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.