Was it the most amazing weekend of my life? Come on. I rode the hotel elevator with Judy Blume and Richard Peck. Had a lovely chat with Jerry Pinkney while we ate peach cobbler. Learned that Libba Bray is a Doctor Who fan. Oh, and got honored by 1300 of the nicest, most generous kid-lit people I've ever metaphorically met.
The 4 day conference featured keynote speeches from kid-lit greats like David Smalls, whose graphic memoir Stitches took my breath away. Jon Scieszka and Libba Bray made me laugh. Bruce Coville made me think. Gary Paulson made me glad I don't have any desire to race the Iditarod and Laurie Halse Anderson gave me the courage to let my words be bold and true.
I had no idea how much I needed to be surrounded by writers and illustrators and the people who love them. Working in my basement with just my dog as company I have been adrift for too long without the nourishment that comes from like-minded introverts; inmates all let out of the asylum at once!
Richard Peck gave a stirring speech as part of the Golden Kite Awards luncheon.
We finally meet!
Lisa Yee (and my kimono) right before the 40 Winks pajama party. Lisa was the first recipient of the Sid Fleischman Humor Award and like me, she was the children's author in residence at the Thurber House. We had lots to catch up on over a great lunch where we learned we both had also worked for Disney and both make it a priority to have chocolate after lunch.
I also finally met someone who has been an email/blog/facebook friend for years; Jay Asher, dressed here in his pink finest.
And here I am with the funny, generous, wonderful executive director of the SCBWI, Lin Oliver. I still remember the February night when I was making chicken burritos and I got the phone call from Lin and SCBWI president, Stephen Mooser, telling me that Milo had won the award. I did all of the stereotypical things like screaming, jumping up and down and burning the dinner to a charred crisp!
Jerry Pinkney talked with me about life, creative pursuits and the joy of having two desserts to choose from.
Henry Winkler is co-author (with Lin Oliver) of the Hank Zipzer series. Together they gave a very funny and heartfelt session about writing humor. He had the room rolling from his stories and what inspired him to write.
Sunday was the big day - the luncheon where the awards are given out. They went all out with the desserts, which were chocolate books filled with whipped cream and berries. I was too nervous to eat the weird chicken...but somehow found a way to devour this yummy tome.
The Sid Fleischman Award was the final award given out and I was relieved to finally hear my name, which meant they hadn't made a mistake and it all hadn't been an elaborate prank. Looking out at all of the people in the ballroom I took a moment to let it all sink in; my book was being honored and I was actually there receiving it. That picture above is only one third of the ballroom - there were a TON of people there and giving my speech I was so aware of the impact my words were having on the room. My speech was both funny and touching and I used the time to remind everyone that humor and sadness can co-exist and both are sometimes needed to tell a story. Because Milo is such a personal story for me - I was also able to dedicate the award to the memory of my mother, which was a deeply felt honor for me.
After the award Judy Blume made a point of coming over to congratulate us. She had actually come back so that she could hear the speeches. Here I am with Judy, my agent, Jill Grinberg and Jenni Holm, whose book Turtle in Paradise won the Golden Kite fiction award.
Judy Blume was a surprise guest of the conference and the day before she gave an emotional, funny and real sit-down interview for all of us. Such a remarkable writer who has given so much to the world of kid-lit and beyond.
I was so glad that past Sid Fleischman Humor winners, Allen Zadoff and Lisa Yee were sitting with me at the lunch. Lisa made sure I didn't have any lettuce in my teeth!
To everyone I met over the weekend and those I didn't - I thank you all for making the SCBWI 40th anniversary conference so meaningful and fun. As I said in my speech, winning any award is an amazing thing - but getting a HUMOR award for a book that also deals with loosing a parent is the best praise I could ever get.
Oh, and you don't get to see everyone in their pajamas when you win a Newbery!
"TUNA FISH! "*
(* read MILO: STICKY NOTES & BRAIN FREEZE - it'll make sense!)