This year I kept my camera stowed most of the time and concentrated on just relaxin', helping out where I could, and getting to know people.
Someone I really enjoyed getting to know was Holly Black. She's one of the modern-marvels in this biz, so I had no idea what to expect. But she's just so...wonderful! Very kind. Always ready with a warm smile. It makes me happy to know that there are so many kids and teens out there who love her.
Here she is (far off in the distance) giving her keynote speech...
During lunch, I enjoyed the traditional rubber chicken meal (it actually wasn't that bad, but it's been a running joke at this conference for years) with some good friends. That's Rita Crayon Huang to the left of the empty space, Greg Pincus to her left, Ann Haywood Leal to the right of the empty space (which was where I sat, by the way), and several other cool tablemates.
I was really looking forward to the final keynote speech, delivered by Kathleen Duey. Ms. Duey has been a mentor of mine since 2000 (you'll find her name listed at the back of Thirteen Reasons Why as one of my inspirations). That's when I attended my very first SCBWI conference, and I was lucky enough to have my manuscript critiqued by her. It was my very first professional critique and I was so nervous and so full of hope. Ms. Duey nominated that manuscript for the Sue Alexander Award, which it won, earning me a free trip to NYC to meet with editors. So it meant a lot to watch someone who's been so important in my life and career giving this closing speech.
This year, for the first time, I sat on the other side of the table and gave critiques (or, as they refer to them, "manuscript consultations"). During each 30-minutes session, I tried to remember how I felt during my first critique, as well as each one I've had since. There was something about the "coming full-circle" aspect of this conference that made those critiques my favorite part of the four days. I enjoyed my time with each writer, and I hope they got a lot out of our visits.
And best of all...I got to nominate someone for the Sue Alexander Award! I knew how special it felt for me to get nominated, so I was bubbling with giddiness at the chance to do the same for someone else. In fact, I went up to the staff in charge of critiques and told them to let that author in early if she was waiting. Because I couldn't wait anymore!
Sometimes I get way too excited over these things. But...oh well!