Monday, June 17, 2013

My summer started with a bang last week. The Florida mid-year SCBWI conference was at the Disney Dolphin Resort, and I knew my kids would never forgive me if I went to Orlando without them. But with more than a few Disney trips under our belts, this time we went to Universal Studios, and a place I'd been dreaming of for years, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

I've had a few days to reflect on our week, and it was an all-around amazing experience. At the conference, I learned about writing fantasy and sci-fi with Matthew Kirby and Joe Monti. Matthew is the author of The Clockwork Three and Icefall, and a thoughtful instructor whose lessons really click with me. (I took one of his classes at the LA conference last year.) Joe is an agent with Barry Goldblatt Literary, whose humor and industry knowledge made the day memorable and informative. My favorite take-away from the session: fantasy creations work well when they combine the unique and new with something familiar. Something that gives the reader a framework to understand the shiny new thing.

This concept came to life for me at The Wizarding World. I loved every moment, even waiting in line at Hogwarts, spending too much at Honeydukes, and sweating for an hour outside of Ollivanders. And with each exciting slice of the Potter pie, I saw how it became meaningful because the reader can relate to it. We understand what it's like to cheer for a Quidditch match because we've cheered for our school's football team. We relate to picking the perfect wand because we've tried to pick the perfect book bag or shoes or notebook for the first day of school. We love Dumbledore because we've had a teacher whose wise advice has influenced our lives. My only regret is that too many kids will come to love these things through movies instead of where they were truly born, on the page.

The one downside of our trip? Now the rest of the summer will have a hard time living up to this first magical week.

Music for this week: Stay Young and Go Dancing by Death Cab for Cutie