I am still reeling from this past weekend: a glorious three days spent with writers, illustrators, and professionals in the field of children’s literature. The NE SCBWI conference was a thorough success, and not just in my opinion.
Something was different this year. Maybe because we were enlightened by the presence of the SCBWI founders Lin Oliver and Stephen Mooser. Or perhaps it was that the writing goddess, Jane Yolen, captivated us. Whether she was speaking, walking the hallways, or signing books, she brought her brilliance, her passion, and yes, her wonderful sense of humor to the event. Add the one and only Tomie dePaola to the mix and the almighty Harold Underdown–at times sporting a Boston Red Sox hat–and . . . talk about surreal. I was in writing heaven! And on top of this, we had the opportunity to watch a screening of Library of the Early Mind. Everyone, at least in the field of writing for children, needs to see this. We were honored to have the two filmmakers present: Edward J. Delaney and Steven Withrow.
Richard Michelson had us on the edge of our seats with the story of how he became a prizewinning poet and children’s book author. I plan to visit the R. Michelson Galleries located in Northampton, Massachusetts. You should too. His speech surprised me at times, but went right to the heart. Good writing at its best.
In truth, every speaker, including all the workshop presenters, was fabulous. In between workshops, the hallways were filled with glowing comments.
My head spins from all the information I obtained, the wisdom I absorbed, and the inspiration that now fuels my writing. So much so that I have put aside my notes and let my subconscious do what it does best. As always, once I get all my new ideas on paper–thus to lessen the overcrowded feeling in my brain–I will sort through my notes and organize them accordingly. (I will blog about this actual process in the coming weeks.)
Like Whispering Pines, I plan to break up my posts on the conference, partly because I am bogged down with preparations for the upcoming New Jersey SCBWI conference. I am a committee member and volunteer, and I have lots to do before I head down Interstate 95 for Princeton, New Jersey. (For those attending the conference, I look forward to seeing you. Please seek me out to say hi if we haven’t met before!)
Thank you to the conference committee for all their diligence and deep commitment to having the best conference possible. They achieved this goal, and much more!
I am eternally grateful to the Ruth Landers Glass Scholarship committee for choosing my middle grade novel, Savannah’s Mountain, to be this year’s recipient of the award. I humbly join the list of past winners, and I promise to honor, more than ever, my commitment to writing quality children’s literature. My congratulations to all the illustrators who won at this year’s conference.
The word I will leave you with is the word I remember the most from the conference: community. It came from Lin Oliver, and I cradle that word in my soul where it keeps me warm, and not feeling so alone at those moments when I need it the most.
Community. Let the word roll off your tongue. Feel its power, it’s undying support. In the business of writing for children, we are fortunate to be a loving and sustaining community—unlike so many other professions where greed and jealousy prevail. Writing and illustrating is a solitary experience. But we are not alone. We are in this together, supporting one another, cheering one another, and encouraging our peers. Yet, we must honor the necessary process of being by ourselves. We must close the door and find that place, which takes us out on a limb, alone. Sometimes scared, but hopefully always driven to create. To create the very best that we can.
Keep that sense of community before you escape to the work that only you can write. Then turn off the phone, the internet, the fighting desire to sink your bottom into the couch and flit from site to site, from Face book to Amazon ratings, to anywhere else because you fear the empty page.
You are not alone in that fear. Yours is not the only empty page being stared at. At this very moment, all over the world, there are writers and illustrators and creators–your vast community–having those same thoughts. Fighting those same struggles.
Believe in yourself. Give the world your very best work. Create what only you can create. And always, always, feel the support of community. Know that when you reach a personal milestone your community celebrates with you. Be thankful for this. I know I am.
I will be back next week with more from Celebrating Milestones. Thanks for stopping by!