Thank you Chicago, ALA, and The American Writers Museum!

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Chicago was anything but the windy city this weekend. It was warm and welcoming as it greeted thousands of librarians, publishers, editors, writers, illustrators, and literary aficionados for ALA’s 2017 Annual Conference and Exhibition.

It’s hard not to feel like a kid in a candy store when attending ALA. And like a well-prepared kid ready to take home a treasure trove of loot, I came prepared with my empty bags. In my years of attending ALA, I have also learned that the extremely patient Fed Ex worker, who is silently laughing at my creatively wrapped packages, has become my new best friend. (At this time, I would like to shout out a very big thank you to my Grandpa Harry for teaching me how to defy the laws of physics with masking tape.)

Here are a few photographic highlights from #alaac17:

 

Creston Books

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Detectives Wilcox & Griswold, me, and Marissa Moss

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Nancy Churnin

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Marcia Goldman and Princess Lola

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Laurie Wallmark and Sue Conolly

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Marissa Moss and Kathryn Otoshi

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Carol Weston

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Monica Edinger and Donalyn Miller

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Tracey Baptiste

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Me and Emma Otheguy

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The AWESOME Mr. Schu!

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Laurie Wallmark, Mr. Schu, and me

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Panel discussion, “Women Aren’t Funny (And Other Essential Untruths for Middle Grade Readers) with Sharyn November, Erica Perl, Betsy Bird, Cece Bell, Rita Williams-Garcia, and Andrea Beaty

During this literary palooza of a weekend, I also had the privilege of being invited to do a reading at the The American Writers Museum. With the mission of “celebrating American writers and exploring their influence on our history, our identity, our culture, and our daily lives[,]”[1] The American Writers Museum opened its doors on May 15, 2017.

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While walking around and gazing at the words and portraits of many of my writing superheroes, it was impossible not to reflect upon the impact each of these authors have had on all of us—how they’ve stirred our imagination; comforted us in times of grief; given us a serious case of the giggles; and put us to bed night after night.

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As a writer, I also couldn’t help but think about the number of rewrites each of these authors had to do. How many authors were on the brink of giving up when they finally got their lucky break? What’s the tally on the number of rejections vs. successes?

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Untitled Mural by Paul O. Zelinsky

Next time you’re in Chicago be sure to stop by this inspiring magical place. I promise. You won’t be disappointed.

[1] Source: http://americanwritersmuseum.org/history/

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BEST CONFERENCE EVER! New Jersey SCBWI Annual Conference 2017

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I say this every year, but cross my heart it’s the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. The New Jersey SCBWI Annual Conference is the BEST conference ever!

What makes it great? I’m so glad you asked. Here goes my laundry list:

Critiques, first pages, workshops covering every imaginable kidlit topic from picture books to YA, pitches, connecting with editors and agents, and more editors and more agents, getting solid feedback on your stories and illustrations (the good, the bad, and the sad ugly truth), inspiration galore, and lifelong friendships. Shall I go on?

Here are a few photographic highlights:

Behind the scenes the day before the conference.

Opening Keynote with Stephen Savage

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Blake Hamilton and Matthew Winner

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Sheela Chari and Leslie Zampetti

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Me with Detectives Wilcox and Griswold on the job

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Anita Arakelian and me (Mawrters in the house – Anassa kata ’89)

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Virginia Law Manning, me, Leslie Zampetti

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Leslie Santamaria

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The Liza Royce Crew!

(Left to right: Me, Laurie Wallmark, Darlene Beck-Jacobson, Liza Fleissig, Leslie Santamaria, Yvonne Ventresca)

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Me and David Lubar

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(Top row, left to right: Kathy Temean, Darlene Beck-Jacobson, me)

(Bottom row, left to right: Katey Howes, Jody Staton, Colleen Rowan Kosinski)

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Me and Hallee Adelman

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Cathleen Thole Daniels and Rosanne Kurstedt

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Anita Arakelian

 

 

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Heather Montgomery

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Stephen Savage, Mike Ciccotello, Annie Silvestro

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Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen

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Cathleen Thole Daniels, Kirstine Erekson Call, me

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Closing keynote with David Lubar

I’d like to shout out a HUGE THANK YOU to the amazing, incredible, you-take-my-breath-away NJ SCBWI team, including but certainly not limited to, Cathleen Thole Daniels, Rosanne Kurstedt, Karen Romagna, Annie Silvestro, Kelly Calabrese, Charlotte Bennardo, Guy Olivieri, Mike Ciccotello, Linda Bozzo, Tami Charles, and to all the incredible volunteers.

And do you want to know a little secret? If you close your eyes, take a deep breath, and cross your fingers and toes and hope the publishing gods are on your side, you’ll notice the hint of publishing contracts in the air. How could any conference ever get better than this?