Thursday, August 6, 2009

Country mouse visits the nuclear reactor Part four hundred and, I mean four

With so many of my pals heading off to their own awesome conference in LA that I wish I was attending, here's my next installment from Haystack.

Also because Jaime T so nicely and publicly reminded me before her interview with Marla that I said I would. Good call Jaime!

Marla Frazee arrived at the Haystack (Reed) conference at the end of the first day. Why the tardiness? Because she's a prima donna that insists on things like having exactly 432 blue M&M's in a crystal dish, laid on a peach towel with an embroidered silhouette of Michael Jackson on it and not arriving until exactly three-quarters of a day late?

No. Not her style.

She was late because she flew STRAIGHT from Chicago and the ALA convention, where she received the Caldecott Honor Medal, to Portland and our conference.

I was eating dinner when she floated in, two feet above the ground. Silver halo etched into the
air above her. Little permanent smile. Dreamy eyes. We all huddled around her table to hear every little detail which she shared in typical humble and honest Marla fashion, answering every single one like we were as important as Betsy Bird or Jaime Temairik.

We were so caught up, finally the Reed cafeteria did the subtle turn-the-lights-off thing. Marla's silver halo glow lighted our way.

Imagine a very hardworking and deserving dark, curly-haired Cinderella being whisked up from her writing studio with paint smudges still on her face by her fairy librarian, magically slipped into a beautiful gown with cool shoes (apparently that's important to girls because there were a ton of questions about those), with pumpkin limos, beautiful hotel rooms and, of course, a magical night to remember. It was all on her face before she said a word.

But as magical as the night was and how it seems so sudden by the pomp and the event, the truth is that Marla has been working very hard for a long time. It didn't just happen. She made it happen by working passionately at something she loves.

Marla doodles.

ALL THE TIME. She said that she's never been able to concentrate in lectures or anything unless she is doodling. Though I don't think you can really call it doodling. I could take Marla's notebook from the conference and sell it right now on the black market for oodles. Doodles for oodles. (no really, make me an offer, sale on the caldecott shoes too)

Doodling is contagious too. Sitting next to her I started doodling and she would be very nice and complimentary which felt great, until I'd look at her doodle. Yeah, humbling.

My bear.

Notice the fuzzy, insecure lines. Marla's were razor sharp.

And my attempt at my Maestro character I've toyed with.
As you can see, not working out.

So I turn to the Caldecott Honor recipient and somebody who teaches illustration at Art Center and other prestigious places for help with my doodle.

I hope this reads. But she wrote, "Bigger rounder head. No neck. Lower the eyes." Then did the two-second, light pencil sketch at the bottom right as an example.

What does she know right? So I tried.

Nearly there.

Voila. Maestro!

At the faculty reading, Marla shared a book that should come out next year (I think) that is amazing. I foresee very great things from this book. You heard it here first, I'm calling it. NY TIMES BESTSELLER.

But Marla was having a difficult time reading from the dummy and turning the pages.

Who, oh who, could rescue her? Who would be qualified enough to turn the pages?

Duh, de, de, daaaaah!

Our hero.

Yes, Patron Saint of struggling authors and page-turners, Arthur A Levine to the rescue.

Afterwards, Arthur gushed about how he didn't even have to look to know where the page turns were (note to pic bk writers). Arthur's opinion on the book was something rhyming with:
Freaking Awesome.

And then they snogged.

I figured this photo might be able to land on the children's book smut tabloids. But I don't think there are any. Besides this blog I mean.

At some point in the near-ish future, I am going to give a whole post just to Arthur and how much he helped me at the conference and as a writer.

This post is my attempt to share what a cool, wonderful person Marla Frazee is. She has selflessly shared with many writers and illustrators both praise and direction. Classy, talented, stylish, friendly and funny. I've been a fan of Marla for a very long time and consider her a friend. Real proud of her too.

She'll be at the LA conference and is not intimidating, except for being so pretty. If you have an avocado she'll like you even more.

If you haven't yet checked out Marla's books, you're in for a treat. And if you look at her website, check out her awesome studio underneath an avocado tree. Really touching story about that. But I really wouldn't do it justice.


  1. Awesome! You draw too? So do i! Sadly, I cannot post my drawings up, I need a digital cam. Mine has no batteries. Uggghhhhhh....

  2. Superb! I felt like I was peering over your shoulder at this event (saved me tuition!) and got the best spot. How cool that Marla gave you Maestro tips! But I gotta say I luv ur bear, awwww,such expressive eyes. Thanks for stowing us in your suitcase.

