Friday, August 21, 2009

Conference Recap- Sherman Alexie

One of the most moving talks at the SCBWI summer conference was by Sherman Alexie, a Spokeane/Coeur d'Alene Indian and a cross over author who has had great success in the adult literary world with such books as The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven (short stories, 1993), which he turned in part into the motion picture Smoke Signals, starring Ben Beach.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, his young adult novel, published in 2007, won many awards, but also gained a lot of controversy in its usage of the word "mast****ion". I really wanted to buy some of his books after his "keynote speech", but confess after finding a certain amount of language on every page, just couldn't- more for the fact it was just down right distracting to me- in trying to get into the story- so alas will be waiting until age calms the might of his pen and he calms down his language.
His talk on the other hand was so personal and moving- he was born with water on the brain, blind in one eye, malformed head and all sorts of other maladies- spent much time with the nuns at the mission, riding the train to bigger towns for medical treatment and reading anything he could get his hands on while he spent countless hours in bed.
He shared letters he has received over the years from "misfits" like himself and reminded us it is for them we should write, because one book can make such a huge difference in someone life.
What was amazing is that a few days before the conference I had helped my friend, who teaches special ed out on the Reservation, buy a car seat for a little Navajo boy, who like Alexie, had water on the brain and would need special transport to and from school on occasion and it was up to my friend to get that done, not a lot of properly fitted school buses out there.
Of course when I came back I told her all about Sherman, a hopeful spark of a story, just a little encouragement to never, ever, write off the potential of any child- because you just don't know where and what they might be able to do with their life, with just a little bit of encouragement! It is certainly why I teach!!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Conference Recap- Holly Black

So the night before the conference, there is a lot of individual parties- faculty, regional advisers, VIPS, etc. Well, uhh- wasn't invited to any of those, so headed around a large group of RAs gathering to head off to the pool and sat down in the hotel lobby near a pleasant looking woman by herself and started chatting- well don't know how to hold the suspense in a blog- but needless to say, Holly Black (click on her name to got to her website) of the Spiderwick Chronicles was sitting next to me and she was a little surprised I didn't know who she was, had to explain that to me- lovely lady and fun to chat with about having an artist verses writer brain and having to turn our images in our heads eventually into words. Got nervous when other writers started to come over in "ahhh" to just talk to her and one, even doing a mock bowing down!!
Holly Black was one of the main speakers in the general session, attended by about 900 writers/illustrators and it was amazing in that every other speaker having a highly graphic power point presentation, all she had up there was a dry eraser board, which she did not use until the very last and here is what she drew to the "ohhs and ahhhs" and cheers of everyone else!
If you are going "uhhhh?" let me explain- think Star Wars- the big mega event starts first- the purple line, then in the first part of the book, slightly after that is in place- Luke starts off on his journey- blue line, they kind of meet at the top, she pointed out that the two lines could be very close together at that point, but then the resolution of the main event, Luke fighting the Empire and Darph Vader, has to be resolved before the main character, Luke can bring resolution to his own journey- I know Star Wars is a sequeal, prequel- but each story has an arc- and Holly Black explained it wonderfully, only using a white board and dry earser!!

Sunday, August 16, 2009


Getting to the conference was interesting. Rode the train all by myself because none of my girlfriends could go, plan on telling them all about the glorious weather, the nearness to the beach, the hollywood stars I rubbed elbows with, well- actually almost dropped my cell phone on from above- ( blog that later)until they are begging to come next year.
Rode the train and figured out the bus from Union Station with the help of some wonderful volunteers ( blog that later,too). Road the bus a lot, figured out the "Big Blue Bus #5"- got me to the edge of Beverly Hills, with about a half mile to go- needless to say, thank God for wheels on luggage and I was pretty sweaty and inkemp when I made my entrence to the Hyatt Century Plaza. Everyone could not of been nicer and felt truly pampered in this luxury hotel.
The confernce was four day, got there the morning before, so road my #5 bus down to Santa Monica peer, got several wonderful illustration of the people who rode the bus, African American, Asian, Espanic, and very few white- hum, kind of holds to the idea that there still is racial inequality in this country- but hey that is also another blog.
Lin Oliver, exective director and writing partner with Henry Winkler ( Fonze)declared that if an earthquake brought down the Century Plaza, there would cease to be a Children's Publishing industry and she was right!
Look over the next few weeks for my recaps of my amazing trip!


Well this was an easy one! Did this several years ago, and have learned so much since than. I actually hand stitched the entire blanket with thread- don't know if the bang equalled the "buck" or time.
Funny, I see all the mistakes, or not best decisions in the construction, but it is a lot of my friends favorite- go figure- just think I could do better if I ever go back to the subject, which is described in this December 6th, 2006 post.
- need I say more!

Sunday, August 02, 2009

California Here I Come!!

Three days before I head to California, not on a Clipper, but on a train, all by myself!!
Headed there for the Society of Children's Book Writer and Illustrators National Conference. ( check it out @
Four days of authors, illustrators,book publishers, art directors, agents, etc rubbing elbows. Very nice group of people- thank goodness.
Will be entering my portfolio in the Showcase- (looking for an icon that means "freaking out"-
The whole trip will be fun and exciting- just kind of right now in the " what in the #$##@#$$^%$@ was I thinking mode!!


Every time I go up to Mesa Verde,which literally frames the south side of the Montezuma valley where I live, I am amazed that these ancient people "Modified" the deep alcoves hidden in the walls of canyons, into homes.

As the park rangers are going on about their religious purposeful lives, hidden away from their enemies, I am think about how in the world would you watch a tobbler, when ten feet out side your door is a 100 foot drop off. Things like,knowing mom and kids and chores, I would be sending my kids every morning, down the steep path to the springs to get water, and then up the steep trail they would have to lug that water.

These illustration were really fun, I have done extensive research on Mesa Verde, have a picture book and a novel about the first tourist that came to see the
Ghost Cities" hidden on the cliffs, hidden away in my head- yes.... I know they do no good there and need to get out, and yes am still working on the novel about Polygamy in Utah- more then half way!
It was hardly work looking over photos of Edward Curtis, one of the few photographers who came west in the 1800 to document the "Indian Tribes" that were disappearing.
Obviously the Anasazi, Navajo for "Ancient Enemy" or Ancestral Puebloean,had disappeared, Curtis's photographs, being one of the first whites to come into the pueblos of the Rio Grande area in New Mexico, where one theory has the Anasazi relocating to after they left Mesa Verde, gave me hints of their dress and traditions.
Also Gustaf Nordenskiold, a Swedish tourist turned archaeologist is responsible along with the Wetherill brothers, cowboys and ranchers turned guides and archaeologist, for trying to scientifically excavate the ruins of Mesa Verde while others were ransacking them for pots. The pots, jewelery and white arm band are artifacts found by the them the summer of 1891.
The scientiftic stuff is needed, but I guess I think like a writer and try and imajine the daily lives of these people and have to believe that people are people, mothers are mothers, fathers are fathers, and kids are kids- whether now or over 800 years ago when the Ancients "Modified" these cliffs into homes.