Sometimes you get so busy with the craziness of life, blogging is the last thing you feel you have time to do. But then certain things happen, things so wonderful you feel you have to pinch yourself – involving people so sweet, so supportive, so extraordinary that you have to stop what you’re doing and say thank you (and verbally HUG THEM!!!) Because it is this, the kindness, friendship and love we experience, that makes life worth living.
I’m honored, thrilled and grateful to share that WHEN A DRAGON MOVES IN is the recipient of the 2012-13 Georgia Picture Book Award!
This past weekend, Larry and I traveled to Georgia to accept the award, thank everyone who was a part of this honor and attempt to inspire the attendees of the conference a FRACTION of how much they all inspire me!
You see, this conference was filled with teachers, librarians and media specialists. The educators. The gardeners of knowledge. The caretakers of imagination.
I wanted to hug every single one of them…!
And what a warm, wonderful welcome we received! Our lovely hosts, Joanne Ratliff, Jennifer Graff and Chelsey Bahlmann of UGA (University of Georgia Athens), were absolute Georgia PEACHES!
We hit the ground running first thing Friday morning, enjoying a keynote by the fabulous Judith Ortiz Confer, filled with heart and humor.
Then, I was thrilled to meet so many Dragon-lovers at a book signing! How sweet and beautiful are they?
Of course, I may have felt a SLIVER of envy, as many of these folks had met DRAGON’s brilliant illustrator, Howard McWilliam last year, when I NEED MY MONSTER (written by my fantastic Flashlight “sister” Amber Noll; illustrated by Howard) won the Picture Book award for 2011. But they were so sweet, I couldn’t be upset. *grin*
Following the signing we were treated to a keynote by the uber-talented award-winning artist R. Gregory Christie. I’m always so inspired to hear about an illustrator’s process!
Dragon and I were presented with this GORGEOUS award at a yummy mid-day luncheon. I was so overcome by emotion after the lovely introduction by Jennifer Graff, my thank you was heart-felt, but rather sniffly. And at the risk of having some type of award-show music notify me it was time to get off the stage, I had so many to thank: my lovely hosts (of course!); Howard McWilliam; Shari Dash Greenspan (my amazing editor) and everyone at Flashlight Press; my family (specifically my beloved hubby, Larry, and our two magnificent sons); my writer buddies; SCBWI and the entire kidlit tribe; the booksellers; teachers; librarians; parents; readers; all the students who voted! Dragon lovers EVERYWHERE. *heart squish*
In addition to the keynote which closed the conference, I was asked to do a workshop, and I was thrilled to accept. I spoke to the attendees about “Adding a Little Character to Your Curriculum”, where we discussed how thinking “outside the box and inside your favorite book” can breathe life into any subject and make a lasting impression on your students. As you can see, we had a blast!
Since Judith and I shared a workshop room, Larry and I sat in on her presentation before my own. She inspired me to write free verse. Be forewarned.
The third keynote of the day was the prolific Jennifer Holm. We loved hearing not only about her writing, but how she collaborates with her brother!
That evening, we were treated to a casual author dinner with the other keynote speakers and some faculty. Were we ever surprised when we walked in to find that each place setting had a special DRAGON bookmark – made by a class of local kindergartners! I wish I could share every single one of them, but here’s just a sample of the intense cuteness:
Needless to say, the company – and the food – was delicious!
I fell into a dead sleep that night, exhausted, until I woke up at 4:42 AM, maybe just a tad anxious about my keynote.
You see, here’s the thing. One of the main reasons I love going to SCBWI conferences is that I not only get information, but I get INSPIRATION. I’ve cried more than once listening to other authors and illustrators speak from the heart. Their words touch my soul, inspiring me to be a better writer, a better person.
Could I do that? I really, really wanted to.
My knees were literally knocking as Larry and I set up. We were happy to see there was a lavalier microphone available, allowing me to move about, not glued to the podium. (Of course, I wasn’t wearing a belt and Larry clipped the battery pack to my dress, gripping my pantyhose underneath – yikes! Thankfully, they were good ones and didn’t fall down – ha!)
Following a beautiful introduction by Chelsey, it was my turn to speak. To tell my story, but more importantly, to encourage the attendees to tell theirs.
And I know it sounds cliché, but I’m thrilled to say that “they laughed and they cried” during my keynote!
I read DRAGON aloud to them. I shared my passion and my journey.
I told them stories about my own rejections. How it’s important to be in the “know”, but not to get stuck in the muck of the “NO-it-alls”.
How my husband and I have always encouraged our boys to go for their dreams. To listen to their hearts. That if it were easy, everyone would do it.
When Alex and Steve started college, my husband said it was my turn. And I said…
“It’s too hard to get published.”
“What?” My boys looked at me in disbelief. “Have you been lying to us all these years?”
Needless to say, the three of them encouraged me to pursue my dream. I am so blessed and grateful every day to have their unconditional love and support! And I am so thankful that Shari and Flashlight took a chance on a mischievous little boy, a dragon and me.
You see, I’ve always loved the quote by Ben Sweetland: “We cannot hold a torch to light another’s path without lighting our own.” I told my audience that the very students that they inspire on a daily basis can be the ones that inspire them in return.
I was thrilled with how many asked questions at the end and then came up to talk with me; to “meet” and admire the Dragon that our son Steve made for my presentations.
But one woman stood aside and waited. When everyone else was finished, she approached, tears running down her cheeks. She said she was turning 50 soon and was questioning what she had “done” with her life. That she considered herself to be a story-teller and had always wanted to be published. But she gave up after getting some rejections. She shared she’d been away from teaching for a bit and had just returned. That she almost didn’t come to this conference, but something told her to.
She said my words inspired her to try again. We hugged and cried together.
There are more tears in my eyes as I’m typing because this is exactly what I wanted to accomplish with my keynote. If I could inspire just one person, I had accomplished what I set out to do.
I only hope this special story teller realizes how much her passion inspired me in return! Our torches, our passions, were shared and in turn, each burns brighter.
I’m home now, but still feeling warm and fuzzy from making so many new friends at UGA. It’s for sure that Georgia will forever remain on my mind…and in my heart!
* Special thanks and love to my hubby, Larry Moore, for being my right-hand man at this conference, and for sharing this – and everything else – in my life! He took most of these photos, with the exception of the one of me holding the award…that credit goes to my awesome friend, Doug (the one with the finger in the dragon’s nose – LOL) Love him too!