For a writer of children’s books, attending a conference for children’s writers and illustrators is like going to Disney World is to a child. Where else can you find so many other adults who are excited about reading and writing children’s books!? Being involved as a volunteer heightens the excitement even more. This past week-end I attended the MO SCBWI Fall Conference for children’s writers and illustrators at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, MO.
When looking for some inside scoop about Krista Marino, editor at Delacorte Press, for my introduction, I found an interview by newswoman Nancy Churnin who asked the question, “What made you want to be an editor?” Krista’s answer was this:
“I love to read, but more than that, I love to escape. I love the idea that the fantastical could be real, that there’s more to the world than what you see around you, and that a story can take you there. It can transport, it can transform, it can soothe, or inspire. A story and a book can change you. How could I not want to be a part of that??”
Listening to the speakers as they told us how they came to be editors, agents and authors of children’s literature, there seemed to be a common thread among those who were there—they did not start out to be where they are now.
Regina Brooks, founder and president of Serendipity Literary Agency, studied engineering in college and has a degree in aerospace engineering. She wanted to be an astronaut. After taking a publishing class at Howard University she switched to children’s publishing, and later became a literary agent.
Lori Kilkelly graduated from college with a degree in speech communication. She later received her post graduate degree from the Denver Publishing Institute and went on to become one of two agents for children’s authors at Rodeen Literary Management.
Dan Santat, illustrator and author of children’s books, graduated from college with a degree in microbiology and was accepted into dental school before he had the courage to tell his father that he wanted to be an artist, not a doctor. His father was very supportive of his decision and Dan went on to graduate from the Art Center College of Design.
Matt De La Pena, children’s author of Young Adult books for teens and reluctant readers, secretly wrote poetry in high school. He had no goals to attend higher education, and when he was accepted into college on a sports scholarship, he had already succeeded by becoming the first family member to go to college. College was where he became a reader. Having been brought up to feel no emotion, reading gave him a ‘secret place to feel.’
Lisa Yee, author of middle grade and young adult books for children, wrote ads and other things before turning to children’s books. Attending an SCBWI conference for children’s writers and illustrators was a turning point that changed her outlook.
Judy Young, children's author, received her degree in speech and language pathology. She taught in the public schools, frequently using poetry to help her students improve their writing skills in special language classes and regular classes. She continued to work as a teacher while pursuing her writing, and eventually retired from teaching to become a full-time author.
Nancy Polette has been an educator for over 50 years. She has taught students in Kindergarten through 8th grade, and continues to teach as a professor of education at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, MO. During this time she has also had over 150 books published, including two novels for middle grade and two picture books. School Library Journal describes her as “an educator with imagination, creativity, and an appreciation for the intelligence of children.”
My own background is in nursing. My favorite field is pediatrics—and I especially loved being a school nurse. It was not until I had five of my six children that I decided to try my hand at writing for children. I wrote while raising my kids and working part time as a nurse.
Other children’s writers that I know have been, or still are, a doctor, a dentist, a zoologist, a veterinarian, an accountant, a farmer, parents, teachers and librarians.
So what makes a person turn to writing for children? For me, sometimes I think that I just don’t want to grow up! But I imagine that it has a bit more to do with our love of reading, and our love for children.
A book can make a difference. Krista said it so well—“…It can transport, it can transform, it can soothe, or inspire. A story and a book can change you.” It opens up a world of possibilities to a child. And how could I not want to be a part of that!