Monday, May 17, 2010

Stalking Cynthia

This dress looks much better in person. I look terrible, but Cynthia Lord looks great.

“I have always been an admirer. I regard the gift of admiration as indispensable is one is to amount to something; I don’t know where I would be without it.”

- Francois de la Rochefoucauld

If Cynthia Lord reads this, she’s going to think I’m crazy. Or actually stalking her. Of course, I’m not stalking her. I think.

Last year, Cynthia Lord was a keynote speaker at the NESCBWI conference. She seemed so nice (the kind of nice that makes you want to be her friend) and I admired her story. Ms. Lord’s Saturday talk moved me to tears. And on Sunday for an interview, she’d brought her Newbury Medal, sending it out to the audience to make a wish on it. My wish still hasn’t come true, but I’m holding out hope.

At the same conference, she autographed my book. Afterwards, I read it and realized what all the fuss was about. I wrote a post about it:

One day, I decided to check her blog. I commented about my post and provided a link. You know what? She commented back. And on my post, I provided a link to her post along with our comments:

As I stated in Friday’s post, at this year’s conference, I planned to take a workshop on school visits even though I don’t have an agent, let alone a book to promote. Since there wasn’t much else that interested me on Sunday afternoon, I decided to take it anyway for possible future school visits. And as I wrote in the last post… Cynthia Lord.

Imagine my surprise on Friday when I came to the registration desk and found out I’d be the “Handler” for that two-hour intensive workshop. Being a Handler meant I’d check that people were registered for the course at the door, pass out any handouts, introduce the speaker(s) if needed, and provide anything the speaker(s) may need. By the time of the workshop, I wasn’t nervous because I’d already been a Handler (and made a mess of it) the previous day.

The workshop run by Cynthia Lord and Toni Buzzeo was awesome. Being a parent on a school art committee, a writer, and a teacher, I could see school visits from a variety of perspectives.

As a parent who has set up author/illustrator visits (for Gareth Hinds, Noah Z. Jones, Laya Steinberg, Paul B. Janeczko, and Matt Tavares), I was familiar with contracts and author requests. It was interesting to hear it from Cynthia and Toni’s perspectives.

As a writer, I could see how visits could be a lot of pressure and why authors need to plan ahead of time to ensure a smooth visit. Equipment provided by the school and writer had to be considered. So did number of talks, number of kids at the talks, and the lengths of the talks (depending on grade). Also, what types of “props” the writer should bring.

As a teacher, especially a sub, the idea of being thrown in unfamiliar situations was not a foreign concept. And the suggestions were EXACTLY how I handle myself when students first walk into the classroom:

Have something on screen (or in my case, the board)

Give eye contact


Smile (unless they come in with a bad attitude)

Have someone introduce you because helps transfer authority (or in my case, introduce myself)

State expectations beforehand

Their tips for dealing with behavior are also techniques I use: eye contact, scanning, proximity, and pausing. (And my patented glare.)

Another suggestion was to touch a student’s shoulder as a warning. Not only do I give a warning touch, but I also do it as reinforcement for a compliment.

Being a former teacher (Ms. Lord) and librarian (Ms. Buzzeo) these women knew about providing different tools for different types of learners, so visual and tactile were as important as auditory.

The session was scheduled to be two hours, but both writers stayed another forty-five minutes for questions. Afterwards, I asked for a picture of both of them and a picture with Cynthia Lord.

It was a satisfying ending to a wonderful conference.

Now that I have Cynthia Lord’s autograph from last year, a photo this year, saw her speak three separate times, and posted about her twice, I’m done stalking her. I’m pretty sure.


  1. There's always something to be learned at the conferences. It's interesting how so much of the advice given paralleled your subbing experiences. Did you ever imagine that subbing would give you expertise in the writing field this way?

  2. Oh wow!!!

    welcome back!!!!!

    And Look at you all Handling a workshop for these wonderful women!!

    What great pics - and it;s so lovely that you've connected with Cynthia! and Toni too. And nice parallels between setting up a classroom and setting up a writer's workshop - see you're there already!

    There's plenty of time for your wish to come true. :-)

    Take care

  3. Sounds like you had a wonderful experience. Workshops and conferences seem to hold excellent learning opportunities.
    How exciting! Take Care.

  4. It looks like Ms. Lord is well worth pursuing for her wonderful writing perspectives. By the way, you BOTH look great.

  5. I've heard it's okay to stalk those writers that motivate us to do more and be better.

    Or so I've heard. :o)

    Cynthia is likely used to the difference between fangirl and stalker. She sounds great and I'm so glad you had a great time.

  6. Sounds like it was a great experience! I'm jealous!

  7. What a fantastic networking experience for you! And no you don't look terrible, you silly, you look cute and like someone I would want to be friends with.

  8. That's very cool that you can apply subbing to doing school visits as an author. Cynthia Lord looks like a great person. I'm sure she doesn't mind the stalking. ;)

  9. Sounds like a great experience and some day you'll have your handler, lets hope they are as competent as you, great photos !

  10. Great picture! I don't know what you're talking about -- you both look nice. :) This sounds like a wonderful experience. I look forward to attending a conference one day and meeting some talented writers. And how awesome that you were a handler! Thanks for sharing!

  11. Joanne, nobody was more surprised than me I could go in there and think, "That's what I do."

    Old Kitty, thank you. I missed my blogger friends. I was wondering what they were blogging about, and thinking about all the catching up I'd have to do. What will I do when I'm gone for a week?

