I’m thinking back on my own career as I get ready to take this trip. I’m considering all the ways that I learned the ropes of the publishing business and how this organization was part of that journey. No organization can provide you with everything, but my membership with SCBWI was a first important step for me. It was my declaration, I think, that I was a writer.
My first SCBWI meeting was held in a church in Arlington, VA, which boasted the most uncomfortable folding chairs in the universe. Sore back notwithstanding, I remember looking around and feeling so excited that there were actually this many people in my region who actively had the same dreams about telling stories for kids. It felt safe to ask beginner questions: What’s a query? What does an agent do? I didn’t feel guilty or ashamed about the things I didn’t know or about the aspirations I had for the future.
Over the years, I’ve come to think of my SCBWI MidAtlantic friends as a literary family. Whenever I come to our conference, I feel as though it’s a reunion. It’s a place to learn and celebrate what’s happening for each of us and a place to give encouragement when this business has stomped us flat.
These days I sit on the national board of advisors for the organization. And, of course, I now have to keep my ear close to the ground on the many thorny issues, large and small that have rocked our community and SCBWI. I’m thinking in particular about how we serve authors from marginalized communities and how that might look going forward. Our conversations on the board are frank, sometimes difficult, but always in the spirit of trying to serve writers and our young readers better.
Keep us in your hearts, please, as we convene to celebrate this year’s winners and then as we sit down to learn with and from one another. The way forward is together, I think. It always is.