Hello! Hope you didn't mind the mini-hiatus/chaos of my last post. Over this weekend I was at Chapter One Young Writers Conference, so I was a little too busy to write. :) Since Ch1Con this year was full of new experiences, I think this will, once again, be a new-experience post on a Wednesday.
If you've been reading my blog for a while, you probably recognize Ch1Con as the thing I am constantly mentioning, but if you don't know what it is, check out the Ch1Con website. This past weekend had several new experiences: first airplane flight and traveling without a grown-up (I realize I am technically an adult, but I am not a grown-up), first Ch1Con with actual strangers attending, first time meeting some famous young writers, and some less exciting stuff like I went to an aquarium and saw a new play. So I'm going to just tell the abridged story of my entire weekend. I say "abridged" because I am going to try not to tell every last detail... although you will hear about every single food I ate. Sorry.
All right. So Friday morning, I woke up at 4:30 AM to get to the airport. I was flying to Chicago with my best friend Rachel, who was also attending the conference. We got through security and such without anyone yelling at us, which was nice. Then we saw the sunrise out of the windows and flew to Chicago. I tried to sleep, but it didn't really happen.
In Chicago, we managed to get through the transportation system and find our way into the main city, where we planned to go to the Art Institute. I promptly led us in the wrong direction, but on the bright side, we did find a nice street fair where I bought a really nice owl necklace. After the street fair and too much walking, we finally made it to the Art Institute. We saw some of the big highlights (American Gothic, Nighthawks, Sunday on La Grand Jatte) and a bunch of other paintings. I'd post pictures of them but I think Blogger doesn't want me to, based on how it's now making my screen shake...? I seriously expect this thing to need an exorcism next.
Anyway, after seeing a lot of cool art, we headed down to a nearby Italian restaurant. I was super hungry so I ate too much, naturally. We got Pecorino Romano with raisin-nut bread, eggplant involtini, pizza margherita, this pasta thing that Rachel had, an orange cannoli that Rachel had, and a warm chocolate cake with vanilla gelato. It was glorious. Then we returned to the subway to take the train to the bus station, where we took the bus to our hotel. We got to the hotel at the exact same time as founder Julia Byers and her mom! But we didn't talk much because Rachel and I immediately went to take a nap.
After a rather unsatisfactory nap, we went to join Julia and several other young writers from the con in the courtyard, some whom I knew from Twitter and some that I met for the first time. We had pizza and cookies there, then went up to Julia's room, where we were joined by associate online administrator Kira Brighton and keynote speaker Kat Zhang. (These titles make them sound intimidating, but they're really nice in person. Not "really nice but I hate them for their success" kind of nice, but fun to spend time with). (OK, I'm still really jealous of them both). Anyway, we all worked together to prep stuff for the conference the next day, and also had a live chat with some of the team members who couldn't make it, including Aisha Al-Amin and John Hansen (who's not really a team member but we all know him. "we all" meaning "everyone in the publishing world").
After the live chat, most of us went back to our rooms to get some sleep, because the next day we had to get up bright and early for the conference! I got all excited and wore my oversized Ch1Con t-shirt from the first Ch1Con three years ago, as well as awkward jeans-shorts, to complete my dorky camp counselor look. We went to eat breakfast only to hear of two disasters- one of our speakers' flights was cancelled, so she was still in California; and MORE IMPORTANTLY THE PANERA BREAD BAGELS HAD NOT ARRIVED. We mourned over the bagels while Julia worked to fix the other thing and then we headed down to set up the conference room.
Setting up the room was pretty easy, but then all the attendees started pouring in! There were so many people, of so many different ages and backgrounds and levels of experience, and I didn't know a lot of them, which was exciting. Kira and I worked to check them in and take their lunch orders; then we went to take our seats among the rest of the attendees at the tables. Julia gave the welcome address and introduced our first speaker: Ava Jae, author of Beyond the Red, which is coming out in 2016. She gave a presentation on wanting to be a teen writer, which was so immensely inspiring and encouraging. I loved it.
