I attended my very first SCBWI event this past weekend. It was MG/YA Day in Lancaster PA. Guest speakers included editor Rick Chillot of Quirk Books, agent Zoe Sandler of ICM Partners, middle-grade author Jennie K. Brown and young adult author Abbey Nash.
I will be honest with you; I don’t know why I went. This was an event put together by the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. (SCBWI) It was designed specifically to help Middle-Grade authors and Young Adult authors. (hence MG/YA Day) I can remember not knowing those abbreviations once upon a time. So I know I’ve come a long way from the 2nd-grade student who liked to write stories, on the other hand, am I worthy of being among those in that “society”? Was there going to be a secret handshake?
During the very long drive there, I questioned myself 100 times why I was even going. I took off work for this? But Lancaster is gorgeous in Autumn and although the drive was long it was indeed beautiful. I hit some unexpected traffic and Google maps changed my ETA. When I realized I would be late I almost turned around. Again, why was I doing this? I’ll only be a tourist, and everyone will know it.
The night before I used Google’s street view to know exactly what the place would look like so I wouldn’t be wandering around like an idiot when I got out of my car. After all, these society members have probably met here before and know where to go. It’ll be bad enough being the obvious tourist, but do I have to physically look like one too? Speaking of looks, what on earth was I to expect? Am I too old, too young, too fancy, not fancy enough? Just how bad was I going to stick out? Again, why was I doing this?
When I arrived someone told me to grab my name tag and they’d be right with me. I was relieved to see other unclaimed name tags along with my own. I started to feel better. After getting checked in I did as I was told and got some coffee and snacks. While fussing with the coffee container (alone), I overheard people talking and the conversation could have been lifted right out of one of my own. “..yeah I love my job but I really just want to write, ya know?” The woman speaking said this happily, not as a complaint; just a fact. “ok,” I thought, “these aren’t all full-time writers here. Maybe I’m not a total odd-ball after all.”
My feelings slowly changed over the next few hours. I no longer felt like a tourist who wasn’t a native to this land and didn’t really belong. Instead, I felt like a student who hadn’t yet taken this course. And it was a very good course. SCWBI did a great job putting the day together and all the speakers I heard were fantastic. As it turns out, the woman who stole a quote from my life was author Jennie K. Brown. (who’s book I purchased and look forward to reading) During her “lessons” I found out I had quite a few things in common with her. Certainly not the published author part of her life, but other small things that made me realize what I should have already known: writers are regular people. I knew this but perhaps didn’t believe it. Yes, she is much farther along in her writing career than I may ever be, but her background and beginning journey sounded very much like my own. Plus she made cookies for us.
As it turns out, it wasn’t their acceptance as a writer I needed, it was my own. Isn’t that always the way? The day was worth my time. I learned a lot, received confirmation on other thoughts/ideas I had and was challenged to bring my writing to the next level.
I don’t’ know what I thought it was that I needed before attending such an event, but I’m glad I didn’t try to work that one out. I’m glad I just got in the car and started driving. I did it for me, I did it for my stories, and it made me very happy.