Monday, November 30, 2009

It’s a small world at Mid-Atlantic SCBWI Fall Conference

The conference has a very homey, small world feel. The fact you’re jammed into a church assembly hall doesn’t detract from the warm, friendly atmosphere. Everyone is so friendly, like we all came from the same hometown. You could strike up a conversation with anyone – a fellow aspiring author or illustrator, an agent or even a famous writer. The organizers go out of their way to assure you are as comfortable as possible, like you are an invited houseguest.

But for me it was a small world in many other ways.

I met the local chair for SBWI. A new position, our area has finally gotten enough members to warrant a chairperson. Turns out I had met her before at the school where I teach. I am her daughter’s art teacher. Small world.

Ran into my old friend Caroline who lives just 45 minutes down the road from me. I have known her for twenty plus years but we seldom see each other. I had been expecting to see her there. Only recently had we discovered we both were writing for children. Small world.

Caroline introduced me to one of her critique group members. Christa is a scratchboard artist and lives in my hometown of Williamsburg. I mentioned to her I was about to do some scratchboard art with my fifth graders. I asked her if she might be interested in coming to do a workshop for us. Small world.

As a volunteer for the book signing committee I was assigned to help Patricia R. Giff. This Newberry Honor Award author is one of the most personable people I have ever met. We had barely gotten started when I explained to her that I had never done anything like this before. She assured me I was doing fine. After switching seats, turns out she is left-handed, we got into a groove. It wasn’t long before she said to me, “Are you sure you’ve never done this before?” Each and every person who came up to the table got her undivided attention. She took her time and made you feel like she was ready to sit down and have tea with you. A wonderful experience, one I’m not likely to forget. Again, it left me feeling like it was a small world.

By the end of the conference I felt like part of a community who shared aspirations, triumphs and low points. I highly recommend this conference for the feeling of camaraderie, the injection of inspiration and for the great contacts you make.

I never expected that the children’s writing community would have such a small world feel.


Amy Tate said...

What a wonderful tribute to SCBWI. Believe it or not, that's how I felt in New York too. I look forward to the day when the Roanoke group can come up for a visit!

Sarah said...

I so agree, Joan. The conference reminded me of how great the community of children's writers and illustrators is.

Amy, I've so wanted to go to the main conference in New York! When did you go?