I'm back from one of the highlights of every SCBWI year - the Winter Conference! We survived the chill (ok, cold!) of New York City, and now that I'm home and have managed to wash the first couple of loads of laundry, I wanted to share a couple thoughts about the conference, and I need more than 140 characters in order to do it justice.
Thought 1: The community of those who write and/or illustrate for children is made up of wonderful people!
People like Ruth McNally Barshaw, author/illustrator of the Ellie McDoodle Diaries, who signed all of the Kidlet's books, and spent so much time talking and drawing with her.
People like Debbie Ridpath Ohi (above, left) who, in addition to being a crazy-talented author/illustrator, also loves boardgames! You know what we talked about at the Saturday night gala :-).
People like Henry Winkler, who when signing two of the Hank Zipzer books that he co-writes with SCBWI co-founder Lin Oliver, looked into Kidlet's eyes and said "Do you know what you are? You are powerful!"
There are breakout successes in this business, like James Dashner, who gave a keynote address to our conference on Sunday, but most people don't earn their living exclusively from writing/illustrating for kids/young adults.
Most authors and illustrators do this because of their passion for the stories they want to tell. Because they want kids to know that they are powerful, and smart, and to believe in themselves.
They want to give their readers fun and adventure. And they want to give them hope. self-confidence. strength. a glimpse of a world that's different than the one they live in.
Kami Garcia, author of Beautiful Creatures (and also for many years, a teacher) said in her keynote address
"Finding the right book at the right time can save your life."
Those who write and illustrate for children and young adults know this. They are passionate about their projects because, whether it's a blockbuster book that gets made into a movie, or a less well-known book, whether it is recommended by a librarian, teacher or friend, or stumbled upon by a young reader in a library or book store, any book can be the the book that becomes a lifeline for that child.
Thought 2: Author Journeys: some things are different, and some things are the same.
I love to hear authors (in particular, since I'm a writer) talk about their journey to publication (and beyond). What struck me after hearing Kami Garcia, Anthony Horowitz, James Dashner and Kwame Alexander* was both the differences and the similarities in their stories.
The path. Every one of these authors followed a different path to publication.
Your writing or illustrating journey is yours and it's going to be different than anyone else's.
What's the same?
They all grew as writers as they followed their path. They learned, not only about the business of being published, but about writing.
The more you write, the more you learn about writing.
Speaking of writing, we always talk about "writing a book."
I think that phrase should be changed to "rewriting a book" because good books aren't just written. They are REwritten, over and over again. A tweak here, a change there, polishing this and cutting that, until, finally, you have a book, the book, that is ready for an agent or an editor. It's not the book you wrote. Whether it's a lot or a little, it has changed since then and now it is the book that you rewrote. And then of course, the book is rewritten, yet again, until finally it's the best possible book it can be and that, that book is the one that finally makes it into the hands of the reader. This is true whether it is a 500 word picture book or an 80,000 word young adult novel.
So now I'm home. Back in the world where I cook, clean, do laundry, and take the Kidlet and the dogs to appointments.
But I'm also back in the world where I meet my writing buddy once a week for dedicated writing and rewriting time.
I'm inspired, not just by the speakers I've heard, but by the community I was a part of last weekend, to continue to write, and to rewrite. To polish and hone my stories, because someday, I hope, they will make readers smile and laugh and cry. And maybe too, they will bring readers hope, and self-confidence and strength, and a glimpse of a world that's different than the one they live in.
*if you ever, ever, ever get the chance to hear Kwame Alexander speak, do it. You will be come away moved and inspired.