Monday, February 27, 2006

Is This Heaven? No, It's Asilomar.

Home now from the Asilomar SCBWI conference in California, which was thoroughly wonderful. I finished my talk on the plane Thursday night, which gave me Friday to walk along the beach and down to Pacific Grove and Monterey; in a particularly pleasant sequence of the day, I purchased C. S. Lewis's The Four Loves at a used bookstore and read part of it over a delicious lunch at a vegetarian cafe, then bought a Rocky Road ice cream cone from a Ghirardelli chocolate shop and ate it while sitting in the sun on the beach beneath Cannery Row -- all this after passing wild otters swimming in the bay! (Steinbeck's gloriously grungy Cannery Row is now a tourist-trap shopping mall, for the record.) (And The Four Loves is just terrific -- I'm only about two-thirds of the way through, starting the section on romantic love, but his dissection of the psychologies and dangers of appreciation, affection, and friendship is marvelous and insightful whether one agrees with his religious views or not.)

Then I went back to Asilomar to give my talk, which went well -- I'll try to have the transcript up within the next week or so. (It will take me that long because much of it was written in longhand and needs to be typed up, plus I kept thinking of or discovering things to add or correct over the course of the weekend.) Still, quite a few people told me they enjoyed it and/or found it useful, which was enormously reassuring. And after that the weekend was just a nice mix of conversations, one-on-one critiques, fascinating lectures*, great meals, this gorgeous setting, and a couple more walks on the beach. I waded in the Pacific! It was over fifty degrees! I met Marla Frazee, who was so nice it just deepened my Illustrator Crush**! Plus I finished The Penderwicks (so lovely and sweet and sad and wise) and I passed through the Garlic Capital of the World (Gilroy, California, for those who like to know such things). Altogether an excellent conference, and highly recommended for both writers and editors; thanks to Jim Averbeck for organizing it and inviting me.

* Talks included Lin Oliver on dialogue, Gennifer Choldenko on her biography and process, Allyn Johnston on putting picture books together, and David Diaz on making the pictures themselves, plus Rachel Orr's additions to the Publishing/Relationships Crossover Dictionary: An ex-boyfriend is a "backlist title"; a fling with an ex-boyfriend is "going back for a reprint"; and an ex-boyfriend who gets married? "Out of print." Hee.

** Illustrator Crush, n. A passionate admiration for the work of and desire to work with some particular illustrator. Other Illustrator Crushes of mine include Jim LaMarche, Petra Mathers, Marc Simont, Jon J Muth (who works with Dianne Hess at Scholastic), David Small (whom I did get to work with -- happiness, happiness), Chris Raschka (who came to Scholastic once to see another editor and made me feel like a teenybopper spotting Justin Timberlake or whoever -- "There he is, ohmygosh, is that really him?, He's such a genius," etc.), Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher, plus all the people I know well -- Saxton Freymann, Mary GrandPre, Timothy Basil Ering . . . It's a good thing my crushes don't have to be exclusive; in publishing terms, I get a whole season's list. :-)


The one blight on this weekend (and I am putting it in small type because hopefully it will be a small blight): When I boarded my flight home to New York, all the overhead compartments were full, so the stewardess took one of my two carryons (my backpack, containing my makeup case with my contact lenses (I was wearing my really, really old glasses), and all my clothes for the weekend, including my new magic jeans, several nice sweaters, and my beloved brown Danskos) and promised to check it for me. You know how this ends: I get off the plane at Newark, my backpack doesn't. And there aren't any tags on it, because it has always been my carryon and I never let it out of my grasp until the stressed-out stewardess grabbed it away from me. The good news is I should be getting my new contacts and eyeglasses this week anyway; the bad news . . . I think I have to go shopping.


  1. What a wonderful job you have!

    That was quite blightful, but at least it didn't happen on the way to the conference, right? It's no fun wearing old glasses. I've wondered how you managed to snap the bridge of the new ones without seriously hurting your nose?

    Say, someone at my work brought in some girl scout cookies that seemed to resemble your digestive biscuits. They're called "Thanks a lots" or something.

  2. I've gotten to hear Marla Frazee talk at the SCBWI summer conference. I was at the Golden Kite Luncheon when she made her acceptance speech for MRS BIDDLEBOX. There wasn't a dry eye when she told the story about the goose in the book. You may have heard it. The author, Linda Smith, died of cancer before the book was released. Marla added a pet for Mrs. Biddlebox and Linda never got to see what it was. Linda's husband got excited when he saw the goose, explaining that Linda had had one for a pet.
    Pass me the tissue.
    Angela Fox

  3. Some of my friends attended that conference and thought you were fabulous. No surprise there :).
    Kim Marcus

  4. Sounds great! Wish I could have been there . . . except for the losing backpack part, that's not so great. But buying new things to replace the ones you lost can be fun. :)

  5. Oh I'm so glad to hear you enjoyed our conference. It was lovely to hear you talk (especially to hear that plot can be taught - yahoo!) I wish I had had more of a chance to chat with you.

    Thank you for giving so generously of your time to our region.

    Susan Taylor Brown

  6. Your talk was great, Cheryl :)
    Come back to Asilomar soon!

    Margaret O'Hair

  7. And you call yourself anal?

    Next time, you'll print up a number of address labels and give them a laminated coating just in case (don't forget to punch a nice, clean hole into each one and have some strong string, preferably nylon.)

    May the luggage handlers of the great blue sky return your garments unharmed.

    Looking forward to reading the transcript of your talk.

    (Glad you weren't peeved by my hasty 'vomit' comment.)

  8. Like you, I once lost a bag in a similar way, and in it was a notebook full of ideas. This was a dozen or so years ago, and it was full of great stuff like "hey, what about a series of books full of really unfortunate events?" and "wizard academy??" OK, I don't actually recall the notes, and that's the problem. I like to believe, though, that someone somewhere read it and was influenced to write something brilliant :-)

    The interesting thing about the experience from my point of view was that the airline paid me quite quickly for my other losses, but for a new notebook they probably paid me a dollar. Perspective is everything, because I viewed that notebook as the only thing of real value among the clothes and such.
    Go figger. Anyway, I do hope the bag shows up, or the check arrives quickly for an unexpected shopping spree.

    the last minute mystery... blogger!?!?!

  9. Sigh.

    The description of your Friday meanderings had me longing for Spring. Winters in Maine are about four months too long.

    I saw many posts in LJ land singing your praises!