If you’re like me, you’re seeking positivity anywhere you can find it these days. Thankfully, the writing community is one of the most encouraging support systems I’ve ever encountered, and they have not disappointed when it comes to offering humor, inspiration, reality checks and a much-needed distraction during the uncertainty accompanying a global pandemic.
This weekend alone, I tuned in to the FREE Everywhere Book Fest, listening to award-winning authors like Jason Reynolds, Marie Lu, Jacqueline Woodson, Meg Medina, Gail Carson Levine, Linda Sue Park and so, so many others talk about craft, books and all that I adore. The online festival introduced me to debut authors, as well, and my only complaint is that I didn’t have enough money in my bank account to buy every single one of their books on the spot. The authors and illustrators featured in the festival offered insight into writing relatable characters children and teens can see themselves in, the importance of diverse books, and the events, people or places that inspired their stories. And they did so from their living rooms or bedrooms, speaking from the heart to people like me about how they’ve been staying focused in recent weeks on the important role we play in sparking the imagination of the next generation so they can, as Linda Sue Park said in the historical fiction panel, save the world and figure out what kind of mark they’re going to leave on it.
If you missed the festival, don’t fret. The organizers archived all of the keynote speakers and panel discussions on their YouTube channel, so you can catch up here.
In addition to the festival, I’ve spent the past month Zooming in to the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators’ digital workshop series. I’m pleased to say that one of the silver linings to self-quarantining during the COVID-19 outbreak is that my normally over-scheduled life slowed down enough for me to finish the first draft of my first historical fiction novel. Hooray! I had always heard the advice that you should take a break from your manuscript before starting the revision process, so author Kate Messner’s info-packed workshop on revision came at the perfect time. She delivered, and then some (and then some more in a follow-up Q&A session). I’ve watched three of the SCBWI workshops so far, and they have been a welcome ray of sunshine and valuable source of information during a time that could easily be discouraging for so many people.
As writers, we often intentionally shut ourselves off from the rest of the world to dig deep into the psyches of our characters or to simply get the words onto the page. It’s important, however, to stay connected to those who ground us during those times and now more than ever. Aside from my family, my fellow WriteOwls and other members of my writing group are those people. I have spoken nearly every day to at least one of them, and we are participating in virtual “write-ins” three days a week. At 8 a.m. on those three days, I text a group chat a reminder that it’s time to write. Then, at 10 a.m., we check in with one another to see how we did. The routine and accountability are a winning combination.
If you’re not as lucky as I am to have such an amazing group of writers to see you through this time – or any time, truly – spend a few minutes searching online or across social media platforms. I promise you’ll find your people. They’re out there waiting for you and everything precious, unique and valuable you have to offer. When you find them, their arms and hearts will be open, welcoming you to the home you never knew you were missing.