The BYU Symposium for Young Readers was incredible! Every single speaker was amazing: Ann Cannon, Stephen T. Johnson, Suzanne Fisher Staples, and Gary Paulsen (And of course me. I frequently amaze myself.)
The conference planners had been trying for 20 years to get Gary Paulsen (Hatchet, Brian’s Winter, Snow Dogs, and like 197 other books) to come and speak. I think he was worth the wait. He told the funniest stories about his dog team. Now I want to go on the iditarod. Well, except for that according to Gary they don’t have porta-potties along the race route. And yes, I asked him, and yes he gave me an incredulous stare. But really, women have to think about these things.
My first meeting with Gary was at the book signing. Before they let the crowd in I waved hello at him and he came over to introduce himself. I told him that my kids had enjoyed Hatchet, but that my son had been disappointed that Brian never got to kill anyone with the hatchet. My oldest son really only likes books where someone is stabbed or eaten by a dragon.
Gary laughed and told me maybe he’d put that in the next book. (So see, I am doing my best to improve the quality of literature everywhere.)
It was a lot of fun to meet so many teachers, librarians, and people who loved writing and reading. I met people from Utah, Wyoming and Arizona. I think my favorite thing though was hanging out with the other writers at lunch. They’re all so nice, talented, and wise. Stephen and David blew me away with their artwork. Anne has been locked outside her house in her underwear–something which surprisingly I have not done yet. Suzzane has lived in all sorts of exotic places which I’d love to visit–although maybe not right now, since they are currently shooting at each other in Afghanistan. Chris Crowe, Mike Tunnell and Jim Jacobs did a fabulous job of pulling everything together.
I asked each of them to tell me what the most important thing they’ve learned about the business is. They told me that doing school visits is important, that I need to learn to promote myself, and not to write for awards. As Gary said, “That will kill you.” He said he doesn’t ever look at his awards because he doesn’t want them to change his writing.
Gary also said some very colorful things about publishers, editors, lawyers, and the French. Have I mentioned that I love Gary? Really, if I could figure out a way to hitch up all my stray cats to a sleigh, I’d be there in Alaska with him in a minute.
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