I was in a cold sweat. It was my first SCBWI conference AND my first professional critique. I’d had various relatives read my manuscript, but that was about it. I was afraid I would lose my lunch – and I haven’t done that since the second grade, knock on wood. ( 24 years and going strong! Woo!)
Aside from the general fear that it would’t go well, I felt guilty for spending the money on myself when I was staying home with my kids full-time. But then I realized that the savings bond my great-grandmother gave me at my birth had finally come to maturity. I cashed it in, hoping to make Grammom Klopp proud – though being a child of the Great Depression, she probably would have used it to pay the water bill and buy toilet paper. Anyway, I was going to use it to pay for my very first writer’s conference and professional critique (!!!) and I just hoped nobody would say “Uh, you should have spent your money on toilet paper.” I got up before the crack of dawn and drove to Maryland to find out if I was crazy. (Giving myself that pep talk alone in the car probably didn’t help with the not-looking-crazy thing, though.)
I was scheduled for a critique with the lovely Edie Hemingway. Edie, I don’t know if you remember this or not, but I want you to know that your encouragement and kind words made all the difference. I felt suddenly brave! You made me feel like a writer. You made me feel not-crazy. THANK YOU for that!
After coming home from the conference, I decided to get more involved in my local chapter of SCBWI. I’ve since learned the art of a critique, and come to cherish the questions, concerns, and comments that critique partners give. I’ve found an amazing critique group that gives me feedback, therapy, and friendship. I can even get through a pro critique without fear of breaking my 24-year-no-vomit streak! Go me! And now, as I work through agent revisions and look forward to editors’ notes, I still think of Edie’s gentle gift of encouragement that sent me on my way to believing I could do this for real.
Thinking about the “stepping stones” on your writing/illustrating journey, has anyone given you a similar gift? Please share in the comments. And don’t forget to tag/tweet/e-mail them! The kind words matter!