In February 2013, I attended the annual Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators’ Conference in NYC. This was my second time participating, and I have also attended their last two annual summer conferences in Los Angeles.
One of the striking things about these conferences is the caliber of the speakers. They have giants in the industry, on both the business (publishers and agents) and artistic (writers and illustrators) sides.
The conference in February was no exception: Mallory Kass, Heather Alexander, Tara Weikum, Kate Sullivan, Tina Wexler, Edward Necarsulmer, Ginger Clark, Jenny Bent, Michelle Nagler, Lin Oliver, Stephen Mooser, Meg Rosoff, Mary Brown, Robert Brown, Jon Fine, Peter Glassman, Alexander Penfold, Nancy Siscoe, Shaun Tan, Tomie dePaoloa, Jane Yolen, Margaret Peterson Haddix, Julie Andrews, Emma Walton Hamilton, and Mo Williams. And these are just the people I heard speak!
I was spoon-fed a wealth of useful information, and inspired to raise the level of my craft, and, all-in-all, reminded why I decided to write to children’s books to begin with. All these speakers contributed to my bountiful takeaway.
But, Shaun Tan’s talk really stuck with me, which is a little surprising, considering he is more of an illustrator than an author (although he may disagree with that categorization, as he really is clearly both). But, he is a more visual storyteller than I am, to be sure.
However, his discussion of “Internal Migrations” and “The Journey Within” resonated incredibly strongly with me. And it helped me understand how writing fits into my exploration of place.
It is obvious how reading and traveling do. But, the third leg of my stool, the third thing I am passionate about, is writing (picture books, novels, blog entries) based on my travels and readings. And, until I heard Shaun speak, I didn’t fully appreciate how closely linked that was to the other two.
Now I get it: writing is the exploration of place INSIDE my head. It is traveling in my thoughts, without leaving my desk. It is an internal migration, where take all the material I have gathered, through my travels and readings, and create characters and stories that I can share with others, and enable them to explore those same places.
Writing is a way I explore place, just like reading and traveling are.
So, thank you, Shaun (and SCBWI). I finally understood what I have been up to!