Welcome to LA LA land!

My next stop was the West Coast of California – LA and Corona del Mar!

If you’ve never been to LA or Corona Del Mar, you might not understand how accurate the title of the post is, but honestly, a bad day in either of those locations can trump a good day somewhere else.  The California sun is pretty much always shining, but it doesn’t get insanely hot, like Twentynine Palms, or humid, like Florida.

If you’ve got to pick one place to visit in California, it’s hard to go wrong with Corona del Mar.  When I say the weather is perfect, I mean it’s PERFECT.

For those of you living someplace other than right there (or maybe San Diego), imagine being able to leave your windows and doors open year round because the temperature is always fantastic.  It hardly ever rains (I do like the rain, but most people would find a lack of it to be a definite plus), and you’ve got immediate access to some of the best beaches in the world.  And in case you prefer snow skiing to water skiing, you can be at Big Bear Mountain in about two hours.  Yes, I would love to live there.  Unfortunately, that does not appear to be an immediate option in my future.

Fortunately, I’ve got friends!  (You may find that surprising.  But it’s true.  It caught me off guard, as well.)

Overlooking the channel.

Overlooking the channel.

Nancy and Randy are long time friends of my family and absolutely wonderful people.  Other than being gracious enough to host me, even with a constant influx of guests visiting them, they are an absolute riot to be around.  You might recognize this as a recurring theme from earlier posts, but I didn’t get spend as much time with them as I would have liked.  We had some great meals together, though, and enjoyed more than a few laughs!

Most of my time was spent in LA.  Nancy and Randy kindly let me use their home as a base of operations while I commuted to LA over the weekend for the SCBWI Summer Literary Conference.  The SCBWI, or Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, features an incredible assortment of extremely talented people.

It also happens to be about 80% women.  It’s a wonderful, wonderful organization.

But seriously, it is a great organization.  It gives authors and illustrators a chance to meet others and learn from some of the best in the industry.


Speaking of the best… : )

I met Clif, the guy above, at last year’s conference.  We’ve been good friends since, even forming a writing group with another couple authors.  Clif and I make a good team, because although we’re both in finance (or were, I suppose in my case), we approach problems in different ways.  It gives us a good way to relate to a lot of people and improve our writing because we can bounce ideas back and forth, and build off of them.  The conference gave us a great chance do just that, especially by comparing our notes on the seminars.

One of the best sessions was a keynote given by an illustrator/writer named David Weisner.  He gave us some really fascinating insight into his development process and the idea of following a story, building upon a foundation through iteration.  His presentation was especially intriguing because he had preserved all of the art and storyboards from one of his earlier books, ‘Art and Max’.  We had the opportunity to trace his ideas all the way through his initial concept of a bear with an exterior made up of different mediums (i.e. his painted exterior cracks, revealing a pastel drawing that blows away, exposing a watercolor that gets rained on, leaving him as a line drawing) to the two lizards, Art and Max, that make up the story.  Really fascinating stuff.

The conference also gave us the chance to catch up with some industry giants, and get to know them without the pressure of an impending sales pitch.

At the Saturday evening "ball"

At the Saturday evening “ball”

The guy in the middle is Arthur Levine.  He’s a really nice guy with a lot of insight into the industry.  He also happens to be the man responsible for bringing Harry Potter to America.  Clif and I have gotten to know Arthur over the last two conferences, and it’s been really insightful for both of us.  Arthur is a celebrity in the children’s book world, and often gets mobbed by authors and illustrators – everyone wants to show him ‘the next big thing’.  Arthur handles it well, but it has been instructive to see firsthand the natural tendency of the ‘thoughtless approach’ towards someone famous or powerful – in any industry.  Too often, people approach him at the worst time, or without anything other than a sales pitch.  The most successful are mindful of the timing (i.e. Is he eating? Now is not the time.), and offer a good question that isn’t specific to only them.  Although I would love see the words ‘bestselling author’ next to my name at some point, the experience has given me an appreciation for everything that comes with the title, and how best to approach the situation, from both sides of the equation.

In the meantime, while I work on that ‘world famous’ bit, I’ve got to wrap it up here and head on to the final leg of my trip: San Francisco and the Northern California Redwoods!  See you soon!

One comment to Welcome to LA LA land!

  • Kathy Ellen Davis  says:

    Woo-hoo for comments!
    I agree, the SCBWI is a wonderful organization.
    It’s so great to be around other writers and illustrators.
    Though I’m hoping the 80/20 tilts a little more in my favor through the years :)
    Have fun in San Fran, and the Redwoods are BEAUTIFUL! Make sure you hang out there a lot!

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