Friday, September 26, 2014

Hanging With the Cool Kids

One aspect of living in a small Appalachian town that I don't like is that there aren't very many writers here. Northampton, Massachusetts, the small town where I went to college, was just chock-a-block with writers. Jane Yolen. Patricia MacLachlan. Barry Moser, the acclaimed illustrator who redid the Wizard of Oz and made the Wicked Witch look just like Nancy Reagan. Julius Lester. You'd run into these people at the local bookstore all the time

We do have Barbara Kingsolver up the road in Glade Springs, and Charles Vess, who illustrated several Neil Gaiman books, in Abingdon. Barbara Kingsolver is a big deal but she doesn't do children's books; otherwise, I'd ask her over for coffee.

Anyway, I miss being among my fellow writers sometimes, so I do enjoy the sort of conference I'm heading to today. Once, way back, I was in Indianapolis with Gail Carson Levine, who wrote Ella Enchanted, and she was a ton of fun. Then at ALA years ago, all the publishing houses had cocktail parties where their authors were expected to show up, drink wine, and be terribly amusing. I had a great time there. Linda Sue Park had just won the Newbery, and her daughter, who was 13, spent a long time telling me all the revisions to A Single Shard that she, the daughter, was personally responsible for. When my agent introduced me to the new president of Random House (or possibly HarperCollins?) whose name was Trip Something, I said, "Wow, Trip, there's an Ivy-League nickname. Where'd you go to school?" My agent nearly killed me, but Trip laughed and said, pointedly, "Brown. AND YOU?" And when I confessed to Smith he told me all about his grandmother who had gone to Smith, and how he hoped his daughter would go there, and we parted good friends although I haven't seen him since and can't remember his last name.

I went to the Dial party at my editor Lauri's request, even though I didn't yet have a book out from Dial. (Favorite Things was underway.) Lauri tempted me, not that I really needed tempting, by promising to introduce me to Katherine Paterson, and she did, and then Dial had a private dinner for all the authors. Gary Blackwood, who like me was at the very beginning of his career then, sat across from me at this big round table otherwise filled with Katherine Paterson, Jane Yolen, Laurence Yep--Gary and I kept wiggling our eyebrows at each other and giggling. I wonder if he remembers that.

Anyway, tonight I'll be having dinner with 46 YA authors, including Carl Hiassen, Holly Black, Joan Bauer, Meg Wolitzer--those are the headliners. I'm not a headliner. I am, my daugher said, in the same room with all the cool kids, but probably standing near the edge. That's fine with me. From what I know there will be several of us over at the edge, and authors always have good stories. It should be fun.

If you're in Chicago--ha! that's likely--actually Naperville, Illinois, which is practically Chicago--you can still get tickets to Sunday's event, Anderson's Fan Frenzy day. See their website for details. (Saturday is sold out.)