Up until then, I'd never heard the un-pronouncable acronym SCBWI - which stood for the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, an organization that, it turns out, Lin and Stephen Mooser had started - but Lin convinced me it was a good thing. I joined SCBWI, pronounced it letter-by-letter, and have been a member ever since.
At that very first conference, I met the man who would become my editor, Arthur A. Levine. He thought the t-shirt I was wearing was funny and offered me a deal on the spot! Nah. That's a fib. But I did get to talk with him and decided that I'd like to work with him (as did about 973 of what I believe were 974 attendees there. No comments about number 974, please).
I was rejected by Arthur and many other lovely editors who I met at SCBWI events for years. What a fantastic organization, being responsible for allowing me to experience rejection! Yay! :-)
I also learned incredible amounts about children's literature from gifted speakers, fellow attendees, and, well, everyone I met. And I could go on for hours with stories of great (fanboy!) conversations (with Lee Bennett Hopkins! Sid Fleischman!), but I'll (Ashley Bryan! Linda Sue Park!) spare you.
In 2006, this blog went viral and into the New York Times (more on that soon, by the way). I ended up getting a book deal, and yes, it was with Arthur... for what became The 14 Fibs of Gregory K., a novel that is, as they say, hot off the presses.
The deal... this book... the ability to write this book... I don't think any of it would've happened without SCBWI. For that I'm incredibly grateful.
But you know what I'm even more grateful for? The tribe.
In the years before and since my deal, it has been the people I've met in SCBWI - at local, regional and national events - who have sustained me, taught me, advised me, and given so generously of ideas and support. I kid you not when I say that because of SCBWI, I have hundreds of friends I never would've had... and they are great people.
When I try to describe my SCBWI experience to folks in different lines of work... they understand it intellectually, but have no point of reference for it emotionally. Maybe it's because we all share a passion for and understanding of the power of what we do - after all, how many of us were touched by, empowered by, intrigued by, shaped by, or saved by books as a kid? Or maybe we just happen to all be really nice and smart and fun, too. Probably, it's a bit of both.
Whatever the reasons, though, I'll take it. So thanks Lin and Steve, everyone in the main office, and all the volunteers that keep SCBWI going strong. I'm so grateful to be part of the tribe... and I look forward to celebrating children's literature with y'all for years to come.