Thursday, March 3, 2016

2016 SOLC 3/31: Children's Literature Conference

Today I join my fellow bloggers in "serving up a slice" 
to the Tuesday Slice of Life (SOL) community.
Thanks to Stacey, Tara, Betsy, Dana, Beth, and Anna
for hosting this meeting place each Tuesday
and for nurturing our writing lives.

It was wonderful!  I finally made it to the  WWUCLC (Western Washington University Children's Literature Conference) in Bellingham.  I've looked at the conference for years and longed to attend.  It's only two hours away, but being too busy stole the opportunity from me each year.  I even registered to attend one year and then allowed the threat of bad weather to keep me from going.  

This year the conference conflicted with another event that I needed to attend.  I was going.  I was staying.  Back and forth I went.  But when someone from the other event encouraged me to attend the literature conference, that was all I needed to tip the scales.  

And then I needed someone to go with me.  Sure, I could attend alone, but conferences are much more fun with a friend beside me.  And so with a decision finally made,  I fired off this text on Thursday night to a friend:  "Busy on Saturday?  Want to go with me to a reading conference in Bellingham?" 

Then I discovered that registration was unavailable.  Did that mean closed or just no longer available online?  No problem.  Nancy Johnson was the contact person.  I've taken summer workshops from her,  attended her poetry workshop at a local bookstore, and own several of her books.  I fired off an email and begged.  Her return reply:   "We've held a few registrations open for on site registering tomorrow morning. Please come!"

As soon as we stepped into the concert hall, we could smell the tantalizing call of books.  I reminded myself that I had brought my own books for autographing and that my bookshelves are filled to the brim!  

The first speaker, Cynthia Lord, was introduced by Kirby Larson (a favorite author who lives in our area).  Cynthia gave us four steps to becoming a writer:  
Read  - There's something special about our first books that we carry with us our whole lives.
Write - Surround yourself with things that have meaning for you.
Learn  - Grow as a writer and reach deeper.
Dream - It's interior storytelling.   And she shared this quote from her 2nd grade report card:                  "Cynthia would rather stare out the window than get her work done."
She autographed A Handful of Stars for Books, Brownies, & Beyond (our after school book club) with these words:  "Dream BIG!"

The next speaker was Peter Brown, author and illustrator of numerous picture books.  My favorite is  Mr. Tiger Goes Wild.   His middle grade novel, The Wild Robotcoming out in April looks at the question, What happens when technology and nature collide?  He started the novel eight years ago and has worked on it full-time for the past three years.   The ARC was released in June 2015 and then he continued to work on it, finishing it in January 2016.   I just checked his event schedule and he'll be in Seattle at University Bookstore on Tuesday, April 5!  I'll be there. 

I succumbed to the siren call of books because I had forgotten to bring Firefly July illustrated by Melissa Sweet  and one of my favorite recent poetry books.  I got it autographed along with my copy of The Right Word during our lunch break.    

Melissa Sweet was introduced by a familiar blogger friend, Carrie Gelson, with a delightful slide show that featured her students' exploration of the author/illustrator.   I had hoped Carrie might be at this conference and was excited when I saw her name listed on the program.   I managed to sneak down to the guests' front row and meet her during a break between speakers.  What a treat!  (If you don't know Carrie's blog, There's a Book for That, you should.  It's a book lover's treasure trove.  And this is Carrie's first year joining us for March Slice of Life challenge.)  Melissa shared her two favorite things:  Libraries and bicycles because they move people forward without wasting things.  She discussed how her style evolves with each book.  And then she introduced us to her current work-in-progress, Some Writer!:  The Story of EB White.  I can't wait for it to hit the bookshelves next fall (at 176 pages, it's not her usual picture book format).  

Our final speaker was Gene Luen Yang, the fifth National Ambassador for Young People's Literature.  I'm not a huge fan of graphic novels, but I did take my copy of American Born Chinese.  Alas, after waiting in line for his autograph for some time, I realized that there was no way I would make it to the front of the line before our afternoon session began.  Gene launched his speech by talking about comics and coding.  Since I know next to nothing about either topic, I thought his presentation might be a good time for an afternoon nap.  But he drew us in with an activity about coding that even this math phobic LA teacher could not resist.  I was shocked by how quickly his one hour of speaking time elapsed.  Near the end he spoke about his Reading Without Walls platform for his time as ambassador.  He wants kids to explore the world through books and to read outside their comfort zone.  You can read about his challenge on his blog which also includes a link to the speech he gave in Washington DC

What a day!  In the afternoon session, other authors in attendance at the conference were announced.  Augusta Scattergood was there!  I'm a huge fan of her book Glory Be and so sad that I didn't get to meet her.  I'm glad I followed my heart to spend a Saturday with fellow bibliophiles.  And I'm glad that I have a friend who willingly gave up her Saturday to spend the day doing something with me that I've always wanted to do.  

And here is the list of esteemed authors and illustrators for next year's Children's Literature Conference on February 25, 2017:
Rita Williams Garcia
Matt Phelan
Christian Robinson
Laurie Halse Anderson


  1. I love Cynthia Lord's advice. She's one of my heroes.

  2. Giddy is what I would have been! What an amazing line up of authors/illustrators! If only I was closer, I'd be your partner to attend this event. What a way to spend a day!

  3. Okay, officially jealous! It sounds as though each author was gracious, warm, and had much to share. Awesome!

  4. I'd love the conference and I'd love visiting Washington, too. I lived in Battle Ground (near Vancouver) for several years (and also Portland, Oregon). Thanks especially for sharing the words from Cynthia Lord. Loved reading that quote from her old report card and wondering if the teacher has a different perspective now :)

  5. Oh my this sounds like a jam-packed fabulous day, & you got to meet Carrie, & she introduced Melissa Sweet. That's the icing on the cake and candles, too. I just found a pack of Animal Rummy cards for the girls, & they are illustrated by Melissa. I was very excited. Thanks for sharing, Ramona-sounds so good. FYI-I've taught American Born Chinese with a group several times, very effective and enjoyable!

  6. It certainly pays to have connections! I'm so glad you were able to attend and share this wonderful recap with us. And yes, I'm a bit a good way though!

  7. Wow, what a treasure trove of literacy for you, and then us Ramona. I have A Handful of Stars on my beside table and still haven't read it. I bought it ages ago too. Thanks for all this info, especially the four steps. So glad you got to go.

  8. Ramona, your account of your book-filled, author-autographing, literacy-loving day had me green with envy! My favorite piece of info? The comment on Cynthia Lord's report card. I often wonder what "off-task" behaviors my third graders currently display that are indicators of future greatness! Clearly, Cynthia Lord's wandering mind was just the skill she needed to succeed at her goals.