Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Overcoming Challenges

This past weekend I attended “Overcoming Challenges,” an event sponsored by SCBWI New England at the Danforth Museum of Art The speakers included two Newbery medalists, Lois Lowry Kathryn Lasky, plus acclaimed author Jacqueline Davis and award-winning illustrator Bill Thompson Unlike most conferences, where each speaker has an hour on stage, this event had a panel format, and our faculty spent four hours discussing their life and work. Moderator, Melissa Stewart asked probing questions. What was the biggest challenge you faced in your career? In your writing? How do you know when a book is done? What is your definition of success? At first, they were rather stiff and formal, reading prepared speeches. But as the day unfolded, an intimacy grew between speakers and audience. I stopped taking notes and leaned forward to listen as the speakers shared the stories behind their stories. Here is just a sampling: Kathryn Lasky is trying to force her way past a barrier of silence to tell the story of gypsy children from concentration camps who were filmed during WWII. Early in his career, Bill Thompson took on an illustration assignment for a book he wasn’t particularly excited about, until he envisioned his subject from a whole new angle, looking up from a child’s perspective. Lois Lowry decided to write a book about the boy in one of her aunt’s photographs and then realized her character couldn’t speak. The book became The Silent Boy. Jackie Davis took ten years to discover what she was writing about in her book, Lost. After it was published, she was faced with her own grief. She reread the book to glean the wisdom of her former self. Thanks to Bill, Lois, Jackie and Kathryn for their generosity in sharing these stories, and to Melissa for gathering together such a stellar faculty. Please stop by next Tuesday, October 11, when I’ll be interviewing award-winning author Kim Newton Fusco about her book, The Wonder of Charlie Anne.

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