Sunday, March 1, 2015

Charlotte S. Huck Children's Literature Festival

Out of all the conferences I attend each year, the Charlotte S. Huck Children's Literature Festival is quite possibly the best one, the one I look forward to all year long. For me, it's the best of both worlds. I get to be writer and teacher at the same time, which is rare. To top it all off, I was a presenter for one of the breakout sessions!

Over the past two days, I've learned a ton, met new friends (including a new critique partner for my kid's lit stories), and reaffirmed that yes, I still get horribly nervous presenting in front of adults and am rather bad at it. Fortunately, I had a roomful of nice teachers who took pity on me.

Here's a short recap of the some of the authors I met, and the lessons I learned from them.


Some people are innately talented, both with words and with art. Peter is one of those people. Even if you don't necessarily know his name, if you have kids or work in a school, you surely know his books. 

During his presentation, he shared this quote with us. 
"Good artists borrow, great artists steal." (either attributed to Picasso or T.S. Eliot)

This quote perfectly sums up my philosophy to teaching kids how to write. So, thank you Peter, I'm stealing this quote.

The book, The Illusion of Life, became one such source where Peter could study and steal different art techniques.

Creepy Carrots! is probably my favorite Peter Brown book, simply because the illustrations are so cool. Finding out the artwork was modeled off of the Twilight Zone, only makes me love the book even more.


The amount of research this author does is absolutely staggering! We're talking tracking down police reports, old newspapers, death certificates, photographs, coroner reports, and traveling around the world for the sake of authenticity. As far as my students are concerned, any and all information you might ever need, is of course, located on the internet. 

But as Marc proves, it isn't. For his book entitled, Bill the Boy Wonder, Marc dug deep into the life of Bill Finger, the  relatively unknown co-creator of Batman. He contacted family members and friends, the Office of Vital Records, the Landmarks Commission, the Historical Society, and so much more. Creating his non-fiction picture books clearly isn't an easy, or quick process. 

I also attended Marc's breakout session where he spoke about his upcoming titles, all of which sound fabulous. Be on the lookout for his upcoming book, titled Thirty Minutes Over Oregon, about the only time the mainland U.S. was bombed during WWII. Who knew Oregon had been bombed, not once, but twice? What really struck me during his session, beside the insane amount of research he does, is how long it can take even the most established authors, to sell a project. But, if you have faith and patience, eventually you can succeed. 


Avi, author of some 75 books, is truly an inspirational author. He shared with us his constant academic struggles throughout his school years. Unbeknownst to him (until later in life), Avi suffers from dysgraphia, a deficiency in the ability to write. And yet, he has become wildly successful in his field! As a result of his ongoing struggles, he spends much of his time revising and rewriting his work. 

Here are a few fabulous kernels of truth by Avi . . . 

"Writers don't write writing - they write reading."
"Make people care about the characters."
"Rewriting is writing." 

But the best quote of the day? When asked about his writing process, Avi responded with this.

"The process is you sit down . . . put your hands on the keyboard . . . and type some words."

As a quick side note, when Avi signed my new copy of The Battle Ground, he informed me that the book was based on a boy's perspective of the Revolutionary War and suggested I pick up Sophia's War which gave the girl's perspective of the war. How cool is that?! I just got advice from a super famous author. I hear a compare and contrast unit coming on! 


Lois Ehlert is another one of those wildly successful author/illustrators. Who hasn't heard of the book, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom?! Though she didn't write the text of that book, she gave life to the words through her illustrations. It was pretty funny to hear her say that initially, she didn't like the text for Chicka Chicka Boom Boom. But thankfully, it grew on her and she accepted the project.

She uses collage art, done entirely by hand, and has been known to photocopy leaves in color at her local Kinkos. Her process is similar to Peter Brown's in that they both use layers to create the finished artwork, however while Peter does everything digitally, Lois uses the materials around her, gluing each piece into place.

Her editor at Simon & Schuster, Allyn Johnston was also present at the conference, and brought Lois's work to show us. It's pretty crazy to see examples in real life.

I loved hearing about how Jennifer L. Holm blends the stories from her family's history with memories from her childhood, using them as inspiration for writing her historical fiction. As a fun tidbit of trivia, her brother Matt is the illustrator of her book Squish, and the cute amoeba was created in his image. I got so wrapped up in learning about her family history, that I forgot to take a photo of her. But I did remember to get her autograph on my copy of Turtle in Paradise

The two days of the conference sped by and sadly, I have to wait an entire year for my next chance to hobnob with authors of this ilk. I supposed that while I wait, I should probably get back to writing. 

But for now, I'm off to another soccer game with my son. I'll be back Tuesday with the Romance Writers Blog Hop and Thursday, romance author Christina Kirby will be hanging out with me. It's shaping up to be a fun filled week! See you soon! 

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