    Christine, I'm always amazed how much I learn. And each time I go, I realize how much I've learned in the past year.

    Paul C, everyone should read her book even though it's for middle grade. It has a good chance to be a classic.

    Jackee, fangirl sounds much better. And super hero-like! But it's not as catchy as a title. "Cynthia's Fangirl".

  12. Lydia, I hope you find something like this conference.

    KarenG, thank you for the compliments. I can't wait to hear about the wedding. I'll have to check your blog.

    Angie, it's amazing because when I read her book, I realized she captured her speaking voice. Pretty impressive.

    Brigid, you didn't hear about my Handling debacle the day before. Sigh, yes I want a handler someday.

    Shelley, it was funny because my tag had a sparkly star and listed my three volunteer duties. As a result, people kept coming up to me like I could answer anything.

  13. So glad you had a great conference and what wonderful pictures! Awesome! Thanks for sharing.

  14. It looks and sounds like you had a great time. It's always cool going to things like this and realizing how much you've learned or have in common with speakers and others at the conference.

  15. B. Miller, thanks. I'll share more soon.

    Sarahjayne, you're right. I wonder how different things in my life will be and how different I'll be next year.

  16. Ooh! So exciting! Sounds like it was meant to be :)

  17. Sounds like just the right amount of stalking ;) It's funny how often tips in one area can work for all of us. Thanks for sharing.

  18. You do not look old enough to have an eleven year old kid.

    Good luck on getting published! I'm in the same boat. :)

  19. What do you mean you don't look good? You look nice in the picture! (And a bit familiar) I wonder if I've ever run into you somewhere. Hmm... I went to school in Cambridge at Longy for a number of years. Hmmm....

  20. Aww! A stalker's dream come true! I love that!!

  21. Saumya, it may only seem meant to be to one of us in that picture!

    Jaydee, I was happy to write the post because it would appeal to my writer and teacher followers.

    Amanda, you're too kind. Definitely not my youngest look. It's that overhead lighting!

    Aubrie, I used to have curly hair until I bought a flat iron. Maybe it's the blog picture? Or maybe not.

    T. Anne, I should've named the post "A Stalker's Dream Come True".

  22. Nah...I don't think you're done stalking, maybe just until the next opportunity arises. :)

    Welcome back! Sounds like you had a great time at the conference. How wonderful of those ladies to stay 45 minutes after - they both sound like wonderful people.

  23. Sounds like you had a great time! And even learned some stuff, too. Definitely a positive.

  24. Hi, Theresa! From the pics and details, it seems you had a wonderful experience at the conference. Thanks for sharing!

    If you get a spare minute, I'd love for you to check out my recent post at Head in the Clouds, dealing with "Where Are We Headed With YA Literature?"

    Hope you have a great evening! Tory

  25. this was really interesting- I'd never given thought to school visits but it sounds like there's a lot to it! And lucky duck you- rubbing elbows with THE Cynthia Lord!:)

  26. Sounds like you had an awesome trip! And brought back some priceless information to boot. Thanks so much for sharing.

  27. This is so great. I saw Cynthia Lord speak a few years ago and thought she was fantastic. Thanks for the great notes on school visits! : )

  28. Yay, you're back from the conference! I was thinking about you last weekend and wondering how it was going. Looks like you really enjoyed it - Cynthia sounds great! I can't wait to hear more about it!

  29. Susan Fields, those women must've been exhausted and had some traveling to do to return home. I learned everything I needed to know about school visits.

    Tiffany, what I like about this conference is not only the variety of workshops offered, but they're categorized beginner, intermediate, and advanced so I know which ones I'll get the most out of.

    Tory, thanks for visiting. I'll check out your post.

  30. Creepy Query Girl, with advances often low, school visits are a good way to supplement income and get name recognition. They suggested doing a few for free or for little and then asking those school librarians to write recommendations and post it somewhere.

    Shannon, thanks. I'll be sharing more information soon.

    Molly Hall, it's nice to hear from someone who heard Cynthia Lord speak too.

    Hope the notes were helpful.

    Talli, I'll pass on more information soon. I woke up at 5:00 am fretting about the guest post I need to write!

  31. Conferences are always great. Glad you got to learn a lot and bring back all of that.
    Great pics. Toodles!

  32. Sounds like it was a very positive experience Theresa. Am envious that there are so many conferences/workshops in the U.S. It would be good to connect with other writers a little more here too.

  33. Mr. Stupid, I like conferences. Even one that I didn't love provided some useful information or connections.

    Olive, you should start a conference in Ireland. It sounds like Europe has a deficit of opportunities for writers to meet and learn.

  34. Sounds like a wonderful experience! Lucky you with a full weekend of networking and handling. I am sure Cynthia Lord is delighted with your interest in her.

  35. Ann, it was a full weekend. Hopefully Cynthia is delighted (seeing the humor in it) and not freaked out!

  36. Sounds like you had a wonderful experience at the conference. I wouldn't say you were stalking Cynthia. I would think she would be flattered.
    Have a good evening.

  37. Hehe... glad you had such a good time! I'm sure she won't be worried until you start showing up outside her house. :)

  38. Choices, I'm sure I'm not the only one.

    Have a good evening too!

    India, I guess I'm not a good stalker because I haven't even tried to find her house. She doesn't have to worry about that!