July 30, 2008

Reading, Writing and Earthquakes -- Shaking it Up!


There is no definite proof, but it's possible that the momentous occasion of my writing in my blog might have been so disruptive to the cosmic forces that it caused an earthquake. Yesterday's 5.4 quake was centered in Chino, CA, about 130 miles away from Santa Barbara, but I definitely felt the long rolling quake.

Whenever an earthquake strikes my initial reaction is that I must be dizzy. Gradually I notice that it's the room that's moving, not me. Yesterday the wooden blinds began to rattle, and the cards in the postcard holder on my desk started to wave back and forth like a strong wind was blowing into the room. I watched in strange fascination as the blue and white ceramic pieces on the shelf began to levitate. I put my hands up to save them, but then it dawned on me that the quake was lasting for a long time. At that point I decided it might be better to save myself so I got up to stand in the doorway. And then it was over. No aftershocks in Santa Barbara.

I just got home from attending the Book Passage Children's Writers and Illustrators Conference at the amazing Book Passage Bookstore in Corte Madera, CA. It was an inspirational four days spent with lots of aspiring and published authors and an incredible faculty. The format for this conference focused on specific genres of writing. Each morning a three-hour session was devoted to picture book, middle grade, or YA writing with a different instructor each time. I took middle grade writing classes from Marissa Moss of Amelia's Notebook fame, and Gennifer Choldenko, the Newbery Honor author of Al Capone Does My Shirts. Ellen Klages, author of one of my favorite new books, The Green Glass Sea, taught a great YA class. In addition, there were large group sessions about the business of publishing with agents, editors, booksellers and web designers. The long weekend was topped off by a conversation with Isabel Allende. She was opinionated, funny and brillant. I had anticipated that hearing her speak would be the highlight of the weekend. But I was wrong. The entire experience was on a par with Allende's appearance.

After an experience like that I need some time to process everything I've learned--need to discover my "take-aways." Most of what I heard, I've heard before but maybe I was just a better listener this time. Every author goes through a different writing process and has traveled a different path to publication. It's reassuring to learn that I've shared some of the same experiences and equally exciting to learn some new techniques. I especially appreciated my manuscript consultation with Gennifer Choldenko. I was nervous before I met with her, but she was encouraging, thoughtful and honest in her evaluation. I came home with specific suggestions and new writing enthusiasm. What more could I ask for?

1 comment:

laurasmagicday said...

Maggie,

Sounds like a great conference experience. Happy writing! You are so right about having to process it all. But isn't it nice to have a place to edit to? Glad you had such an amazing consultation with an amazing author.