  3. Great drawing! That is one of the many talents I do not have.

  4. Oh my goodness, I loved this post! You are hilarious ... and, what how cool to be sitting next to a Caldecott Honor Medal recipient ... and getting doodling advice from her! By the way ... you're quite a doodler yourself! I recently heard of a study that showed that your attention and focus actually improved while doodling ... so, there you go! :-)

  5. Marla Frazee sounds like such a neat lady. Super fun that she gave you doodling tips!

    I heard Arthur Levine speak last year and he was great. Did you go to the SCBWI-WWA 2008 conference?

    You cracked me up with the children's book smut tabloids. Hee!

  6. Once again you lure us in with a seemingly little story that turns out to be a BIG story full of interesting details and funny, funny anecdotes. And the snogging is good too. Too bad you're not going to be here in LA.

  7. Hey Shigune. I don't draw. At all. I used to a very little bit but I am only a writer and I'm cool with that. I just posted these for fun, not because they're good. Rather because it's sorta my contrast to all of Marla's amazing "doodling" she did through the conference. It was some serious world-class doodling. Love it. Do you have a scanner? Love to see your own "doodles."

    Thanks Tricia. You are always welcome to peek over my shoulder, except when I'm playing poker. Thank you, just goofing with the drawings. Thanks for sharing your wonderful writing.

    Hey Lazy, it's one I don't have either, unfortunately. If you want some great drawings or sketches, go check out Jimbo Jabber, then go look at his website or my Dad posted some of his new sketches on his blog too.

    Hey Kelly, makes sense to me. And thank you. Really cool spot at the Oregon Coast you're at. Love it there. We were there in spring. Pretty inspiring. And with your writing, you won't be eating sand for long. That's a promise.

    She is neat. You know, seeing how she works with the real illustrators was the real cool thing. She has a knack for pushing and stretching them. I did go to that conference too. Arthur was great. I probably sat right near you without even knowing I'd end up being your blog fan.

    Big and long. Thanks Deb, I think there's some frustrated writer coming out in my blogs. I need an editor. I wish I was going to be there, really bad. But next year, I'll really try. Please let me/us know all about it. Isn't snogging always good? Well, maybe not.

    Thanks everybody.

  8. Hey! I really like your last maestro drawing. Noice! See, that art-talent didn't skip a sibling! And thanks for providing the children's lit community with some smutty snogging photos (NSFW!!) *heh*

  9. I uh don't think you killed your muse (judging from your posts)

    Anyway, I am awarding you with the Superior Scribblers Award. Thanks for your humor and insights!

  10. Man, that Arthur Levine is everywhere! Does he have super powers? Maybe one of those time-turner things Hermione had in Prisoner of Azkaban.

    But he always seems to be somewhere around where YOU are, Ben.......Now that I think about it.....are you two ever in the same picture? Maybe YOU are Arthur Levine!!


  11. I'm finally catching up from going away on vacation, and what a great post to read! You met Marla Frazee and Arthur Levine!!! Very, very cool. I'd probably wouldn't be able to say a word to them.

    I'm so glad you had a great time at the conference. Wondering whether you met my critique buddy, Patty Palmer. Here's her blog.

  12. Very cool post! Thanks for the bonus them!

  13. I loved your bear! And your maestro is getting there.

  14. Thanks Jim, but don't worry the genetic art muse was all used up when I showed up. I got the dregs.

    Thank you so much Yat-Yee, I REALLY appreciate it. And judging by your blog/posts, your muse is alive and flourishing. Thank you!

    Hey shelley, you've discovered our secret. Well, almost. But I believe I will reveal my alter-identity in the future. And believe me I WISH I was as talented as Mr. Ahhdie Levine. I've never met someone so skilled at cutting exactly to the heart of what works or doesn't about a story. He reminds me a lot of Simon on Idol. Not the ahole part at all, but the part where while all the other judges sort of describe what kinda works or not, he pinpoints it exactly and with unbelievable credibility. But unlike Simon, he is incredibly encouraging and warm-hearted and builds people up. But they both know their stuff! Arthur is passionate about books and is the best "reader" in the business.

    Welcome back Vivian! I've met them both five years ago or more, and a few times since. But they are both so nice, fun and talented. Love em. I did meet Patty, though I didn't get a ton of chances to talk to her much. She was really nice and got to be in Bonny Becker's critique group (lucky!). Thank you again for letting me know who your critique pal is, you've got a cool one for sure.

    Thanks Anita, goofing on the sketches though I have thought about trying to write a pic book about him. We'll see how that goes.

    Thanks Deb, sure had fun with you and the rest of the gang. : )

  15. I've heard such great things about Arthur. I saw him at the 2008 Western Washington SCBWI conference — so hilarious — but haven't spoken to him personally. And Marla! Her roller coaster book is a favorite.

    I love the bear (his nose!) AND the Maestro.

    And the kiss.