I'm still feeling the resonance of the LA Conference. I've been to smaller regional conferences and always get a lot out of them. But for me, the LA conference was life changing, the way that U.C. Berkeley was life changing after I had attended a small junior college. In L.A. the air was charged with energy emitted by world famous writers and illustrators, by top agents and publishers -- and a sea of attendees (1,139, according to co-host Lin Oliver, who is also a co-founder of SCBW&I.) Lin Oliver referred to the speakers (80 of them) as "faculty". And so they were -- an incredible faculty taking time to not just impart their knowledge and wisdom, but to inspire and urge us on.
One hears about how competitive the writing market is, which can be discouraging. By temperament, most writers and artists aren't particularly "competitive". (After all, trying imagine a new world faster and better than others can is an impossible goal! That isn't how creative people approach their work.) And I noticed that even those who have won awards in the field seemed more interested in mentoring others than elbowing for a top-dog status. There was a genuine warmth between these experts. At times the conference almost seemed like a family reunion. It was a hugging faculty. Maybe this is just the world of children's writers and illustrators. And all who work with them -- the agents and editors seemed quite approachable, too (although I was still too shy this time around). For all the cautions about thousands of manuscripts flooding the market, they seemed on the side of aspiring writers and illustrators. I often read of how an agent or editor has become a particular author's friend. It's a helping-hand profession all around.
It's also true of aspiring writers I know: Those of us who create for children tend to be team players rather than competitors. We cheer each other on, and sincerely hope the best for others as well as ourselves. I count a lot on my writing buddies for realistic assessment of my work and for encouragement to keep on keeping on. I try to do the same for them. And I've received so much help from people I've met online, like Lia Keyes and Rachna Chhabria, who have guided me through the mysteries of navigating the blogosphere and have supported me in other ways as well.
Children's book writers and illustrators live in a kind and kindly world. Despite the daunting numbers out there, I think it's a lovely time to be writing for children. What do you think?