After Ava's presentation, we had our first trivia break, which I ran, giving away free books to people who answered Harry Potter trivia. The people at the con really need to brush up on their HP knowledge. (Just kidding... but... you gotta memorize the books, like me). Then I introduced our next speaker, Karen Bao, who wrote Dove Arising. She led an excellent workshop on world-building which led to a lot of great, inspired discussion between all the attendees about their WIPs.
Taryn Albright, the speaker who was stuck in California, and a successful freelance editor, gave her session over Google Hangouts after Emma Ryan's classic MG themed trivia break. Taryn's session was about the use of color coding throughout the writing process. It was pretty interesting. I'll probably stick to my chaotic nightmare process, but for people who like to not torture themselves, the color-coding had a lot of useful points.
We had lunch after that, and then headed back in for Kaye M's session. Kaye is a famous blogger and speaks at a lot of conventions, and she gave a presentation on diversity in writing. It was really interesting and informative and the only one at which I took super-detailed notes, because I forgot my notebook upstairs before the others. But also because it was a very useful presentation.
After Kaye's presentation, we had the livestreamed panel, which there's a link to on the Ch1Con website. The four speakers (plus Taryn, through Google Hangouts) answered questions from the attendees and from Twitter. It was really cool and it was good to let the people who couldn't attend still be part of the experience.
When the panel ended, Kat Zhang, author of the Hybrid Chronicles and our keynote speaker, gave us a presentation telling us the story of her journey with writing her debut What's Left of Me. It was really insightful to hear an individual story of publication, as well as to see all the strange book covers they went through.
After Kat's keynote address, we finished up the conference with photos and book signings, and then we took apart the conference room. A couple of the attendees then joined Julia and her mom to go see our friend and Ch1Con's official Tumblr expert, Emma Ryan's, play. She was performing in a back-to-back performance of HMS Pinafore and Trial by Jury by Gilbert and Sullivan. We had to rush pretty fast through dinner (pizza) to get there in time, but we made it. The plays were super weird, but very funny, and Emma did an AMAZING job. We got to see her afterwards, and then we headed back to the hotel.
The next day, we met up in Julia's room for breakfast of the finally-arrived Panera bagels, only for me to find out they were holding a surprise birthday party for me and Emma, whose birthdays are both this week! They got cake and streamers and presents, which were all amazing, but the best part was, I finally got to eat the Panera bagels. And hang out with all my lovely friends who I almost never see, of course.
We all handed out various gifts that we got just for Ch1Con purposes, then we said goodbye to a few of the attendees before heading out into Chicago. We had planned to eat a very specific plate of nachos for lunch, but we didn't have time- long story. Instead, we went to the Shedd Aquarium to see dolphins, which Kira wanted to see. The aquarium was super overpriced and had long lines and stuff, but in the end, WE SAW A BABY DOLPHIN HANGING OUT WITH ITS MOMMY OH MY GOSH. And baby penguins, and otters, and a sea turtle, and other fish. And also we had nachos in the food court. They were not The nachos, but they did manage to make me regret ever eating them a few hours later. (Too much information? Eh.)
After the aquarium, we all had to say goodbye :(((( Then Julia's mom dropped Rachel and me off at the airport, where we managed to get through security again with minimal yelling, and then we waited a bit and got on the plane and got back to New Jersey! And that's the end of the story of my amazing, wondrous weekend. Oh- and I got a giant marshmallow on a stick covered in Oreos at one point. Now you know everything.
So, I hope I didn't go into too much detail. It was an amazing, amazing Ch1Con, and I hope next year is even better. If you're a young writer, I super-highly-really recommend attending this conference. The sessions give you way better information on everything you need to know than any writing advice book or well-meaning English teacher who does not know about publishing. And the feeling of community and dose of inspiration you get from spending time with serious writers your age is really just not comparable to anything else. If you can't attend, though, I do recommend that you check out all our online accounts, which are available through the website linked above, including the official website, Twitter, Facebook page, Tumblr, Pinterest, and YouTube account. I'd link them all here but I'm afraid of angering the Blogger gods.
Thank you for reading! See you on Saturday,