January 28-31, 2010:

Thursday was merely a run-up to the SCBWI New York conference where I was speaking. I did a bit of cleaning up of desktop stuff, a bit more writing on Curses, Foiled Again, met with the money man and learned some new stuff about trying to save money, packed, went to sleep early.

Friday morning at 7:30 a.m. Heidi picked me up, we drove Maddison and her friend Hannah to school, and then off onto the highway the three-hour-plus drive to New York. A bit of traffic, an annoying truck or two, egotistical cab drivers aside, we got to the hotel in good time. Our room at the Grand Hyatt was ready, and after unpacking and settling in, we were off to have a wonderful lunch with our even more wonderful agent.

It was a lesson in New York life. Though bitterly cold outside and heading towards colder, we didn’t need to go out. Just through the Grand Hyatt into Grand Central, through the Vanderbilt passageway to Cafe Centro. We took photographs of me in Grand Central to go along with Foiled which has several key scenes set there.

After that, back in the hotel, we met friends, colleagues, new writers, ex-students of mine, neighbors etc. And boy! did we have a good time. There was a lovely cocktail party for the faculty and professional writers at which I got to talk to several of my editors (Heidi Kilgras at Random House, Julie Santopolo at Philomel, Maria Modugno at Harper, among others.) and five of the wonderful Curtis Brown gang. The place was packed and we had a ball. I was so tired, I fell into bed. Heidi went out to a late dinner with a friend. Well, she is a lot younger than I am!

Saturday the conference proper started. (There had been a very full day on Friday, a writers’ and illustrators intensive workshop which I was not involved with.) Opening speaker, Libba Bray, blew us all away with her combination of outrageous humor and deep emotion.

Breakout sessions were many and repeated twice more. Heidi and I went to hear Laurent Linn who brought us into the world of artists and art directors with wit, knowledge and charm. Along with other S&S books, he referenced my Scarecrow’s Dance which immediately afterward sold out! Right after that we went to hear our dear friend, agent Edward Nercarsulmer who was low key, absolutely dead-on in his remarks, and charming.

Then at lunch came Jacqueline Woodson who–as always–spoke eloquently, read her books with throbbing passion, and made us all want to be writers just like her. Heidi and I elected not to sit with faculty but at a table of conference attendees, which we all enjoyed.

Afterwards, I took Lin Oliver, the conference director who was just recovering from open heart surgery, up to her room to talk and to let her (force her!) rest for an hour. Lin and I have known one another for 40 years. A true sister of mine without all the messiness of blood ties!

Peter Sis was the final speaker, charmingly taking us through his life as an unintended emigre, a dotty alien in America, and at last an award-winning (he seems to think by mistake!) illustrator.

Heidi and I went for an early dinner (again at Cafe Centro) with my publicist Susan Raab who is also a friend. Girls’ night out. A lovely low-key time.

Sunday, there were back-to-back talks from 9 am on: Sheldon Fogelman, agent first; Susan Raab; Jim Benton, illustrator next; a panel of agents (George Nicholson, Rosemary Stimola, a young woman from a large agency whose name has floated out of my brain. I especially liked what Rosemary had to say.) And then I gave the Rouser, as Lin calls it, telling people at the end of my speech to get out of there, go home, and write or illustrate.

After that the other authors and illustrators who had presented signed books until nearly 4.

We drove home, arriving at 7:30 and I was asleep by 9. Ah, the high life!

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