Tuesday, February 03, 2009


I wanted to recap the events of last weekend - so here we go!

When the invite came in from Lin Oliver to open the NY SCBWI National Conference, I was giddy. BUT - there was a baby on the way. So my immediate thought was to reply with my regrets. However, Gina was quick to correct me. By then, we, especially she, would have been cooped up in the house for 7 weeks straight and by then it would be really nice to get out of the house. Especially for a free weekend in NYC. So I erased the start of my message back to Lin and told her that I would be delighted to join the faculty. I also told her that I had been telling myself that if I was ever invited back to speak, that I would produce another video. If I could (more on that in a later post.)

After getting clearance from Zoe's doctors (we are jittery 1st timers), we took our first trip as a family. And believe it or not - Zoe slept the entire way down to NY. *phew!* On Friday afternoon we took a nice stroll over to Random House and G and Z got to see all of the wonderful people who I've been working with over these years. On Friday night, G and I enjoyed a baby-free evening at the SCBWI party. (Z has an uncle and auntie in the city - thanks Pete & Siobhan!) Upon returning to our hotel room, Z was a little fussy, so I took baby duty while putting the finishing touches on my slideshow and video. Both the fussy baby and the last minute revising kept me up until 3 AM. (And trust me, nothing was saved for the last minute - I'm just a perfectionist.) I went to bed at 3, only to wake up at 6, thinking, "I want to change this, this and that." So I did. And then it was 8:30 AM, so I headed down to the conference ballroom where the event was taking place. (My talk began at 9:15 AM, with Lin's opening remarks beginning at 9 AM.) Holy moly! It was a big room. And there was already quite the crowd. I met up with the SCBWI staff and the hotel A/V guy. Everything got hooked up - BUT - there was no sound. The A/V guy assured me there would be sound, but said that if there wasn't, I'd just have to do without sound. HUH?! WHA?! I took the pill gracefully, but still - I. Needed. SOUND! And sure enough, there was sound. But still - what an emotional roller coaster. Before I took the stage, I was stopped by one Jeremy Evans. He had emailed me some months ago about his dreams of getting into this world of published children's books. I had suggested he join the SCBWI and he did. Which is what brought him to the conference. It was hard not to see a little bit of myself in him, as he was so energetic and excited by what may come. My first conference was the SCBWI NY in 2001 before any of my books were published. In fact, my conference friend, Esther, whom I sat next to at that conference was the very first person that I ran into when the elevators opened to the ballroom. These were all the little pick-me-ups that I needed to get up there on the stage.

Lin gave me a very generous introduction and my talk went off without a hitch. Though, I always do get nervous at the beginning. Very nervous in fact. But once I'm up there for a bit and especially once I throw up a few slides, the time just melts away. Everyone loved the movie and appreciated the candidness in my talk. Then it was a much needed food break with the fam and my agent. G, Z and I returned to our hotel room and needless to say, Z was not cooperative when it came time to take a nap. And not for her - but for me. Before you know it, it was lunch time and a speech by Jay Asher that I was very much looking forward to. And for good reason - his speech was amazing. So inspiring. Halfway through his talk, my contact folded up and got lodged behind my eye. But I didn't care. I was mesmerized. His path to publication is riveting - the man had his books rejected for 12 years. And when that first book did get published - accolades galore, including a number of weeks on the NY Times Best-sellers list. (Of course that second half of his story wasn't included in his speech.)

I was finally able to catch some much needed rest.

I'll fast-forward to Sunday morning. After getting some sleep (Yay babies). I took Z for a walk to give G a break. The elevator opened and there was Jay. We sat and talked for a bit when a man approached me. I think he was British, maybe early 30's. He enjoyed my speech, but more importantly said that everyone kept coming up to him and congratulating him on his baby. He would say thank you and then wonder why they were congratulating him on his three year old. Then they would congratulate him on his speech. To which he would realize - they thought he was me. This isn't the first time this has happened to me at a SCBWI conference. Back in LA in 2006, I received a number of e-mails from people telling me that it was nice to meet me at the dance party. But I hadn't been at the dance party. Someone was mistaken for me and went with it, dancing the night away - as me! Fortunately, this fine fellow wasn't as opportunistic. And as it turns out - people kept congratulating Jay Asher on his baby. And his video...

I took the opportunity of Jay's time to run up and grab a copy of his book, 13 Reasons Why. I picked up the last copy!!! Go Jay!

We spotted Mr. Jack Gantos in the lobby. He was giving the closing keynote. Man, Mr. Gantos is a snappy dresser. And a man who dresses that well and is that handsome deserves the monicker of "Mr." I was excited to hear Mr. Gantos speak. I would say I've never seen him speak, but that wouldn't be a complete truth. I saw him speak when I was in the 3rd grade. He visited my school and I remember this clearly - he walked by my desk, pointed to my drawing of Rotten Ralph and said, "nice cat". That had a profound impact on me. So imagine my excitement to open a conference that he was closing. His speech was incredible. He's like a ballet dancer and a boxer up there behind the podium.

Finally, it was the autographing session and a thank-you to everyone who waited in line and gave such nice well wishes. It was all much appreciated!

Finally, someone approached Gina and said, "Your Jay Asher's wife! Congratulations on the baby!"

Then we went home. Zoe, again, slept the entire way. *phew!* G,Z and I had a wonderful, wonderful weekend.

I rested for about a minute, then I had to pack for Colorado. Im at that conference as I write this.

Stay tuned for a director's commentary on "Book by Book"....

Thank you Lin and Steve for all that you do!

(Photo of me speaking taken from Gaby Triana's Facebook.)


ellen mack said...

As a first time conference goer, I can say I'm glad Gina encouraged you to go. It was great. Loved your speech. Loved the movie.
I thought it was a terrific first conference.
I was also lucky to see Gina and Zoe waiting for you outside the signing...My youngest is 6...It goes so fast. Enjoy every minute... (even during sleep deprivation desperation)

Thank you so much for giving such a fantastic presentation. It was a great start to a very good conference.

Just A Girl said...


Thanks for sharing your story with all of us at the conference.

I just had to search for your video and link to it on my facebook account for all of my writer friends to see. I was the only one in my writing group that was able to attend and knew they would love it.

I learned so much in two days and am just now starting to process it.

Oh, and I can't wait for the Lunch Lady series to come out...my son is going to LOVE it!