Wednesday, August 6, 2014

I'm baaaaaack!

There is no jet leg. Only brain lag. My thoughts are leap-frogging over each other, and won't settle down.

Which isn't surprising, given that I spent five days in the belly of the beast known as the SCBWI Summer Conference. Two things I learned, right away, when I was very anxious about attending for the first time: The belly was filled with a bowlful of jelly, and there was no beast to be seen––at least not a menacing or blood-thirsty one.

My voice is hoarse. From the moment I set foot in the Super Shuttle en route to the hotel to the final moment my plane taxi-ed into its gate at Sea-Tac, I was in the company, and in deep conversations, with other SCBWI-ers.

My anticipated writing jags didn't actually materialize. I listened to keynote speeches by people I cannot believe were in the same room (Meg Rosoff, Stephen Chbowsky, Maggie Stiefvater, Megan MacDonald, Linda Sue Park, Cynthia Kadohata, Judy Blume!). I added many new Facebook friends from a seriously inspiring roster of published authors and illustrators, as well as from those who, like me, hoped to get there some day. Every last one, I realized, was part of this thing a close friend of mine described many years ago as, simply, The Tribe. I didn't always get what she meant by "Tribe," until this weekend.

I am not published, but I wasn't made to feel like I was there under any cloudy or fraudulent circumstances. I felt included and welcomed and, dare I say, embraced from the beginning. I was part of a Tribe, and I had put enough positive and open-minded energy toward the whole, populous event that the magnitude of the thing and its faculty didn't sink me.

[For more detailed accounts of the stellar panels and breakout sessions, the Conference Blog Team has outdone themselves. Click here to read all about it!]

Don't get me wrong; I was overwhelmed. But in a most excellent way.

It was organized, the vibe was laid-back, and there were numerous SCBWI-WWA faces that beamed at me all weekend through the throngs. I didn't kill myself trying to attend every single panel or session, but kept to my see-practically-every keynote strategy and managed some quiet, apple-scarfing afternoons on my sunny balcony, reading my book.

Having made it through to the other side of the conference, which I now refer to affectionately as the Best Summer Camp For Grownups Ever, I can honestly say that I am so happy about the work ahead of me. I am thrilled that I have a stronger sense of direction with which to revise and gain perspective on my own manuscript.

The words of the inimitable Judy Blume, spoken humbly from the podium on the last afternoon, will always stay with me: "Be brave."

And so I will do my darndest.

––Emily Russin

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