Now, I've had several people ask me to give my thoughts about the conference. I know there is already so much out there about the phenomenal speakers and content. 40 years! Just look at that dessert above from the Golden Kite luncheon. It was truly an amazing time. The sheer number of icons had me absolutely dazzled and in awe. So I'm going to share a few of these people with you and what they mean to me.
- Judy Blume. How can I even begin to describe what it was like to be so close to THE Judy Blume? The woman was so gracious, so kind, so intelligent, and so very REAL. The first novel I think I ever read was Are You There God? It's me, Margaret. I remember that special feeling of being entirely wrapped up in Margaret's world. I loved it. I loved it so much that I never stopped reading and seeking new worlds with new characters. Hearing about Judy's process and journey was inspiring beyond belief.
- Norton Juster. The first fantasy book I ever read was The Phantom Tollbooth. It was also the first book I ever read more than once. I had the opportunity to tell Norton Juster that, to which he looked me dead in the face and replied, "Fantasy? That's my life." How can I not love him? How can I not love a book that's remained AMAZING after 50 years, and that my own son loves just as much as I did? I think I might have to go read it again...
- Laurie Halse Anderson. Speak. She gave voice to difficult subject matter that may make some uncomfortable, but saves lives on a daily basis. At the conference, she taught me to embrace my creative need for self-expression, and to nurture the "seed" in my soul.
- Donna Jo Napoli. Her speech was possibly my favorite. And that's really saying something as I gave more standing ovations than I have in my life. It was titled: How Writing About Terrible Things Makes Your Reader a Better Person. And she spoke to not just those who need to see others who've gone through similar things, but to the sheltered who benefit from exposure to truths beyond their own.
- Libba Bray. I saved my favorite for last of course. My hero. Her speech was just as amazing as I hoped and so was she. Funny, intelligent, friendly, and talented. Libba - I would have voted you Prom Queen in high school. I'm just sayin'. She let us know that even the super stars go through rough times, and are plagued by self-doubt.
Okay, have I gushed enough? You asked and now you have received, my friends. My own personal highlights of the conference this year. I could have kept going too! I mean Richard Peck, Gary Paulsen...