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SCBWI conference

Heat waves, blackouts, and the beauty of a backlist as I hit the road to California

By Appearances, Middle Grade, Young Adult
I’m having déjà vu as I head to Los Angeles this week. The trip includes a library visit, the SCBWI conference, and a bookstore event to discuss one of my backlist titles that's eerily relevant this summer. Hugo on a reluctant summer walk July 2019 has been a roaster for most of us, no matter where we live. Almost 200 million people have been affected by record high temperatures in July and several deaths were blamed on the heat. Here in Richmond, Hugo – who is stuck in his black fur coat – has flat out refused to go farther than a block for his walk. This, from a dog who lives for them. But as I read about the 50,000 people who lost power in New York City last month, my mind wandered to how eerily similar it was to the summer of 1977, when 9 million people lost power in New York City for 25 hours. It happened during one of the worst heat waves on record, just like now, when even the night temperatures wouldn’t drop below the nineties. What followed in that overheated desperation was looting and arsons, a communal scream about all the ways the city was failing its residents back then. What I remember most of that year is that the heat was a mere backdrop for Son of Sam, a serial murderer who was still on the loose in the boroughs killing young women and their dates. The task force assigned to his capture was located in...
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So You Know I’m Not Lying: SCBWI in pictures!

By Appearances

Why do I write for young people?  Well, sure, I love kids, but I also adore the people who write FOR them. I’m spending five glorious days at the Society for Children’s Writers and Illustrators right now. If you write for young people, make yourself a promise. Put an SCBWI National Conference on your calendar for next summer.  Save up. The inspiration, good will, and straight out fun are worth the headache of travel and budget busting. You’ll  play, study, and (most important) find the friends and colleagues who will keep you dreaming and working when the creative times are lean. I’m putting some pictures below, including some shots of the pool party in honor of Tomie DePaola’s 80th birthday.    

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Ashley Bryan at Virginia Festival of the Book

By The Writing Life

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b359TH4-61g] This past Saturday, I spent the day manning a booth for James River Writers at the fabulous Virginia Festival of the Book. As I was packing up at the end of the day, I looked up and got star-struck. Ashley Bryan was standing there. Eighty-eight years old, an artist, musician, poet,  intellectual — a lover of life.  Mr. Bryan is a white-haired Titan in children’s literature, the author of more than 30 books, and the recipient of countless awards, including the Coretta Scott King. I lumbered over with my box of flyers and a wooden easel on my shoulder – no real plan in mind. “It’s you,” I said stupidly, his name instantly flying from my brain. “Yes, I think so,” he replied. My mind was back to last summer when he came to the  SCBWI conference in LA.  He had all of us on our feet — an entire ballroom filled with famous and not-so-famous children’s book authors — reciting Langston Hughes with a passion you’d expect to find at a revival. Hands raised, thundering voices, we sang out as he cued us. The night is beautiful! So the faces of my people! “I thought about our poem all the way home from California,” I explained. “I think about it still. Thank you so much.” He was characteristically gracious, but even as he headed off a few minutes later, I wanted to kick myself for not having really gotten at what I meant: That those few minutes under his…

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