When Children’s Book Writers Are Supposed To Dance Things Might Not Be Pretty

Back before COVID-19, I went to my first big writing conference (as a speaker) in L.A. (California) and I learned that there was a big gala thing and all of us children’s book writers (published and prepublished) were supposed to dance and schmooze there.

Despite the fact that my aunt owned a dance studio and I started dancing when I was two and despite the fact that author/poet/musician/playwright Ozzie Jones once gave me the best compliment about my dancing ever at a Bates College party and despite the fact that I’ve been in far too many musical theater productions, I get uptight about dancing.

Cough.

This is awkward to admit.

And I was supposed to hang out in a group of 900 children’s book writers who were going to be dancing? It was already super obvious who the extraverts are in the children’s book world and let me tell you? It’s the dancers. It’s the schmoozes. It’s the people who introduce themselves to you and aren’t awkward about it.

It is not me.

I thought children’s book writers were my people. Apparently, I was wrong. The whole situation was a lot more like a middle school dance than I thought it would be.

What I learned

1. Some writers can actually dance. I mean, they bend backwards. They throw off shoes. They are not me.

Get your boogie on and shuck off those ukeleles, authors!

2. Author John Green blushes and sort of crumples in half when kids tell them they’ve read Looking for Alaska‘s scene that involves a penis.

I am not spoiling here, but… I’m sure you can guess the scene. The truth is that scene has a bit of the Judy Blume phenom going for it. Kids I knew flipped to it, shared it with friends, even before or after they’ve read the whole book and I could go on for awhile about this and how it’s a very okay thing, but that would be a much longer post for later in the week. 

Also, despite a lot of lady writers asking him to dance, John Green managed to not dance. I envied him.

See, John. This is almost as steamy as your scene, and Raintree County is ancient, although steamy. 

3. It is hard to find people you know in a crowd of 900 and sometimes you just have to give it all up and hang with people you barely know. When doing this, try not to talk about the positive beauty of fleece TOO much. They will run away. 

4. Holding a beer makes dancing easier. I did not do this, but I should have. Thanks for the tip, Lisa Yee!

5. Once you tell people that you’re running off to get someone else to come dance it is REALLY REALLY hard to find those people again. Try not to worry that they think you were blowing them off and you are an evil mean girl or something.

I’m so sorry I lost you! I was busy dying inside from social anxiety.

6. Author Lisa Yee tells amazing stories. Many include peeps. Some include pee. Does there seem to be a connection?

I found this photo on Pinterest. Thank you, Pinterest!

Rock on, Little Peep. Rock on!

7. It’s okay to stand in the big grass circle by the taco makings instead of dancing because there will be other people there who aren’t drunk enough to dance either. These are some of your fellow introverts. Embrace them. Ask first though because not everyone likes embracing.

8. Even when there’s lots of room to spread out people will clump up to dance. I am not sure if this is because it is fun getting elbowed in the head or just for the hiding-your-dance-skills in a bunch of other people factor. Or maybe it’s just the hope for getting lucky is greater the closer you are to other bodies. Does anyone know? Is this an extrovert thing or an introvert thing?

9. Sometimes people can do amazing things with aluminum foil. Sometimes people can’t. This can be dangerous when the foil is used to make clothing. No. I am not posting a picture of this here. But also foil-clothing and dancing can lead to some NSFW photos of writers. Don’t enthusiastically dance if you’re only wearing aluminum-foil clothing unless you’re okay with other writers seeing body parts that are usually covered up and stuff.

10. Writer Cecil C (BEIGE) can hold while dancing:
    1. Plate of food.
    2. Eating utensil
    3. Massive funky-cool bag/purse
    4. Video camera
    All at the same time with a still-healing wrist, which obviously qualifies her for this status

 Yes, she is the dynamic force of both Wonderwoman and Superman combined! That’s super power.

And there you go. Helpful hints for when you go to a conference and there are a bunch of children’s book writers dancing.

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Tips on Attending a Writing Conference for Children’s Writers When It Isn’t the Time of Covid-19

I am an optimist and I believe that people will be someday at writing conferences again feeling awkward and so in preparation for that, I’m giving all you all some tips. You ready?

Tips on Attending a Writing Conference for Children’s Writers When It Isn’t the Time of Covid-19

Understand that people will hug you.

A lot. They will hug you a lot. This is cool if you like hugs (I do).

If you don’t like hugs you may want to not use your deodorant that day or wear something prickly around your neck like a porcupine. That’s about all that will dissuade children’s writers set for a hug.

Do not feel like a big loser because everyone else seems like they know everyone else and they are all best friends.

They are just pretending.

Pretend too. Go stand by people. Nod.

Realize that pretending works because they all think you are a social media friend who has an icon or avatar that is not their actual face but a giant toenail or perfected carbonized version of themselves.

If they ask you if you are another writer who is cooler than you are? Nod.

If they catch you because you did not remember that the other author has a dog named Fluffy who tends to bite school bus drivers in the elbow, just nod again and say, “I was pretending. I was doing research on a YA character who is a compulsive liar and adopts the identities of total strangers as a way to deal with weight issues.”

They are writers. They will understand.

Realize that they will possibly hug you again in solidarity over the fact that you are so into your writing that you do compulsive liar reasearch at conferences.

Open your arms. Hug them back.

Seriously though, when you are at a conference or convention, remember to embrace and include other people. Don’t talk over them. Listen to their words. Make sure everyone has a chance to speak, to interact, to be included. When you don’t? You’re oppressing them and you’re losing the possibility of meeting a new friend or at least hearing a new take on things, or a perspective from someone’s mouth that isn’t yours. That’s what writing and communication is all about. It goes both ways.

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