I arrived in NYC five hours later than expected because when my first plane landed, one of its tires decided to explode (which is always a tad disturbing). That slowed our ability to disembark and I missed my next flight by two minutes! But I arrived in the City with enough time to check out a crowded and loud shindig hosted by editor Cheryl Klein and librarian Betsy Bird (a.k.a. Fuse #8). Here's Ms. Fuse doing her impression of a 40's pin-up while I try to keep the camera from getting bumped.
That night, the night before my speech, I was up till 3:30am, going over my presentation one more time, one more time, one more time. When I woke up, I was so nervous I couldn't eat. Thankfully, Jarrett J. Krosoczka's highly entertaining speech kept me distracted. Odd sidenote: even though Jarrett and I will never be confused for twins separated at birth, people were confusing us throughout the weekend. They congratulated me on my new (and non-existent) daughter and told his wife how much they enjoyed my speech.
For lunch, everyone gathered in a huge ballroom where tables were dressed up real fancy. I sat with my editor/publisher and two other editors from Razorbill. Again, while the lunch looked fancy and delicious, I couldn't eat a thing. But then, after a wonderful introduction, I was called to the stage. As usual, once I began speaking I had so much fun. I spoke about the ups-n-downs, twists-n-turns, and total sidetracks taken on my 12 year journey to publication. I used a Powerpoint presentation to make it more entertaining (and to keep my face off the two huge screens they had set up) and basically tried to inspire people to not give up and to use the many opportunities available to stand out in a very crowded field. It seemed to work! After I told how winning joke contests at a conference helped me acquire an agent, the joke box at this conference began overflowing. They actually ran out of entry forms!
For those of you who weren't able to attend, here were my opening remarks:
When I was first asked to speak at this conference, they wanted me for tomorrow and they wanted something nuts-n-bolts about writing…which made me a little nervous. After twelve years of nothing but rejections on many, many manuscripts, I could speak for hours on how to help you get rejected. But in those twelve years, I sold one book. Do you really want me giving you advice on writing? When they called back and asked if I would instead speak during lunch, something more inspirational and less nuts-n-bolts, I jumped at it. My favorite parts of these conferences have always been hearing how other authors and illustrators made it because everyone who’s published got here a different way. As the years stacked up for me, that was a great thing to remind myself. So with twelve years to look back on, hopefully you’ll see something I did and think, “Hey! I made that very same ridiculously stupid mistake. That’s inspiring!”
That night, I went to Grand Central Station with Kristen Pettit, the editor of Thirteen Reasons Why, and we had a great time catching up. It was my first time inside the Station (which has been featured in countless movies), and we sat at a balcony overlooking the crowd. It was seriously an amazing sight!
During the autograph party the next day, I got to meet Jack Gantos. I've admired his books for a long time and finally had the chance to get an autographed copy of Hole in My Life. I don't think I'll ever get used to people like Mr. Gantos, simply by looking at my nametag, knowing who I am. That's crazy! (I also got to meet his editor who...ahem...rejected 13RW.)
Unfortunately (though it's kind of cool, too), the bookstore at the conference completely sold out of my book. So I just had to take a photo with the handwritten sign: We are out of Jay Asher!