Monday, August 31, 2009

SCBWI Summer Conference 2009

It’s impossible to fully explain my recent experience at the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators conference in Los Angeles. To condense those four days into a few words will be a challenge, and writing a blog about it will be even more difficult because I don’t have many pictures to liven it up. (When Dr. Lobo realized I was planning to take his camera on a three-week trip, he bought me a new camera. I’m happy to have my own camera, but I’m technology-challenged, and it’s going to take a while to learn how to use it. Also, while at the conference, I was apparently unable to control my excitement long enough to hold the camera still, so most of my photos were pathetic. If you really want to see photos—and read a more comprehensive review of the event—go to


Can you imagine being in the same room with authors whose writing has touched you deeply? Can you imagine having a conversation with them? Can you imagine those giants of literature encouraging your own feeble attempts to communicate through the written word?


Let me drop a few names. Lisa Yee, Sherman Alexie, Karen Cushman, Linda Sue Park, Eve Bunting, Richard Peck, Jay Asher . . . There were more, but these are a few of my favorites. Wow.


It’s not only the opportunity to be with famous authors that is so awesome. Spending four days with 900 or so children’s writers and illustrators, even those not yet published, is so energizing. Everyone at the conference was a gifted, creative person who loves books and children. How could I not enjoy being with any one of them? So many fascinating conversations!


Agents and editors also shared their insights about writing. I will be thinking about words I heard at the conference for months to come, and from time to time I’ll share some on this blog.


Here are two (yep, only two) pictures I took that did come out all right.

Here are my friends Gwen and Anna during one of our many meals together. Although Anna is generally a lighthearted person, she looks troubled here. Is she worrying about a plot point?

Here are two more friends. I've known Pati for many years, and I met Linda at the conference. Linda and I shared a hotel room with another woman, Karen. Although we came together as strangers, we left as friends.

"The only bad thing about going to the SCBWI conference is that once you attend, you’ll want to go every year,” a friend warned me. How right she was! I’m already looking forward to next August in Los Angeles. Fellow SCBWI folks, start saving your money and join me there.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Death of a Friend

Two days after I returned from my trip, our friend Ed Pugh died. I hadn’t intended to write about Ed, but somehow I am reluctant to describe my travels until I’ve acknowledged this grief, as it is part of my life right now.

Dr. Lobo met Ed nearly forty years ago at Central State University (now known as the University of Central Oklahoma). Both were resuming their undergraduate studies after military service. Both had recently returned from Viet Nam. Both were geography majors.

Ed and Dr. Lobo engaged in friendly, but fierce, competition. Dr. Lobo would mention scoring 98% on a geography exam, but then let me know that Ed made a 99. If he knew Ed was turning in a twenty-page paper, Dr. Lobo’s own paper would run twenty-one pages.

Shortly after Dr. Lobo and Ed became friends, Ed married Shirley. Like me, Shirley taught elementary school kids, so we had much in common. For several years, the four of us spent a lot of time together.

Eventually kids arrived on the scene at our house, and we did not see Ed and Shirley as often. (It may have had something to do with the time our sweet two-year-old girl kicked Ed in the shin.) Dr. Lobo and Ed still saw each other on occasion, but Shirley and I were busy in our separate worlds.

In recent years, we’ve had opportunities to strengthen our longtime friendship. After Ed developed some health problems, he deliberately began to spend more time with people who were important to him. We shared a lot of meals with the Pughs, most often due to their generosity. Three years ago, to celebrate his sixtieth birthday, Ed invited several couples to spend a delightful weekend in Manitou Springs, Colorado, at his expense.

The past few years have been hard for Ed and Shirley. Ed has been in ICU repeatedly. Several times Dr. Lobo and I visited him in the hospital and left believing that he wouldn’t survive the week. During the past few months, whenever we saw him, even out of the hospital, he was in obvious pain.

I could say a lot about Ed’s intelligence, sense of humor, generosity, diligence, and tenacity. I could also vouch for Shirley’s love, loyalty, and acceptance of her situation. But for now I will just say that I will miss Ed, and I pray for continued strength and peace for Shirley. I am grateful to have had their friendship for so many years.

Edward Jackson Pugh, 1946-2009

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Forty Plus Years of Friendship

The five of us have been friends since our freshman year of college at the University of Oklahoma, 1965-1966. Those intense college years were filled with fun, drama, crisis, romance, heartbreak, pizza, late night conversations, studying, arguments, pranks, and laughter.

After graduation, our lives moved in different directions. Eventually we settled in three different states--two in Colorado, one in California, and two in Oklahoma. Years passed without much contact between us, other than Christmas cards and occasional short visits.

In September 2008 we decided it was time for a reunion. (Margie and Jeanette hadn’t seen each other in nearly forty years!) Weagreed upon a date, and we converged on Margie’s beautiful Colorado mountain home. We called it Gabfest 2008 and took turns telling stories of our lives since college. At the end of several days together, we agreed that we would spend a few days together each year for as long as we can.

Gabfest 2009 was another huge success. There’s something special about being with friends who knew you when you were young and foolish. As old broads, we’re more fun and much wiser now. There is no pretense among us. We are who we are, and that’s just fine. As much as I loved my friends during our college days, I love them even more now.

Thanks for an awesome time, Gabfesters. I can hardly wait until Gabfest 2010.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Where in the World is Okie Book Woman?

As I write this, I’m in beautiful Colorado, where it’s actually cool enough to wear a jacket. After Oklahoma’s recent 105 to 106 degree temperatures, I am downright ecstatic to be here.

Last September I met with four of my college friends for a reunion, and we had such a good time at Gabfest 2008 that we decided to do it every year as long as we can. So the five of us have returned for Gabfest 2009 at Margie’s wonderful mountain home in Granby.

On Sunday we’ll go our separate ways until Gabfest 2010. My next layover will be at my sister’s home in Arvada, Colorado.

Next Thursday, August 6th, my sister will take me to the airport, where I’ll board a plane to Los Angeles. I’M GOING TO THE SCBWI CONFERENCE! Sorry for screaming. I’m just a bit excited. For you non-writers, SCBWI is the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and every year they have a conference in LA. It is definitely THE place to be if you write for children. This is my first time to attend, and to say that I’m excited is an understatement.

At the close of the SCBWI conference on Monday, August 10th, I’ll go to my brother’s home in Redlands, California, where I’ll visit his family. I’ll also be able to see my aunt and uncle in Riverside, which will be a real treat.

I’ll fly back to Oklahoma City on Sunday, August 16th.

Although I’m taking lots of notes and photos, I don’t plan to write another post until sometime after I return from all my adventures. So please come back to visit around August 20th. I’ll be here, eager to share my stories.