FOUR TAKEAWAYS FROM LOS ANGELES
I’ve just returned from the annual Society of Children’s Book & Illustrators summer conference in Los Angeles. Here are four quick reflections on what I carried away from the meetings and encounters there.
What an amazing opportunity to hear and see how creative minds like Don Tate and Drew Daywalt and Jon Klassen work. I thank them for sharing their journeys, their insights, and their struggles through the completion of a project. Thanks too for reminding me to follow my heart—to listen to that inner voice that makes my story, my creation unique and relevant in this ever-changing world. They helped reaffirm that we SCBWI members–our words, pictures, story may be just the one needed by a young struggling mind, searching for answers, for hope, for laughter, for light. They reminded me to believe that I [we] can make a difference in one child’s life.
The conference was overflowing with storytime celebrities around every corner. When I spied Richard Peck at lunch and met Bruce Coville and Arthur Levine at a small group gathering, I was awed. To hear my heroes Pam Munoz Ryan or Linda Sue Park speak is humbling and amazing. I heard agents and editors, writers and illustrators—each helpful and inspiring, all come to life! I felt sometimes as if I’d gone down the Rabbit Hole and might meet Alice on my next elevator ride.
I was reminded by these celebrity book gurus that being creative is scary—over and over again with each new attempt. It would be so much easier to hide away in a safe place rather than expose myself to rejection time after time. That staying strong requires the hide of an elephant—and by the way, I felt an elephant’s hide once with hairs like a bristle brush. And even though every breath an author or artist breathes says “Like me—like my creations, please!” that we must be prepared to hear “No! No! No!” over and over again. The super important point to remember is that the refusals do NOT mean the end—unless we let them. We MUST NOT let them!!!
What an amazing place the SCBWI Conference is! And I’m not just talking about the over-the-top Hollywood art deco glam of the Biltmore where this year’s conference was held. I was able to hang out with pals old and new. To forge friendships while discussing plot and characterization and the word puzzle challenge of picture books. To share critique horror stories over a glass wine and jubilation at lunch for a friend’s starred Kirkus review news. To hug and to laugh and to sigh. To relish shared passions and dreams and struggles. To know that we all are part of a special tribe who place the importance of children’s literacy paramount in our lives. We are SCBWI!