I’m rushing to type this and then head to the airport for the SCBWI winter conference, where I’ll have the privilege of introducing some winners of this year’s Golden Kite and Sid Fleischman Awards.
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.
I’ve been away from social media since November so that I could make some headway on my next novel. Every now and then I’d peek, but I have to admit that it was restful to go quiet for a while and focus on work and home.
With Eliot Schrefer and the students we met in workshop during residency at Hamline
So, what’s 2019 been so far? I’m just back from my residency at Hamline University in Minnesota, where I’ve been teaching as part of the MFA in Children’s Writing program with some of my favorite people. It’s 11 days of very cold temps; yes, it was minus 2 one morning. But it was also a really beautiful experience of coming together with talented new voices and with star colleagues whose work has been shaping the kidlit landscape in ways that I love and admire. If you’ve ever thought about an MFA, especially you Latinx writers, please consider us. I promise you that a warm coat will do the trick. If you want to know more, you can message me or – if you’re going to be at SCBWI in NYC next month, I’m happy to chat with you there during one of our breaks and tell you what I know.
To warm my bones after the big Minnesota chill, I’ve headed to the YANovCom at the Millbrae Library in San Mateo County. What can I say? California is so beautiful. I’m not here often because I’m way on the east coast, and six hours on a plane always stinks. But it’s gorgeous here. I’ll be at three schools today, Jan 25, with my wonderful librarian escort, Armando Ramirez. (Hi Summit Everest, Hoover Middle, and Sequioa HS!) Then it’s off to the conference tomorrow to meet readers and old friends. If you’re local, I hope you’ll come.
OK – I have to dash. Here is a sweet picture of my dog and me with my daughters enjoying some time together. No reason. Just things I love. I’ll check in soon!
Hugo in his favorite spot.