The paradigm shift that began the beginning of November and culminated January 20th knocked our country on our ass. We leaned on each other to stand up and prepare for battle. Over the weeks that followed, we wrote letters. We sent tweets. We made phone calls. We marched. We fought for our friends, our families, our children. We fought for our land, our arts, our very souls.
We will continue to fight every injustice, every threat to the rights of both present and future generations. We will do this. We are compelled to do this, but it is not without cost.
We pretend our skin is thick. For many of us, especially those in the Arts—it is a fiction, a layer of ink and paint to protect our hearts from bleeding out onto the floor. As Tahereh Mafi said during her Saturday afternoon keynote at the New York SCBWI conference, “My thin skin helps me to be emotional.”
SCBWI gave us a gift this past weekend, a gift of spirit, of hope, of possibility, a gift of healing. Saturday morning, Bryan Collier embraced us with a warm, gentle hug. He cradled us while he murmured his keynote: “Let’s Just Feel.”
As SCBWI gave us the gifts of Bryan Collier, Tahereh Mafi, Tomie dePaola, and Sara Pennypacker, I wanted to give their keynotes as quotes that can be printed and posted on the wall, cut and pasted on Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Facebook, Pinterest, Snapchat, anywhere and everywhere words of hope and inspiration and collective good are needed. The list is my gift to you as SCBWI and Bryan, Tahereh, Tomie, and Sara gifted us.
His grandmother’s handmade quilts were silent gifts, seeds that were planted and took root in his art.—Bryan Collier
“Everything you’re awkward about is what makes you so special. Those are your gifts.”—Bryan Collier
“All the awkward stuff—get it out. We want you to make us feel something.”—Bryan Collier
“Your mind and spirit must be open to the fact you might need more time. Be open.” –Bryan Collier
“No matter how much you wipe it off—you’re still an artist. It is who you are.”—Bryan Collier
“That one word changes everything. Those kids—they’re waiting for you. That’s what’s at stake.” –Bryan Collier
“Your dream should be so big it should scare you.”—Bryan Collier
Talking about Knock, Knock: My Dad’s Dream for Me by Daniel Beaty Illustrated by Bryan Collier but applies to life:
“The invisible hole in boy’s soul that nobody sees—loss.” --Bryan Collier
“To an eight year old, gone is gone.”—Bryan Collier
“It doesn’t matter if it’s death, divorce, incarceration, military commitments. It’s all just GONE.”—Bryan Collier
“Knock down the doors to your dreams.”—Bryan Collier
After Bryan’s keynote, two breakout sessions, and lunch, we returned to the ballroom—our hearts lighter, fuller, but still in need of healing. Tahereh Mafi addressed the moments between the dreaming: the heartache, the rejection, the battle.
“Lean into your rejections.” –Tahereh Mafi
“100s of rejections, 5 manuscripts until one took.” –Tahereh Mafi
“You battle only 2 opponents. 1st yourself, 2nd is time.” –Tahereh Mafi
“Be gentle to yourself.” –Tahereh Mafi
“If you are here, you are brave.” –Tahereh Mafi
Her gentle, soft words nurtured our souls. By Saturday evening, amongst cupcakes, laughter and conversation with kindred spirits our hearts mended.
But SCBWI wasn’t finished with us. They wanted to give us more. Sunday morning, Tomie dePaola presented the Tomie dePaola Illustrator award for the last time, but he wanted to impart a heart of emotion to us as well.
He reminded us that we are not alone in our daily struggles.
In regards to art and writing:
“When you decide it’s your path, be brave and stick to it.” –Tomie dePaola
“Read, read, read.”—Tomie dePaola
“Don’t be afraid to be a spiritual mindful person.” –Tomie dePaola
“Ask yourself honestly why do you want to write for young children.” –Tomie dePaola
“I wish you the courage to do it in the first place, and the courage to do it again and again and again.” –Tomie dePaola
He made us laugh too… “Publishers, why the hell haven’t you given Lisa Cinelli a book?” –Tomie dePaola
By Sara Pennypacker’s closing keynote we were ready to slip back into our fictional thick skins and prepare for the outside world. She was the only speaker who directly addressed the current political state of affairs, but we were ready for it.
“If we write books for children, we need to know the state of our children’s world.”—Sara Pennypacker
“Do not allow anyone to block the river of your creativity.”—Sara Pennypacker
“Anyone who is passionate about what they do is compelled to do it.”—Sara Pennypacker
“Good stories are about things that matter.”—Sara Pennypacker
“Information, friendship, community, inspiration, and contacts—that’s what SCBWI does for us.” –Sara Pennypacker
“Sharpen your pens and brushes and go subtract a measurable drop of evil from the world.”—Sara Pennypacker
So my friends, it is time to say Goodbye. My pencil is sharpened and poised to subtract a measurable drop of evil from the world.
Sharing the writing love one letter at a time,