Here I am at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York, attending the SCBWI National Conference, which for me involves more direct human interaction over the course of two and a half days than I normally engage in during an entire week. Which is why today, the busiest day, I've been escaping on-and-off to my hotel room every chance I've gotten, to decompress and snatch a few minutes of alone time. Like now, for example. But I also wanted to do a quick post about something that just happened. At about 3:00 p.m., I was standing at the hotel elevators at the mezzanine level, waiting to ride to the ballroom level to try to get a good seat for Elizabeth Wein's (CODE NAME VERITY; ROSE UNDER FIRE) keynote address at 3:15. As I waited, a woman in her 60's appeared before the bank of elevators, loudly asking for someone to help her find the right one to get her to the 24th floor. I wasn't impressed with the woman's imperious tone, or by her apparent expectation that someone else was responsible for finding the correct elevator for her while she stood by, or by her explanation that if she didn't find the correct elevator, her husband would kill her. Nonetheless, I was semi-inclined to make some sort of effort for her, but before I or anyone else could do anything, who should appear on the scene but Elizabeth Wein (whom I recognized from having met her at a reading), darting in and out of elevators until she found the one the woman needed and then shepherding her onto it. And then Wein and I and some other people got on a different elevator to proceed to the ballroom level, and then once we arrived, Wein went into the room while everyone else was told to briefly wait outside until the current session had ended. While I was waiting, a woman using a walker started to try to navigate the heavy doors to the ballroom, so I hurried over to open the door for her, and who happened to be on the other side of that door and to seize it and hold it open for the woman with the walker? You guessed it. Elizabeth Wein.
Eventually, everyone entered the room, and Wein proceeded to speak about responsibility - both the legal kind and the moral kind. The gist of it was that writers for young people assume grave responsibility because they are conveying information to readers who are at impressionable stages of their lives.
It was a deeply serious presentation, and I could see attendees around me becoming restless because they were being spoken to for an hour, but not necessarily entertained as much as they would have liked. Wein got respectful, but not overwhelming applause at the end, and I couldn't help but think that if all the people attending had seen Wein doing what I had seen in the hallways before the presentation, they might have better understood what a privilege it was to hear her preaching exactly what she practices in her own life.