The Forum on Children’s Literature this year was great, much due to the fact that Shannon Hale was one of the key speakers. She is such a kick. That girl had everybody giggling. She started off with a presentation about other authors that she knows well and presented it with photos that looked as if she had been stalking them. It included a photo of Shannon face down with an officer pinning her to the ground with hand cuffs. It was a very effective visual.
Shannon talked about her penchant for writing about girls in towers i.e. Rapunzel and Book of A Thousand Days. She said that she mainly picks the fairy tales that she will work on by the fact that there is something about them that really irks her and she can’t let it go.
In a later session, Ms. Hale said that she doesn’t believe in writer’s block. “Do plumbers get plumbers block?” she asked. She quoted Anna Quindlen, “People have writer’s block not because they can’t write, but because they despair of writing eloquently.”
Shannon said that she never gives up on a story. Her daily goal is 1000 words a day. There are lots of days that she looks at her laptop and thinks that she would rather be doing other things because writing is hard work, but she does find joy in it. She encouraged us to focus on the process and not the product at the end. Publication is only part of the journey.
We should recognize that we are part of a team. Along with book sellers, librarians and teachers, we are all about getting kids to love reading. Isn’t that why we started writing in the first place. She said, “The writer is the servant, the reader is more important than you are.”
As you can see, it was worth going to the conference just to hear Shannon. The classes were well done, and the agent, Abbey Ranger, although admittedly finding herself in culture shock, gave some great advice to all present. In Picture Book Gemology she said that great picture books are like gems. They should have a) clarity, b) precision, c) singularity, and d) symmetry. Of course there was a lot more detail, but you get the picture.
The gallery of illustration was incredible. Shawna Tenney and Manelle Oliphant (under my favorite illustrators link) both had a display. Mike Bohman and Greg Newbold also had incredible artwork there. The degree of talent at this conference was amazing.
If you couldn’t make it this year, mark it on your calendar for next year. You won’t want to miss it.