I love going to parent teacher conference for my daughter, Rae. It’s just an awe inspiring moment to sit at the desk and have the teacher tell you how brilliant your child is. It’s amazing to look over the paper they slide under you nose and see nothing but A’s. Not even one A- in all her years of junior high. I am busting my buttons with pride over that.
Going for the boys, Murky and Bing, is not always so neat.
For Murky, they show me his test scores (which are fabulous) and tell me how smart he is. And then they tell me he doesn’t follow directions, he doesn’t pay attention . . . his mind wanders a lot and he spends more time doodling and making up stories than he does working on assignments. They tell me this as though I wasn’t already aware. Hello! He’s my kid. I live with him. I am WELL aware of the fact that he has a tendency to tune people out and daydream. They say this as though I am not the woman who spends a whole day coaxing him to clean his room, as though I never have to hide all the coloring books, sketch pads, and how to draw books just so he can focus on putting his star wars toys away.
Bing is another story altogether. They show me his test scores, tell me he’s brilliant, and then tell me that he has trouble with teasing and talking too much and blah blah blah. They tell me all this as though I am not aware that this child is a tremendous tease. I am WELL aware of this fact. He’s my kid. I live with him. I break up the fights that erupt due to his teasing. I am the one who has to stand in between him and his sister as they are trying to claw each other’s eyes out.
Yesterday was different. Both boys received lots of praise from the teachers. Bing’s teacher didn’t mention once that he was a tease. Murky’s teacher didn’t say that Murky has no ability to focus. The thing I dread all year wasn’t so bad this time around. AND all three kids were given high praise for their creative talents, their abilities to tell stories, their abilities to be unique in a fun and cool way. All of their teachers told me my kids have what it takes to be authors someday.
Why am I telling you all of this? Because I just realized I DO have dominant genes!!! Sometimes I worry that those kids inherited every Wright trait in the world without leaving any room for the Peterson.
Parent teacher conference didn’t suck rocks this time around. Did you hear that huge sigh of relief?
I have to just say I love Manhattan. I know it’s a little dirty. I know it’s crowded. I know it’s loud. And I love it! Some people say they are small town girls or big city girls; well, I am an *any* city girl. I am thrilled to go anywhere and experience it for what it is. This is why I can find contentment living at the brink of nowhere, and still love going to a place where one subway can hold more people than live in my town.
Central Park is simply beautiful and I spent five romantic hours walking the park with my cute husband. We lost ourselves in the park and still didn’t see everything. Ah well . . . just an excuse to return sometime. We went to see the play, Wicked, and enjoyed it very much. I still feel a little guilty since that whole day centered around what Julie wanted to do. I dragged my parents and husband all over the place and it was all about me. Selfish, aren’t I? Yeah, but we had fun anyway, so it was okay.
And I know . . . no one really cares about my travelogue; you all want to know how the writer’s conference thing went. So here goes. Rutger’s one on one conference was interesting. It’s a different format than I have ever seen in a conference in that there really weren’t workshops or “writing classes.” It started with breakfast. All the authors and writers met in one room and all the editors and agents met in another (likely to gear up for dealing with desperate writers).
Next we had an author speak to us.
Then we went into our one on one assignments. Every author was paired up with either an agent or an editor. My editor was from Harper Collins. I was excited to be paired up with her and liked her very much, but am I going to be submitting to her? No. Here’s why: She went through her previous projects with me while we were taking a moment to get to know each other and I don’t think my writing fits with her clientele. Since I write what I want to write and what pleases me, I can’t change that in order to please one editor (not that she asked me to; she was very polite and lots of fun to chat with).
First lesson learned: I do not necessarily write what will be wanted by everyone. This means when an agent or editor writes back to a query saying, “We don’t think you’re the right fit for our company.” I can now believe them and understand what they mean instead of taking it personally and thrashing and gnashing over it. Sometimes it really is all about the fit.
