meeting holly black

When I registered for the most recent SCBWI-Western Washington conference, I checked the box asking if I’d like to volunteer during the event.  It seemed an innocuous enough thing.

Then I unchecked it.  And checked it again.  My hand on the mouse hovered over the box.  *think, think*

Would I have enough energy to volunteer?  I’ve been to these conferences before, and for this confirmed introvert, it can be fun but wholly exhausting.  I definitely didn’t want to be flakey.  If I checked the box – and was awarded one of the highly-coveted volunteer positions – I’d have to show up and by my sunniest.

I left it checked.

Good decision.

My first volunteer gig was to provide support (hand out post-its, fold back the dustjacket, open books to the signing page, take photos) to the authors at the faculty book signing table.  There were long lines for several of our speaking/presenting faculty, and I was assigned to be at Holly Black‘s elbow.


I tried to be cool.  Really, I did.

But this is Holly Black. Author of the Curse Workers series.  The Modern Faerie Tales (Tithe, Valiant, and Ironside).  And the Spiderwyck Chronicles.

Team Unicorn.

That Holly Black.

And she lives in New York.  Where she hangs out with writer friends. Pals such as Maureen Johnson. Cassandra Clare. Robin Wasserman. And – holy crap – Libba Bray.  (I heard Libba Bray speak in New York.)

Once the initial rush of books were signed, we had a moment to breathe.  I told her how much I enjoyed her work, she asked me what I was working on.  It felt mostly… normal.

I mentioned that I was changing the way I work – more structured time, more discipline.

She encouraged me to stay with the more disciplined plan of scheduling writing time.  Because, as she told me, the work you do when you are on fire and the muse is standing at your shoulder, whispering a blue streak in your ear?  And the work you do when you are slogging away, chewing on your hair, and thinking you’d be a better accountant than you are a writer?

Later, you can’t tell the difference in the quality of the work.  It’s still you.  All of the words came from you.

This was a thunderbolt for me.

Moral of the story: sit down and write the damn book.  Every damn day.

Later in the day, I attended her session on building a magical world.  On Sunday, Holly closed out the conference with an awesome talk on plotting, specifically verbal plotting – talking out the plot with a buddy to ask the big what if questions.  This is exactly how I have been creating the plot for my current work-in-progress, and it was so very confirming to hear that this is an approved and recommended tool.

Every time, Holly was gracious and generous, friendly and funny, enthusiastic and passionate.

Yes, I’m a drooling fan girl.

And I’ll jump at the chance to volunteer again.


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