Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Jacqui's Room Goes to SCBWI-LA: Reflections

In which I describe why an SCBWI conference is like sleepaway camp.

You arrive and you are full of anticipation and nervousness and you feel like you don’t know anybody. And maybe you meet someone and he/she seems cool, but you’re not sure, so you just keep to your schedule, going to archery and swimming, but it doesn’t feel like you thought it was going to, and the pottery wheel isn’t as fun as you thought it would be, and you sometimes aren’t sure you’re going to be able to find someone to talk to. And there seem to be popular kids but you’re not one of them, and when you are brave enough to go up and introduce yourself, they’re nice enough but it’s clear they’re not Your People, and after a bit you think maybe I should just go home.

But you keep going to tennis or whatever the schedule says with the one or two people you met and one of them knows someone and she comes along, and that happens again and again until you realize you’re having fun. And you look around and there are all these people you know. You can’t quite remember how you met everyone but you can’t think about it too long because the conversation is flying and dipping and, wow, these people understand you, they love what you love, and you don’t have to explain yourself to them and how can I have only known you however long it’s been because it’s like we’re the same person in so many ways?

And so now you go to the cook-outs and the mess hall and you’re there with them and you’re all “omigod!” and “you did?!” and “me too!” And, oh! The campfire stories are so good and you’re sharing things you never even tell your winter best friends and maybe you fall down and maybe you cry but nobody laughs when they pick you up and yeah, even if there are popular kids and you’re not one of them, you don’t care because you’re laughing so hard you might pee at things that will never be funny to anyone else. And you go to bed way too late at night full of snuck-in cupcakes and licorice and giggles and connectedness.

And then one day, the summer you were thinking might last forever ends and the voices of your family and your winter friends start creeping back into your heart, and you are excited to get back, but you look around and are also sad to be leaving this place, these friends that could never happen at home, and this smarter, funnier, cooler Summer You. And you want to say thank you thank you and I love you, but you’re worried maybe you’re the only one who thinks that, so you sign 2good2B4gotten in each other's autograph books and exchange addresses and make plans to meet at some unspecified time. And you wait as long as possible to get back on the plane, or the bus, and you’re already planning to come back and wondering how in your real life you can hold on to the laughter and the connectedness and that Summer You.

And when you get home all smiles and exhaustion, your winter family asks, “How was it?” and all you can do is shrug and say, “Fine,” because you don’t really want to share the memories, you want to carry them around in your pocket like a secret rock that you can pull out when the weather is cold and you don't feel like writing and you just need the giggle that comes from a brief reminder of that thing that nobody else will ever think is funny.

But an SCBWI conference is even better that sleepaway camp, because at the end of summer camp you have sunburn and mosquito bites and treasure boxes made of popsicle sticks and at the end of writing camp, you have books, new books to read and to anticipate, and new ideas inside your head begging to come out and be written.

And even if my YA novel is not UNlike a treasure box made of popsicle sticks at this point, it is DONE, people, ALL DONE, for the third time and now, to celebrate, I am going to sleep.


cindy said...

HI JACQUI! wow, my blog is THE LAME compared to your post. i mean, did you do that on a cupcake high or what? haha! you're awesome! and i think *i* somehow managed to get into the cool girl's club cause of you. =D so yeah, my head is still spinning but i had SO MUCH FUN. and i came home and my hub had strung a clothes line all the way across the back of the garden with dirty clothes hanging off of it. NICE.

good luck on your move and i'll be sending books for you to sign soon. =D KIT. friends4ever.


Amber Lough said...

It's way better than summer camp because we've got blogs! ;-)

Sharon Blankenship said...

Don't worry. You ARE the popular kid that people want to be with. Glad to share some thoughts with you.

Jacqui said...

Amber: good point, going to see yours now.

Cindy and Sharon, thanks, but I think I disqualify myself from the cool kids' club when I carry around The House of the Seven Gables and get giggly over picture books!

Elise Murphy said...

I think I wrote you a really gushy oh-my-god-I-love-you-too blog post but the computer ate it. If you find it floating out there . . . feel free to publish it just to prove your point that you met the not-cool-kids.

And, ahem, send the manuscript! Now. Today. Express email.

I will blog tomorrow when the children have released me from their vice hold.

And I think it is quite obvious now, since we both described SCBWI as being very sleep away camp like that we were in fact, separated at birth.

Tabitha said...

Sounds like you had lots of fun, and I'm very glad to hear it! :) Love your anaolgy to summer camp - that's pretty much exactly how I felt when I went to the NY conference last year. :)

And congrats on finishing your YA novel! Again! :) I just finished mine (for the fourth time) yesterday. Chocolate all around!! :)

Jacqui said...

Elise, I have to rework the ending, and will send soon. BUT quid pro quo, Clarisse...

And congrats to you too, Tabitha. Yes. Cyber cupcakes to all...

cindy said...

did somebody say cupcakes? =(

J. Thorp said...

Loved this post, Coach. Except the licorice.

Question, though: Do boys write picture books? I mean, anymore? Not that I want to. I mean, well, maybe. But where is the boys cabin? It's all mushy girls here!

>: )

Jacqui said...

Thorp, I started to write "Boys are always invited into Jacqui's Room."

But something about that sounded not quite right...

And you don't have time for picture books; you have a fantasy novel to write for me!

Jill Corcoran said...

I loved camp, but being a grownup at the conference was even better. No counselors to tell you what you can and can't do.

Jacqui said...

Jill, this is true. I think my camp counselors definitely would have frowned upon our late night licorice and giggles.

Rita said...

Fantastic!! And so much better than the analogy I've been turning around in my head the past couple years, about how the conference is like a high school.

How could giggling over picture books not qualify you as a cool kid, here?


Jacqui said...

Thanks, Rita!