The Saturday line-up at the SCBWI Summer conference was AHHH-MAZE-ING!!!

Author Donna Jo Napoli kicked off our morning, getting right to business with a keynote titled, How Writing About Terrible Things Makes Your Reader a Better Person.  She talked about the difference between children who are protected (fed well, kept safe, listened to, etc.) and those who are not. When a child is unprotected, he feels alone and embarrassed and when he reads a book about a character going through the same thing, a perfectly good person, he realizes that bad things happen to good people.  This reminded me of the keynote by Richard Peck in 2009 when he discussed how important our "jobs" are as writers. We can not always save a hurting child, but what we can do is offer her a companion. Needless to say, I was a blubbering mess through Mr. Peck and Ms. Napoli's keynotes.

The next keynote has stayed with me since the moment I heard it. Author/Illustrator, David Small, began with a short film that was made as a trailer for his illustrated memoir, Stitches, that takes the reader through a journey of unimaginable abuse. After sharing with us about his writing, art, and how he grew up feel unloved, he closed his keynote singing, "How sweet it is to be loved by you," as he pointed to us, the audience, his family. The moment was unforgettable and when most of us had started to tear up in that moment, his wife joined him on the stage. They, together, danced a victory dance, and Mr. Small sang to her as they danced, "How sweet it is to be loved by you."  It was an unforgettable moment and I am honored that I was there to be a part of it.

As if we weren't emotional enough, Lin Oliver took the next keynote segment to interview the incredible Judy Blume.  Yes... That's right. JUDY BLUME!  I feverishly took five pages of gold-nugget filled notes. Here are a few if my favorites...

  • Kid's concerns are the same.
  • No matter what, get that first draft done!
  • It never gets any easier.
  • I hear them talking.  (re: writing dialogue.)
  • Telling a story is a quest. It involves questioning.
When Lin and Judy closed, the California Ballroom erupted with applause and a much deserved standing ovation from all.

Stay tuned for Saturday, Part 2 with details of my breakout session with Libba Bray and Jenni Holm and keynotes from Jon Scieszka, Norton Juster and Mary Pope Osborne.