Just got back from New York City. The rest of the world seems so… dull. The city is always beautiful, even piled in melting snow and drowning in dirty, brown slush. I used to wonder why so many movies were filmed in NYC. After my first visit there a few years ago I started trying to figure out how I could shoot a movie there! Now I go back every chance I get. Like for the SCBWI Winter Conference.
When I’m in New York I always take dozens of pictures. Buildings, statuary, parks… but most of them don’t amount to anything. They’re just… flat. Like this picture of the New York Public Library in snow. It was so beautiful standing there looking at it but the picture just doesn’t do anything for me.
And then there was this one of Grand Central Station. It’s a little more interesting but honestly it isn’t something I’d frame, or even set as the background on my computer.
Of course the reason is obvious and goes back to what my wife April’s been telling me since the first few pictures she watched me take over 20 years ago: “John, you need to have some people in that picture.” I scoffed until I looked at the pictures later and the only ones I cared about had people in them.
Now here’s a picture from the conference that I do like:
Me and three lovely ladies and fellow writers from Australia. If I photoshopped myself out of the picture this is a photograph people would actually like to see. They are, from left to right, Serena Geddes
, Tina Burke
, and Katherine Battersby
fabulous and talented writer/illustrators.
And here’s my favorite from the conference:
Terri doing what she likes to do best of all, plugging in her PC because the battery is dead. No, seriously, writing. We don’t see each other very often because we live in separate states so it was wonderful to be together and exercise the synergy of creativity. No grand buildings. Her hotel room could be anywhere in the world. I’m not even in the picture. What I love about it is the joy on her face – and the classy Hokey Pokey T-shirt.
When you go to write, it isn’t about the place. It isn’t the plot. It is the characters. The things the reader can relate to. Characters make story come alive. And this was true of the conference as well. The people. They are what made the conference. Not the cool city. Not the lovely snow. Not the sometimes scary flight. From the hilarious Marvin Turban(sorry Marvin, just engaging in some homonym humor) to the deep thinking Linda Sue Park, to the indefatigable Lois Lowry, the professional and direct Ginger Clark, my new friends from Australia, my fellow SCBWI Southern Breezers, my writing partner, and all the other wonderful people I met, and the hundreds I didn’t, they are the essential components of my life as a writer. Like Ms. Park said, it isn’t about believing in myself. It is about believing in the work. To which I would add, believing in the people in this wonderful, rewarding, sometimes frustrating industry.
Thank you SCBWI, for showing me the way and lending me a helping hand. Character really is everything.