Notes from Candice Ransom

Tell Me About Your Book . . .

boy 2

This past weekend, I went to our regional SCBWI conference, a happy gathering of children’s book writers and illustrators.  I believe there were 265 in attendance, not counting the faculty.  The ballroom at the Holiday Inn Dulles was comfortably packed and energy crackled. I always love waiting for this conference to begin, the year-long work of many people about to unfurl.

There were workshops and break-out sessions and panels and presentations.  Discussions spilled into the hallways and lobby at lunch time and during breaks.  The event was two days (counting the workshops), but it wasn’t enough time.  It never is.

I wish there had been less time devoted to talk of platforms (tweeting, blogging, and other social media), getting an agent, the measure of one editor against another.  I was reminded of a recent post by photographer Guy Tal:

Call me prejudiced but when an artist goes to great lengths about the tedious necessities of business, marketing, and equipment, I find myself less interested in the art . . .

boy 1

Conferences bring writers and illustrators together so they can learn about those very things—the creating of platforms, the getting of agents, the measure of editors. It’s called networking. But I longed to hear more than shop talk.

Tell me, please, about the way your art makes your life elevated and worthwhile . . .

Behind the lips of everyone there were stories eager to be shared, ideas ready to be explored.

Tell me about your moments of doubt . . .

boy 3

Knees jiggled nervously before a scheduled manuscript consultation with an editor, agent, or writer.  Prayers fluttered up to the ballroom ceiling.

Tell me about finding inspiration . . .

I slipped into an art director’s presentation for illustrators and took pages and pages of notes, more than the illustrators around me.

Tell me about overcoming anxiety and about finding solace in your work . . .

boy 4

I took my latest published book and the f&g of a forthcoming book. I kept them in my bag for two days, pulling them out only once to show someone.  The finished products are wonderful and out in the world.  But I wanted to be at work on a new one.

Tell me about being different . . .

How many times did I explain I didn’t have a smartphone and if they want to reach me, they’d have to call me, and if they leave a message, I might not be able to retrieve it.

Tell me about finding courage . . .

At least one hundred of the 265 attendees were first-timers.  I hope they all come back next year.

Tell me that there is still place for beauty and inspiration and individuality in this mechanized world.”

boy 5

Books are still important to kids.  Real books, with printed words on paper and illustrations they can trace with their fingers.  I don’t think I’ve ever heard a kid say he wanted to create a story with a layer of glass over the words and pictures.  I think kids want writers to tell the truth, and they want illustrators to get their hands dirty.

We will keep trying.

11 thoughts on “Tell Me About Your Book . . .”

  1. I have only one comment – AMEN! Reading your words makes me feel deeply, makes me want to fall into the easy chair with my latest book, makes me want to read to kids, makes me feel blessed to know the joy of stories and pictures and art and all that is good in this world.

    • Well, now you have time to read anything you want! And one day–maybe sooner than we both think–your son will be at one of those conferences, connecting with like-minded people who love to make books.

    • Don’t you love that kid? I do! I was at the fair this summer, waiting to get on the Ferris wheel. He was sitting in the grass just beyond with all his fair winnings. I think he was waiting for somebody. He would not sit still, like most boys. He fidgeted and played with his toys, and then finally just reared back with his legs in the air like a pony in new grass.

  2. I’m wholly in your corner, Candice, saying amen to all that Guy Tal blogged about, and that you’ve woven into your entry here so well.

    I feel so uneasy when talk turns to “reach,” platform, and the like. I know they’re important, but shouldn’t they be the petticoats of the business–foundational garments and not everyday attire?

    Come sit next to me, won’t you, at my backyard bistro table or on your inviting front porch? Somewhere cozy, where we can lounge in our comfiest clothes, absent the glare of social media. I’ll pour the tea, if you’ll share with me your story… xoxo

    • I’m thinking more of a parasol, something you carry if you want to . . . or not. The agents were adamant about having a big media presence, especially Twitter. I find Twitter tedious and fiddly and not just because I’m old. In fact, the best part of being older is understanding what is useful and what is a waste of time.

      It’s raining here today, so the porch isn’t very cozy. I’ll take your bistro table any time. Tea, hummingbirds, and you!

  3. I read your recent poem in _Spider_ and tracked you down through the SCBWI website to tell you how much I love it! Now that I’ve read this post I love you even more. I went to my first SCBWI conference this Fall (MidSouth) and it was scary (too many people for an introvert) and sad (so much talk about publishing and marketing and very little about the joy of writing). Thank you for a post that lifted my spirit this morning. We write because we love words and stories, and we publish because we want to share that love, right?

    • SCBWI has always been about connection and networking, so there’s a strong element of that at most conferences. But I’m with you–it’s intimidating for a first-timer who is still thinking about her new project and not necessarily about platforms and submission preferences.

      But the next conference you go to, you *won’t* be a first-timer. It gets easier, especially when you make friends! Good luck and thanks for stopping by. You’re always welcome!


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