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.
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.
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.
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!
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:
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.