Springmingle '08 - Roundup!

     It's catch-up day as I reel from my fantabulous weekend at the SCBWI Southern Breeze Springmingle Conference. I've been attending these long enough now, that I look forward to hanging out with my friends (and making new ones) more than anything else. Children's book people are so fun, and nice, and easy - we have a great time!
     I also volunteered quite a bit with this one, although my input was nowhere near the hard work by Jo Kittinger, Donna Bowman, and Robyn Hood Black who somehow manage to make it all look so easy - even when our editor's flights were grounded in New York because of the sudden blizzard. They pulled everything off beautifully. We are so lucky to have them in charge of our region - they keep Southern Breeze vibrant and strong.
     So, on to the embarrassing stuff. I was actually the opening act with my skit, "A Day in the Life of an Illustrator." Yes, I got on stage in my PJs and bunny slippers and acted completely silly. Luckily, I had a side-kick - Dwain Fleming played my FedUPs delivery guy and he was hilarious! (And yes, my skit was documented with photos, and no, I am not going to share. Allow me a sliver of pride please.)
     We have a great new tradition for opening night. Authors or illustrators with new books released in the previous year get five minutes to explain and pitch their latest creation, and then place it's corresponding kite into the collection of Southern Breeze member's published works. This year there were three of us: me (with Paco), Hester Bass (with "So Many Houses"), and Liz Conrad (with "The Witches' Ball," "The Bunny Ball," and "The Turkey Ball").

     Ironic for me was I had to present the dummy I'd made from the printer's proofs for "Paco and the Giant Chile Plant." Paco is so new, my free copies were delivered to my house after I'd already left for the conference. I had them for Saturday though and let Diane of Little Shop of Stories use them for stock since her copies wouldn't arrive until Monday. Amazingly, she almost sold them all and I was signing Paco all weekend - Woohoo! So, while I'd love to share that "cracking open the box, seeing the book for the first time" moment - I can't. It happened at about 11 o'clock at night in an exhausted haze.
     Saturday was filled with keynotes, seminars and critiques. Deborah Wiles proved her complete professionalism with one of the most polished and entertaining keynotes I've seen. Editors Jennifer Wingertzahn (Clarion) and Robin Tordini (Henry Holt) shared their insights into the business and new projects they are excited about. I especially enjoyed Jennifer's writing exercise to take the first line in your story and apply different approaches to it. (We rewrote our sentence with a change in tense, narrative voice, opposite point of view, added alliteration, etc...) Mucho fun! Martha Rago (HarperCollins) shared her obvious passion for design. With my background in graphic design I especially appreciated her images of the printing presses they use, work stations, print check areas, proofs, etc. I've worked with a select few truly talented designers over the years, and their passion for good design is infectious.
     I also had the great pleasure to meet and escort Kathy Landwher and Loraine Joyner of Peachtree Publishing on Saturday. Loraine stuck around for much of the day so we got to know each other a bit, and what a nice, nice person. I imagine working with Peachtree is much like being adopted into a big, happy family.
     I honestly forgot we had more activities on Sunday, so it was bonus time to my mind. After more great hanging out, Vicky Alvear Shecter and I invited Robin and publisher Peggy Shaw (Dalmation) to a true southern lunch at the Crescent Moon Cafe. (We couldn't let Robin's only southern experience be the hotel!)
     So, I finally returned home, exhausted and happy. Sarah Campbell was kind enough to share pictures since I didn't take a one - and what a photographer she is! Check out the gorgeous cover of her new book, "WolfSnails" which comes out this April. She also took what may have to become my new avatar, me with my favorite Marvin the Martian coffe cup. Thanks Sarah!

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