Children’s writers are among the best people in the world.
I always feel so pumped after an SCBWI conference. And this year’s New York experience was no different. Despite the fact that it’s been a week since the conference began, I am still inspired beyond words.
You may think it’s because of all the jaw-dropping talent who delivered keynote speeches, like Chris Crutcher, Cassandra Clare and Kathryn Erskine.
You may think it’s because attendees were rewarded not only with a surprise announcement from Jane Yolen, but also with an impromptu visit from Henry Winkler.
You may think it’s because of the incredible breakout sessions and panels, led by industry experts, who both filled and expanded our minds.
And you’d be right.
But it’s so much more.
It’s that first warm welcome from Lin Oliver and Stephen Mooser. The anticipation of reconnecting with your writer buddies. And the promise of making new ones.
It’s the people.
Four years ago, I was a first-time, rather timid attendee. WHEN A DRAGON MOVES IN was just a dream then, tucked into my briefcase for the Intensives. I felt lost in a sea where everyone seemed to know everyone else. Everyone seemed confident. Knowledgeable. Published.
But then, something – someone – wonderful happened. While waiting on line for the bathroom (also a huge part of the SCBWI NY experience), I happened to recognize a nametag, or rather, a screen name added to a nametag. It belonged to the incredibly talented, effervescent Kimberly Sabatini (author of the soon-to-be-released TOUCHING THE SURFACE * squeee *!!!), with whom I had "spoken" on Verla Kay’s fantastic children’s writer message board (the Blue Board) so many times!
At the risk of sounding cliché, everything changed. Although Kim and I didn’t see each other for but a fleeting moment at that conference, she made me realize something very important:
I’m not alone. I am among FAMILY.
SCBWI is our community, or in Kim’s words, our “tribe”. It’s the knowledge that you’re not alone in a pursuit that is so often solitary. It’s a connection with people – with friends – who will guide you, support you, inspire you and hold you accountable…not only to produce, but to deliver your best.
It may seem like a tight group at first glance. Admittedly, the bonds are strong. But like the scene in The Grinch where every Who down in Whoville clasps his/her hands around the tree - only to break apart to let that sleigh through, the SCBWI circle opens again and again for new members to join, to feel welcome, to share.
Kim is now one of my best friends in the world. And I can’t even count the number of other wonderful folks I have since bonded with over the years, over the conferences. Some are published; some (to coin Lin Oliver’s phrase) are pre-published. Yet we all come together at SCBWI.
That’s why my head and heart are so full. That’s why I’m so inspired and pumped. That’s why I’m already signed up and looking forward to the next conference.
Will you be there?