Meet the Author Dinner with Ruta Sepetys
Guest post by JP McCormick, Tokyo, Japan
On March 5th, I had the good fortune to sit next to the award-winning, NYT-bestselling author Ruta Sepetys at SCBWI Japan's Meet the Author Dinner in her honor. Aside from the rare opportunity to hear such a seasoned and successful writer, I was particularly excited to meet someone who loved my swampy, faraway home of New Orleans as Ruta had shown with her latest book, Out of the Easy. The fact that it was Mardi Gras night back in Louisiana just made the evening all the more auspicious. Ruta was every bit as friendly and gracious as I had hoped, and was as eager to learn about us as we were about her. Over dinner and drinks, she worked her way around the table, asking each of us about our own projects, our histories, our favorite writers and illustrators. As the questions and conversation continued, I completely forgot about the sheets of pouring rain outside, my soaked feet, and my 5:00 a.m. conference call that crept closer and closer. My attention was solely fixed on Ruta and her stories about inspirations, methods, and her thoughts on the art and business of children's literature.
Ruta made me feel especially welcome as the group's newest member and aspiring writer. While she deftly fielded an array of questions from our more seasoned writers and artists ("What is the nicest way to break up with an agent?" was my favorite one), she didn't miss a beat as she shifted gears to address my more basic, neophyte queries ("What's an agent?"). When Ruta asked me to talk about my own work, which is influenced by the time I've spent in Central Asia and the Middle East, I was struck by how easy she was to talk to. After a few minutes of rambling, I quietly told myself to shut up so as not to take up any more of the group's time, but she was just as inquisitive about my steady battle of draft revisions as I was about her international book tours. By the evening’s end, my iPhone bristled with notes about critique groups, authors to research, mentoring opportunities, and web designers, and I had gained a new respect for media training and the power of YouTube book promotional shorts (the promo video on her website for Out of the Easy is an exemplar model).
By this time, Ruta is probably already in the United States, hard at work. I hope she finds her way to New Orleans soon. I've asked my friends at Napoleon House to have a cold Pimms cup and a hot muffuletta sandwich waiting for her. After all the insights, inspiration, and encouragement I got from her, a proper drink and a good Southern meal is the least I can do to repay the kindness.
JP McCormick writes books for children and young adults inspired by his travels through the Middle East and Asia. He lives in Tokyo with his wife, Masami.