Monday, January 30, 2012

some highlights from the SCBWI conference in NYC

Writers Roundtable Intensive

I did a lot of humming and hawing about whether or not to go to this conference. Ultimately, the thing that pushed me to a yes was when I saw that Arianne Lewin was giving a workshop on fantasy. I've read books she's worked on in the past, have been anticipating some that aren't yet published, and really wanted to meet her. So. You can imagine my great delight when I found out I was at her critique table. (I think my initial reaction was something like... pfthft?!?!?!) Let me tell you, she is lovely. So much so. Plus she loves all the same books as I do (and it's always a little bit magical when you find someone who loves the same books as you).

The Book Maker's Dozen on rejection 

Your success is directly proportionate to your ability to take rejection. - David Gordon (The Three Little Rigs)

What do you do? What does anybody do? You cry a little for a few days, and then you try to get the project rejected by the next person. - Sergio Ruzzier (Tweak Tweak)

I appreciate it so much when really successful artists talk about their rejections. It's a reminder that rejection is an inherent part of this business, and necessary in order to improve. And, I think, the "fact of rejection" is a kind of invisible thread that ties us to each other, giving us one more thing we have in common and letting us know we're not alone. 

Visit The Book Maker's Dozen here

LGBTQ&A Discussion

Alvina Ling (senior editor at Little Brown) and Jennifer Laughran (agent with Andrew Brown Literary Agency) said that only 1% - 5% of submissions to editors and agents feature LGBTQ characters (the same is true of POC characters) and talked about how disappointing this is, and how much they're dying for more diversity in submissions.

Ellen Hopkins spoke about writing bravely, and said, rather emphatically, "to hell with the censors!" Lee Wind added that And Tango Makes Three is so banned, so often, that this is partially what makes it such a bestseller.

At the end of the day, "The heart wants what the heart wants."

Last of all

Before leaving Manhattan, I wanted exactly one souvenir: a sky umbrella by Tibor Kalman, from MoMa. And now that I have one, I cannot wait for Spring...

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

heading out to the annual SCBWI winter conference

I’m leaving on the overnight bus for NYC tomorrow. (The overnight bus? What was I thinking? Well, basically, this: a $90 round trip from Toronto. Who needs sleep, anyway.) In the meantime, I’m packing and getting ready and also stressing. So far, my backpack has two things in it: Anna Dressed in Blood and The Fault in Our Stars (both saved for this very trip). That's it. Not so prepared, am I.

What I'm most looking forward to:
  • A roundtable critique
  • Workshops with Ari Lewin, Stacy Whitman, and Jennifer Laughran
  • A discussion on LGBTQ publishing
  • Hanging out with people who love children’s lit as much as I do

Honestly, there is something so wonderful about conferences like this. You’re surrounded by people who have all read the same books as you, and know exactly what you’re talking about when you say things like capaill uisce, or shadowhunters, or scuppies. And not only do they know what you’re talking about, but they usually have something to say about it too, and you realize you’re surrounded by human beings who are all passionate about the exact same thing as you. It’s liberating. And heartwarming.

Anyways, I should get back to packing. Clearly I am procrastinating. Before I go, though, this is my new favourite song. (I just bought Barton Hollow by The Civil Wars, for the bus ride.) Take a listen:

Monday, January 23, 2012

oh my

Miyazaki... Jonsi... The Borrowers... Three of my absolute favourite things all bundled into one! I can't catch my breath.

Friday, January 20, 2012

fairy tales and truth telling

Look! A hoard of treasure:

So I just got home from the library with six books, currently sitting on my living room floor, all talking about the use and value and meaning of fairy tales.

Speaking of, here’s a roundtable discussion about fairy tales between storytellers, authors, actors, linguists, professors, and psychiatrists. It’s a bit long, but worth it, I think, if you’re someone who takes fairy tales and storytelling seriously. There’s a point where Jack Zipes talks about truth and fairy tales, which I loved, because it’s something I think about a lot. That is, about the truth in stories, or telling the truth through non-truths, and the question of what is truth anyway? 

All my life I've looked to books to tell me the truth. In fact, I'm pretty convinced that books and stories tell the truth far more often than the people around us do. Not that this is good or bad, only that it... is.

Anyways, here's a little bit of how Charles Dickens feels about Little Red Riding Hood:

She was my first love. I felt that if I could have married Little Red Riding Hood, I would have known perfect bliss. 

I have a serious crush on Mr. Dickens. 

Back to reading...

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

this came home with me today

I'm going to go skip around my living room now.
 And here's the booklist interview with John Green where he talks about writing the book.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Pan's Labyrinth and the value of fairy tales

I have a difficult time watching stories that are violent and sad. In fact, I tend to avoid them at all costs. But sad, violent stories with magical creatures and young heroines?

The first time I watched Pan's Labyrinth, I was intrigued. The second time I watched it, I was captivated. These days, I am in love.

Why? Well, there are many reasons. But I'm just going to focus on the most important one: 

In Pan's Labyrinth, the fantasy is just as real as the reality. Equal weight is given to both storylines, and you’re never quite sure if Ofelia is making things up in order to deal with her really shitty circumstances, or if she actually just sees things that other people don’t see.

I think this is the reason why I can watch the horrific and devastating scenes. At the very end of the movie, while [spoiler alert] little Ofelia lies there dying, it’s the end of her life in the real world, but just the beginning of it in the fantasy. She has had three tests to prove herself, has had to face every one absolutely alone, and has passed every test. In doing so, she steps into her inheritance. Or, if you see it as a coming of age tale, into the next part of her life.

The story isn’t complete without the fantasy. If the labyrinth and the faun, the monsters and the fairies weren’t there, the story wouldn’t be as beautiful, as hopeful, as dark, or as complex. Del Toro weaves two narratives into each other - one real, one fantastic, both beautiful and brutal. But for someone like me, the fantasy allows me to face the awful reality head on – the Captain, the torture, the war, death. All of it.

G.K. Chesterton said once, “Fairy Tales are more than true; not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”

I’ve always been kind of ashamed of taking things like fairy tales and magic seriously. Fairy tales, we’re told, are silly. They are things that you should grow out of, things you should leave behind in childhood.

But Del Toro takes fairy tales very seriously. In Pan’s Labyrinth, he uses them to weave an incredibly powerful story. And in doing so, he ask the questions: Are those who believe in magic just making things up, in order to deal with the horror of reality? Or are they seeing things that other people aren’t? Seeing the world in a different way?