Wednesday, February 13, 2008


You know what the problem is with writers conferences? They are so stinkin' INSPIRING.

Yesterday, after completing my Cybils judging duties, I meant to get back to posting more about the SCBWI NY conference, and instead, I was consumed by the blazing---near pyromaniacal---desire to work for hours and hours and hours on a new writing project. It isn't even a sane project. But I can't help it. I'm so smokin' in love.

My outdoor gym class was canceled due to icy weather. I wrote. My stomach growled. I made myself a fried egg sandwich. I wrote. My son came home from school. I yelled hello in his general direction; he grabbed his guitar and waled on it. I wrote. He was hungry; we went out, grabbed two slices of pizza. We came home; I wrote. He watched Prison Break (on the DVR) next to me on the couch; I pointed out gaping plot holes in the story; I wrote. I talked to my husband; told him about the insane new project; he said: luckily, your patron (that's him) doesn't demand sanity or instant commercial success. I had another scorching idea; I wrote.

How will today run? I don't know. Maybe not so fast. But I would like to thank the following speakers at the SCBWI conference for leaving burning hot coals in my writing shoes:

David Wiesner: sure, he talked about wordless picture books. But story is story, and sometimes I listen much better when an illustrator is talking process. He showed sketch after sketch of abandoned cover art for Flotsam. It reminded me of flirting with draft after draft of a poem that you desperately need to hook, and then, you do.

Carolyn Mackler: she read from her high school diary. Yes, I know they were paying her to do this, but still! The guts. The most important thing I heard? She said: what I didn't write in that diary was as interesting as what I did write. She was chronicling all the ups and downs of her attraction to numerous boys, but not the stuff, the real emotional stuff, going on in her family at the time. I filed that away: what the character doesn't say is as important as what she does.

Susan Patron: you made me like you. How did you do it? Yes, you were humble and funny and you admitted to every fumble and flaw, and you talked about being gripped by irrelevant, wandering thoughts about the circle of knees that confronted you when you crawled under a table to retrieve a forgotten speech from your purse. Yes, I think it was the knees that got me. You made me feel as if I were part of that secret community of people who would think such strange, strange thoughts about knees and know what to do with them.

Finally, a shout-out to Jennifer Hunt of Little, Brown. Your breakout session was wonderful; it really was. I'm sorry I didn't take notes on what you were hoping to acquire. One half of me was listening; I swear. You read from/edited some beautiful books (must look for All of the Above, and I already loved Story of a Girl and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian.) But the other half of me, the writer half, was racing across the page, writing the first draft of what would later become my insane new project begun yesterday. I don't know what you did to me. Editor voodoo?

So there you have it. I'm on fire. And I know what (and who) lit the match.

P.S. There was a fire alarm at the hotel on Saturday morning. I was on the 44th floor. I was wearing heels. I walked all the way down to the lobby. Maybe this whole post is BS, and it was that extended downward march in a metal stairwell after smelling real smoke that inspired me.


  1. Sizzlin', smokin' Sara!
    *wearing oven mitts just to type this*

    (Your patron sounds cute.)

  2. Nah, I think it's the real thing, Sar. Heels schmeels.
    You're cookin'

  3. 45 floors in heels? Dang! You beyond inspired!

  4. If you're going next Feb., Sara, I think I'm going to try NY for the first time... it's nothing like the conference at Beverly Hills, is it? But equally inspiring if not so breathtakingly hot!

    Oh, man, it sounds like it was fun. I'm so glad you're on FI-YAH!

  5. Hurrah for inspiration!

    I agree that what the character doesn't say is as important as what she does. What she avoids talking/thinking about...

  6. Attagirl. Here's to being on fire.

    And great knee metaphors . . . or, uh, whatever that clever knee comment was.

    jules, 7-Imp

  7. Go, Sara!

    Love Carolyn Mackler's statement. Sara Pennypacker said the what your character *lies* about reveals a ton about her, and that really lit me off on a new direction in a project. Conferences are great!

  8. Sounds like true inspiration. Wish I could have been in NYC with you, but as it turns out I did get to see Obama where I was. Okay, from really, really far away, but still.

  9. Yay, fried egg sandwich!

    I've also been obsessively working on a writing project that I have deemed insane, but I can't seem to stop. Maybe it's something in the air.

    That said, I feel like *your* insane projects will turn out to be something I'd definitely enjoy reading, so keep it up.


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