I got to meet Jon Scieszka—sounds like Fresca. And thank you very much to the SCBWI blogger who shared that little hint on how to pronounce his last name! I took very few notes during Jon’s keynote talk. Not that I wasn’t interested in what he had to say but because I was laughing too hard to get anything written!
I first heard Jon talk at last year’s SCBWI conference and he’s been one of my favorite children’s authors ever since. Yes, yes… even in spite of the fact that I kept butchering his last name. Last year I’d been totally blown away by his breakout session when he shared the thought process behind his Spaceheadz books. It started with a spark of information when he’d learned how broadcast waves, once emitted, never stop. They just keep going out and out and out. So, he started wondering what would happen if aliens got hold of our T.V. commercials. And what they might do with that sort of info. It sort of reminded me of Galaxy Quest with Tim Allen where the aliens had built their entire defense system based on the “historical documents”—which were actually nothing more than episodes of Tim Allen’s version of Star Trek.
Anyway, all it took for Jon was that bit of quirky information to spark his wild imagination into something hilarious. I bought Spaceheadz for my nephew last year, asked Jon to sign it and gave it to Logan for Christmas. But I never did hear whether he liked the book. Or should I say, whether he liked it as much as I did.
So this year’s keynote talk was on how Jon first became passionate about writing books for children. How he’d worked for ten years as a preschool teacher and got to read “the cool stuff” like George and Martha, Frog and Toad. The Phantom Tollbooth. And how he watched the behavior of the little people who were his charges, thinking how they acted a lot like “Alzheimer on acid.” He finished his talk by sharing some of his adventures as National Ambassador for Children’s Literature. We all honored Jon’s position by bowing as he made his exit.
I was lucky to run into him later that evening after the Poolside Gala. This year’s theme was The 40 Winks Ball in keeping with the celebration of SCBWI’s 40th anniversary! So we were all decked out in our finest flannel and fuzzy slippers, dancing to a fantastic DJ till all hours of the night. My friend Tina and I continued our celebration in the hotel lobby and there was Jon! And how exciting that Tina and I each got a picture with him! Okay, so we were still in our PJs but gosh . . . when you get a chance to have your picture taken with an Ambassador, do you really want to take the time to run upstairs and change? I don’t think so.
I found myself remembering a book I had at home. It had come from a book fair at the elementary school and I don’t even remember which of my two kids had bought it. It was his awesome picture book about the three little pigs. But with a different twist on the thing. At the time I didn’t know that someday I’d want to write for children myself. Back then I’d never heard of Jon Scieszka, aside from his name being on the book. I never imagined getting my picture taken with him. And I sure never thought I’d be in my pajamas when I did!
But I guess stranger things can happen. Like those aliens up there, tuned in to the final episode of Ren and Stimpy. Anamaniacs. Or maybe Beevis and Butthead.