One of the things I often hear at writer’s conferences for kid’s books is that boys don’t read. As someone who at one time was both a boy and a voracious reader, I’ve always felt that this has a lot more to do with how books are presented (and marketed) to most boys than with any gaping deficiency in boys themselves.
Then I found the Guys Read website. They group books into boy(ish) categories: at least one explosion, animals, dragons, robots, etc. How about we get all of them into one dang book? That would be awesome. It’s fantastic to see some of the books that first got me reading featured, like Where the Wild Things Are which I learned by heart before I could read and Childhood’s End which totally blew my mind in the 5th grade.
The organization is the brainchild of Jon Scieszka who I’ve been fortunate enough to hear speak at two writer’s conferences. He’s the author of The Stinky Cheese Man and other Fairly Stupid Fairy Tales, The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, and other books with a wickedly boyish slant. He also served as the first National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature and, all around, is a spectacularly funny guy.
Guys Read releases its first anthology, titled Guys Read: Funny Business, this September. If the book trailer is any indication, it’s a must read for boys everywhere.
I’ll be at the SCBWI conference this weekend, in Seattle (Redmond technically, but that’s getting a bit nitpicky). This is the third year that I’ve attended. Two years ago I went for inspiration and had yet to get back into writing, just toying with the idea. A year ago I was prone to fits and starts on a novel. This year I’m all in, looking forward to a weekend of bumping elbows with others who trade precious things like sleep for scribbles.
Hope to see you there! Oh, and if you want to say hi, here’s a little insight into where you’ll be certain to find me… at some point.
I’ve registered for the annual conference put on by the Washington Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, better known as the SCBWI. Two days all about scribbling with about 400 other likeminded folks, small enough to not be overwhelmed, big enough to not get cornered. If you write kid lit and are in the Seattle area, sign up now before it fills up. And let me know, would be great to meet.
In particular, this conference is great for guys. The attendees are always about 95% female, so… no, I’m not thinking that, but something more industrial. There’s the chance to bond with that elusive fellow creature, the guy who scribbles for kids. Usually all of us end up forming a sad lunch circle on the second day, until one of the SCBWI staff comes along and tells us to break it up.
And while attendees are mostly women, the numbers skew towards men as you move up the food chain. Nearly 40% of the faculty are men, and over half of the agents and editors. A good chunk of the men at these conferences are established in the kid lit business, and we all know where everyone ends up at some point…
There are so many women at these events that they commandeer one of the men’s bathrooms. Who can blame them? Their lines are still crazy long. So the few men grumble and tromp out to the front of the place in search of the tiny men’s room. It soon becomes a swarm of agents and editors. And what agent doesn’t love reading a damp manuscript slid in his direction across the bathroom floor? What busy editor doesn’t relish the idea of multitasking, taking care of nature’s call while hearing your eloquent pitch?