A week and a half ago was a busy time. The arrival of the NCTE Conference in town led to a significant influx of authors and their kin. In the course of that week-end there was a Brian Jacques event at the Campbell Apartment, a dinner with Gary Schmidt, a Kidlit Drink Night at Faces and Names, an ALAN Review party for what looked like 1,000 authors, and then the whole thing got topped off with a lovely evening with Jane Yolen at a Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America event held at The Society of Illustrators. It is of this event that I wish to speak.
According to their website, "SFWA has brought together the most successful and daring writers of speculative fiction throughout the world, and has grown in numbers and influence until it is now widely recognized as one of the most effective non-profit writers’ organizations in existence. Over 1200 sf and fantasy writers, artists, editors, and allied professionals are members. Each year we present the prestigious Nebula Awards® for the sf or fantasy best short story, novelette, novella, and novel of the year."
All so very interesting, and an aspect of child and YA literature that should not be ignored. Certainly the Nebula Awards, given out by the organization have recently given some love and attention to such children’s literary friendly titles as the script for the film of Howl’s Moving Castle, and Justine Larbalestier’s book Magic or Madness. Ms. Jane Yolen invited me to a swish and swill with the members of SFWA, and being that I am always up for hanging out and inspecting an unknown crowd, I was in.
I had been to the Society of Illustrators once before, but during that time I had only visited the first floor and basement. With Ms. Yolen leading onward we made our way up and up and up, finally ending in a room with infinite seating and even more people. Seating. Sweet sweet seating. Y’know, not enough shindigs take into account the sheer deliciousness of a good chair. I’m 29, and a very lazy 29. My feet are used to pounding the hard dirty streets of Manhattan. Plus, as every good librarian will tell you, the occupation is basically an exercise in how many times you can stand up and sit down in a single hour. So when I can find a party where chairs are available, I’m happy to plunk my tookus in one of them for the rest of the evening. Tookus planted, I had a lovely time speaking with Ms. Yolen face-to-face for the first time.
Faithful readers will recall that I often forget to take useful photographs at events of this sort. You won’t be surprised then by this intriguingly shrouded piece of "evidence" that I was in Ms. Yolen’s presence.
As we can see, the nametag on her nose CLEARLY indicates her Yolenish status. Can you believe I have an undergraduate degree in Fine Arts with a concentration in photography? Me either.
It’s always fun to be out of your element, surrounded by people that you know must be very important in their own circles, but are almost entirely unknown in your own. Throughout the course of the evening I got some clarification on what SFWA was, and there were plenty of people to meet for the first time. Two were already well known to me (thank heavens). Ellen Kushner, for example. She’s a host of the radio show Sound and Spirit on WBHG in Boston, but is better known for her works of fantasy. She also happens to have a children’s book out called The Golden Dreydl, and a YA-sorta book out this year called The Privilege of the Sword. Another author that I got to meet for the first time was the delightful Delia Sherman. Changeling fell right under the radar last year, which is a pity since there was a lot in there to recommend itself. If any of you are looking for a real fairytale in New York ("and the bells are ringing out for Christmas Day") this is the best of its kind. Her vampires of Broadway alone are worth consideration.
(CONTINUED IN PART TWO)