Next I went to lunch and found myself in between two agents who knew eachother and were good friends. In order for them to converse, they had to talk through me. I carefully joined their conversation (carefully means I wasn’t obnoxious and shoving my manuscripts over their salads, and means I made sure I made comments that were pertinent to THIER conversations). They were polite and included me in the conversation. They were fabulous lunch companions. Their names were Jessica and Nadia . . . charming–both of them. I loved hanging out with them and will be submitting to them this week.
Second lesson learned: Never nibble at your lunch when there are friends to be made.
From there we had five on fives which is five authors sitting at a round table with five agents/editors (a nice mix of both) This was an opportunity to ask questions and find out all the things you ever wanted to know about submitting, writing, whatever. Crickets were heard at my table at the beginning. No one said anything and I have to be honest no matter how arrogant it sounds, I didn’t have any questions. This is not to say I know it all, but that I am not a new writer. I have four published books. I do have some idea about how it all works. The only questions I had were, “Will you be my agent?” and “Will you publish my book?” Naturally these are the two questions I cannot ask without looking as stupid as such questions deserve. Just to initiate actual communication at our table, I went ahead and asked a few of the more competent questions we get over at Writing on the Wall. One of the questions (though not competent, but one I am intersted in) was what is the difference between YA and middle grade. The answer: There is no answer. HA! They all had different ideas and changing opinions of what the differences were. I chuckled at that. Several of the agents and one of the editors at my table will be receiving a submission from me this week. I enjoyed talking to them and listening to them. I was surprised that no one else asked any questions until our time was nearly up.
Lesson number three: If you have an opportunity to speak to people who could impact your career, have something prepared to say before you get there.
The most fascinating aspect of this conference was watching the interaction between the agents and editors. I never really considered how important their networking was until I watched them exchange cards and phone numbers. Their entire existences depend on their ability to work together and it truly interested me to observe that mutualism.
The bottom line was that I am glad I went. It wasn’t as I’d anticipated and I can’t say if I would go again or not, but for this one experience, I believe it was worth it. If nothing else I got a wicked cool vacation and some really needed face time with my husband. Getting away together is tough because I love having the kids with us and feel bad when they don’t get to experience fun things with us. But I firmly believe every couple needs time away to be adults.
Oh and as an interesting aside, a few weeks ago my website was taken over (which is why some comments are missing from the last post . . . they got lost in the transfer from web hosting servers). During this time I had been querying agents I’d researched and felt pretty excited about. One of them went to my site while it was in the control of an errant acupuncturist. Temporary mayhem followed. The agent and I worked everything out and she requested a full manuscript.
As luck would have it, she was also at the one on one conference. I made sure to say hello. It was nice to put a face to the name behind the email exchanges. She is defintiely someone I could work with if given the chance.
No, I didn’t come home with a four book deal (rats) OR an obscenely huge advance (double rats) but I regret nothing.
PS. I hit 21,000 words on my work in progress!
Does it surprise anyone that I am a week late on banned book week? I didn’t think so. I saw on facebook that my editor was celebrating banned book week. I really like that about him. Kirk is one heckuva awesome guy. And I hear through the grape vine that he has no aversion to semicolons! This makes me so happy, I could weep. I can’t wait to sink my teeth into galleys!
But back to banned books. I find myself baffled by what I found on the list. A Wrinkle in Time? To Kill a Mockingbird? Are you serious????? What are people thinking? Harper Lee and Madeleine L’Engle remain two of my greatest heros in literature (Just after Miss Austen thank-you-very-much)
There was a book or two on here that I’d read in my young teen life that I remember walking away from feeling uncomfortable. And on those books took a vow to never read another book by those authors again. I didn’t need my parents to tell me they weren’t the sort of things I wanted floating around in my grey matter. I didn’t need the “administration” to lay down any laws. I was intelligent enough to choose for myself. There are books on here that I can tell by title alone I wouldn’t want to read them. I may sometimes choose to do a personal ban, but still believe everyone else deserves the right to choose for themselves. Free agency . . . that’s what it’s all about.
One hundred titles are listed here (I’ve read 32), the top 100 books challenged in the decade from 1990-2000 as listed by the Office for Intellectual Freedom.
