Month: August 2014

face blind

Standing at the registration table at a writing conference I overhear famous author #1 say to famous author #2, “I’m face blind. I can’t remember a person to save my soul.”

Prosopagnosia, also called face blindness, is an impairment in the recognition of faces.  According to  with research centers at Dartmouth College, Harvard and University College London, this is a real thing. [They even have a newsletter!] To quote further: It is often accompanied by other types of recognition impairments (place recognition, car recognition, facial expression of emotion, etc.) though sometimes it appears to be restricted to facial identity. Not surprisingly, prosopagnosia can create serious social problems. Prosopagnosics often have difficulty recognizing family members, close friends, and even themselves. They often use alternative routes to recognition, but these routes are not as effective as recognition via the face.

When ever anyone, famous or infamous, makes a statement like the famous author #1, I always have to wonder if it is a real diagnosis, or an excuse of sorts, “I am so busy I can’t remember who you are, you all are a blur, so I am face blind.” As in, I looked it up in Google and it’s a real thing so I’ll just use that. In a Google Search, this even excuses Brad Pitt, who, according to the article, is undiagnosed, but uses this term.

I don’t. Have face blindness, that is. If anything I have the opposite, ‘super-recognizers’ a study called it, maybe almost total face recognition, like a program. It is annoying, to remember and acknowledge people who have no idea who you are.

There are all these quirky, legitimate and yes, maybe undiagnosed disabilities.  Akin but perhaps not as invasive as a learning disability like dyslexia.  I don’t want to call them aliments, or illnesses, because people with Prosopagnosia have perfectly wonderful full lives. More than likely they are excused by their friends and ignored by others who are offended by their unknowable, unseeable disability. That a serious diagnosis of Prosopagnosics can often involve difficulty recognizing family members, close friends, and even themselves, is scary. Imagine not being able to recognize yourself? 

I think the part of the conversation between famous author #1 and famous author #2 that was somewhat annoying was the sort of flip, offhand, casual way the diagnosis was put into the public place, more as an excuse than a significant disability.

I sometime wonder about the things we worry about now, face blindness being one of them. And I can’t help but wonder about a character with other, different, but still significant cognitive disorders. Hmm…off to write!

make every word count

In HOW I LIVE NOW, Meg Rosoff does that. The book is sparse, stark, and so is the topic and detail. Yet, without fail, we are in the moment. It is a stunning accomplishment that. And, that it is about dystopian times when we have not only long stories but trilogies filling the booksellers shelves, is part of the attraction of the book.

At the  LA SCBWI Conference, in her keynote address, THE HOW OF IT Linda Sue Park talked about exactly that, making every word count. Maxing out words. Ripping away the words that do not bring full weight to the manuscript.

She counsels us to put away our work, and bring it out after a month [not the first time I heard this in this conference]. And when we do, we can be amazed at how it looks now. She provided tools, remember this was a keynote, in the ballroom, twelve hundred people, and it worked like a small workshop.

  • Some rules included watching for orphans in paragraphs
  • take out all the narrative in a dialogue and reinsert only where needed
  • read aloud
  • think of each paragraph as a ‘thought unit’.

But most of all, remember we are bombarded with words. They are cheap currency. We are not paid like Dickens. Make words special.


What I love about the international SCBWI conferences:

  • I can attend. Just attend. I can go to all the keynotes, panels, breakouts, socials and extras I want. I AM NOT IN CHARGE! And that is awesome.
  • I look for craft based presentations and wowzer! just sit and listen to keynotes.
  • THEN
  • I can also line up ‘acts’ from the big show to play in the sticks, i.e., in the Carolinas region 🙂  This is an opportunity to meet, greet, have a conversation, float an idea about an intensive or conference participation and try to get a commitment.

It’s a tricky thing, being in LA or in NYC, for that matter. There are thousands, well not really, but sometimes the red-lanyard club does seem highly ubiquitous. We talk a lot on our list, exchange ideas, complain, share problems, seek solutions and just generally give support. But, well, there is nothing like face to face to give the added boost to community building. And, we aren’t all even there. We have eighty (?) regions, international and domestic, in SCBWI and a regional team for each one.

These international conferences give time to interact with the home office staff and get to know them. This year, a lot of that interaction time went to the back end of the new website, specifically the registration program which many of us have been turning gray over. Alright, so I was already there, but you get the idea!

This year was a WowZer of a year, actually the years build and they are all WowZer years.  Meg Rosoff, who writes YA like a picture book, making every single solitary word count. Judy Schachner, an author/ illustrator, although those are such limited word choices for her. Stephen Chbosky who gave us a view of classic, Justin Chanda confirming Picture Books are not dead, and the life cycle of children book genres is circular, Aaron Becker, yes, illustrators do some of the best keynotes and even sing, and I could go on and on. And we aren’t even into the breakouts yet.


Teresa Fannin, Diandra Mae & Bonnie Adamson

I had a special project this year. My sidekick was not able to travel to LA for all the right reasons, which means she was working on finishing up a books with Atheneum. #inlawithoutbonnie was the hashtag on my Facebook account. Bonnie actually went to a lot of places from the registration desk, to telling jokes with Chelsea, to conversations with agents, the illustrator social, the non-fiction social and the international social. Here’s Bonnie with Diandra Mae and me at the illustrator social. 

The opportunity to go is beyond wonderful. The red-lanyard advantage to approach industry professional [writers, illustrators, editors, agents] for the region is exciting. And, the ability to live my writing life at this conference is a gift.