Truly Bingo; Frank and Izzy Set Sail

Gary D. Schmidt:  Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy; First Boy; The Wednesday Wars; Trouble; Okay for Now

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