Kidlit County, Little Elliot's Neighborhood

What’s In a Name?

I suppose it’s time I made it official: Elly’s name is changing to Elliot. The main reason is that there are other elephant characters in print out there who have similar names. My publisher and I do not want Elly to be mistaken for any other elephant, as he’s obviously a unique little creature. At least Elliot sounds like Elly with an extra “ot” at the end, so I may occasionally use “Elly” as a nickname in conversation. I just want to clarify now so people don’t look at me funny when I call him Elliot.

This also brings up an interesting point. When I have told people about the new name, a common reaction has been, “GASP! I thought Elly was a girl! Why did you decide to change the sex?” In actuality, Elly has always been, in my mind, a boy. However, I have never “corrected” anyone who referred to him as a she. I like that Elly has been a bit androgynous. I think that whether this character is male or female is irrelevant. It is a polka-dotted elephant. Obviously, we are in the land of fantasy right now. There are no bits that need covering, and I do not have plans for Elliot to reproduce in the series. I think it’s safe to say that Elliot’s gender is a non-issue.

I originally tried writing the story with non-gender specific pronouns. I liked that Elly naturally became a boy or a girl in different people’s minds. However, this proved too difficult. The story is not about how the character is androgynous, and playing the pronoun game called too much attention to itself. To clarify, I think a gender neutral main character would be awesome, but maybe not for this project; it would have to be the focal point of the story. That said, Elliot may have a little friend who you will meet in the first book who finds it a bit easier to be gender-neutral!

To all of you who have called Elly/Elliot a girl, please, do not apologize. You can keep on thinking about her as a she, because he doesn’t mind. Elliot has much more important things to worry about, like how he’s going to get his next cupcake!!!

Elliot is an equal-opportunity cupcake eater.

Elliot is an equal-opportunity cupcake eater.

Illustration Station, Inspiration Island, Kidlit County

The Main Event: The 2013 SCBWI Winter Conference

This past weekend was the SCBWI Winter Conference in New York. It not only marks the one year anniversary of my little blog, but is also one year since all of this book industry madness began for me!

Tomie dePaola honors this year's Tomie dePaola Award recipients. Who knew author/illustrator of one of my favorite children's books (Strega Nona) was so sassy!

Tomie dePaola honors this year’s Tomie dePaola Award recipients. Who knew the author/illustrator of one of my favorite children’s books (Strega Nona) was so sassy!

When I saw the conference schedule was only Saturday and Sunday (aside from optional intensives on Friday), I winced. Why so short?! Then I realized that it had been the same way last year, and, by the time I had made it to lunch on Saturday, I remembered just how compact and dense the little weekend was. Though I couldn’t possibly talk about everything that happened (especially since I need to get back to work), I will share my favorite highlights (for more specifics, you can check out the conference blog!).

Our opening speaker was the delightfully snarky Meg Rosoff (How I Live Now). Her speech was entitled “So When Are You Going to Write a Real Book, You Know, For Adults?” It was brilliant. She is brilliant. And her point was that books written for youth are just as important and hard to make as books written for adults. Meg eloquently told non-believers to sit-n-spin while inspiring an audience of children’s book and YA writers to be proud of their creations, and to go bravely forward against the naysayers with heads held high and middle fingers drawn because we are indeed necessary. She wins the Mike Curato Badass Award. (Ooo, maybe I should make that award a regualr thing on my blog! thoughts?) Continue reading