I just returned from the Southampton Children’s Literature Conference July 11-15, at Southampton Stony Brook University. Wow, what a memorable week! A highlight for me was finally meeting Emma Walton Hamilton, after studying with her for two years. She is warm and generous. She truly is in her element with all the wonderful work she is doing as conference director for the Children’s Literature Conference. Her choice of workshop teachers and afternoon panels speakers was excellent. I also enjoyed attending another summer workshop with my colleague and friend, Beth Stilborn.
I studied picture book creation with Peter H. Reynolds, an award-winning children’s book author and illustrator of The Dot, Ish, The North Star and I’m Here. He prefers to be called a storyteller.
Every morning for 3 to 4 hours, I was inspired, encouraged and challenged to think out side of the box. Working with Peter was a joy. He’s a fabulous teacher. Peter nudged us to think visually. We were there to make our mark in our own unique way. We created something original every day. We normally had two writing assignments daily, which were challenging and fun. I had three goals in mind when I arrived — to create something new, break some rules and keep my writing short. I accomplished all three. Our class bonded immediately and spent a lot of time together. We even ate lunch in our classroom to keep the energy flowing. And Peter taught us simple animation. It was a fun, supportive and creative environment. Peter took time to work with each one of us individually, and review any manuscripts we brought. He read mine out loud — it doesn’t get any better than that. Oh wait it does. Peter sees everything visually, so as he read my manuscripts, he was drawing illustrations in the margins. I had him sign them.
Beth participated in Kate McMullan’s Middle Grade class. Last Sunday morning the children’s literature classes presented their work before the writing conference. There were other writers participating in creative writing, poetry, non-fiction and short story classes led by Matt Klam, Mary Karr and Melissa Bank. There also were workshops for playwrights, directors and actors.
One of the unique aspects of the conference was meeting so many different artists. Some of us were dorm mates. And we all dined and talked and learned from each other. It was very exciting to be surrounded by such an artistic and stimulating group working on their craft. I came home with my head full. The second session this week includes YA fiction with Patricia McCormick, and screenwriting and digital film.
I hope those of you reading this will seriously think about participating next year. Start saving now. Only 12 people are selected to participate in each class, which adds to the intimacy of each workshop. It is the best hands-on writing conference I have attended. I can’t wait to go back!