Posted by: Kathy Temean | June 18, 2012

New Yorker Turned Jersey Girl

JERSEY GIRL by Leslie Zampetti

“I could have danced all night, I could have danced all night. And still have danced some more…”

I’m channeling Audrey Hepburn in “My Fair Lady,” except instead of dancing all night, I could still be attending NJ SCBWI’s 2012 Summer Conference. This New Yorker may be well and truly converted to a Jersey girl, as last weekend was a treat, a treasure, and a truly great experience. I’m still processing everything I learned and the fabulous feedback I received at my critiques and pitch, so the focus of this post will be Dan Yaccarino’s keynote speech.

Well, the man knows how to start things off with a bang! Dynamic, energetic, and funny as all get-out. But you knew that from his work, right? Well, he’s also a force for good, as the thrust of his speech can be boiled down to . . .


Unlike Mrs. Nancy Reagan, Dan wants you to just say yes. He told us all about how he began his career and how at every opportunity for something new and different, he just said, “Yes!” (And “It’s at home,” but that’s another matter.) Every time he was faced with the chance to take a risk, make the plunge, further his art and his writing, Dan said YES. Dan is all about making that leap of faith and challenging oneself. You know what? He’s really darn tootin’ successful!

A second thread of Dan’s was that, while accepting those challenges and pushing yourself professionally, he also continued to work on his personal interests and art. Several of his slides during his presentation were images of artwork that was completely different from what one expected but oddly familiar. Dan demonstrated how his continuing personal work influences his professional work, inspiring it and informing it, and in many cases, driving it.

A rousing presentation with a well-deserved standing ovation, Dan set the tone for two days of sheer writing glory. Workshops, networking, critiques, pitches, and most of all, making new friends. I’m still a little tired, to be honest. So much to take in and absorb and use. I’m still floating on a cloud from the valuable feedback I received on my work – encouraging and effective. Before I can lose the tone, I’m back to work. After all, if I want to take advantage of the interest I was shown, I better finish that MG fantasy I was pitching. Deep breath, and . . . Rear in gear. Butt in seat and back to work. I’m going to build that world and re-imagine that picture book. Going to polish my rhyme so it sparkles every time. (Boy, did I need that workshop!)

So, take the plunge with me. Let’s leap off the cliff together and say, “YES!”

Picture is of Leslie at BEA, showing off EgmontUSA’s new Vordak book.  I didn’t realzie it was out.  The first one was hilarious.  Leslie thanks for sending your article in for everyone to read.  I do think it gives a flavor of how much everyone enjoyed the conference and your article is just about the start of the conference – it kept getting better.

Talk tomorrow,



  1. Great article, Leslie! Dan WAS great and so was the conference 🙂 I love this pic of you, too. Vordak is the best evil Superhero ANYwhere! 🙂


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