- Scary Stories (Series) by Alvin Schwartz
- Daddy’s Roommateby Michael Willhoite
- I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
- The Chocolate Warby Robert Cormier
- The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
- Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
- Harry Potter (Series) by J.K. Rowling
- Foreverby Judy Blume
- Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
- Alice(Series) by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
- Heather Has Two Mommiesby Leslea Newman
- My Brother Sam is Dead by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier
- The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
- The Giverby Lois Lowry
- It’s Perfectly Normalby Robie Harris
- Goosebumps (Series) by R.L. Stine
- A Day No Pigs Would Die by Robert Newton Peck
- The Color Purple by Alice Walker
- Sex by Madonna
- Earth’s Children(Series) by Jean M. Auel
- The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson
- A Wrinkle in Timeby Madeleine L’Engle
- Go Ask Alice by Anonymous
- Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers
- In the Night Kitchenby Maurice Sendak
- The Stupids (Series) by Harry Allard
- The Witchesby Roald Dahl
- The New Joy of Gay Sexby Charles Silverstein
- Anastasia Krupnik (Series) by Lois Lowry
- The Goats by Brock Cole
- Kaffir Boy by Mark Mathabane
- Blubber by Judy Blume
- Killing Mr. Griffin by Lois Duncan
- Halloween ABC by Eve Merriam
- We All Fall Downby Robert Cormier
- Final Exit by Derek Humphry
- The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
- Julie of the Wolvesby Jean Craighead George
- The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
- What’s Happening to my Body? Book for Girls: A Growing-Up Guide for Parents & Daughtersby Lynda Madaras
- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
- Beloved by Toni Morrison
- The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
- The Pigmanby Paul Zindel
- Bumps in the Night by Harry Allard
- Deenieby Judy Blume
- Flowers for Algernonby Daniel Keyes
- Annie on my Mind by Nancy Garden
- The Boy Who Lost His Faceby Louis Sachar
- Cross Your Fingers, Spit in Your Hat by Alvin Schwartz
- A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein
- Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
- Sleeping Beauty Trilogy by A.N. Roquelaure (Anne Rice)
- Asking About Sex and Growing Up by Joanna Cole
- Cujo by Stephen King
- James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
- The Anarchist Cookbook by William Powell
- Boys and Sex by Wardell Pomeroy
- Ordinary People by Judith Guest
- American Psychoby Bret Easton Ellis
- What’s Happening to my Body? Book for Boys: A Growing-Up Guide for Parents & Sons by Lynda Madaras
- Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaretby Judy Blume
- Crazy Ladyby Jane Conly
- Athletic Shorts by Chris Crutcher
- Fade by Robert Cormier
- Guess What? by Mem Fox
- The House of Spirits by Isabel Allende
- The Face on the Milk Carton by Caroline Cooney
- Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
- Lord of the Flies by William Golding
- Native Son by Richard Wright
- Women on Top: How Real Life Has Changed Women’s Fantasies by Nancy Friday
- Curses, Hexes and Spells by Daniel Cohen
- Jack by A.M. Homes
- Bless Me, Ultimaby Rudolfo A. Anaya
- Where Did I Come From?by Peter Mayle
- Carrie by Stephen King
- Tiger Eyesby Judy Blume
- On My Honor by Marion Dane Bauer
- Arizona Kid by Ron Koertge
- Family Secrets by Norma Klein
- Mommy Laid An Egg by Babette Cole
- The Dead Zone by Stephen King
- The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
- Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
- Always Running by Luis Rodriguez
- Private Parts by Howard Stern
- Where’s Waldo? by Martin Hanford
- Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene
- Little Black Samboby Helen Bannerman
- Pillars of the Earthby Ken Follett
- Running Looseby Chris Crutcher
- Sex Education by Jenny Davis
- The Drowning of Stephen Jones by Bette Greene
- Girls and Sex by Wardell Pomeroy
- How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell
- View from the Cherry Tree by Willo Davis Roberts
- The Headless Cupidby Zilpha Keatley Snyder
- The Terroristby Caroline Cooney
- Jump Ship to Freedom by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier