I expect by now you've heard, from myriad sources, how fantastic the LA11SCBWI conference was. Facebook, Twitter and the Blogsphere are F-U-L-L of posts proclaiming it's awesomeness. (However, if you haven't had your fill, there's a great post about conference survival by my mentorship-brother Bret Ballou here, and an inspiring post about tackling your fears by my mentorhip-monkey-sister Sarah McGuire here.)
So-- I'm not going to regale you with a conference recap. Instead, I want to talk about the things you take away from a conference that aren't on the program. Namely, writer friends. As Katy Longshore (GIRL IN A DIAMOND COLLAR, Viking/Penguin, Fall 2012) writes in this post, writing is a team sport. It has to be. It takes years, on the average, to get from a first first-draft to a publishing contract. And in between lie a whole lot of rejections. A LOT. Because writers tend to be an introverted bunch, we think too long and too hard about those rejections. We take them to heart, we decide we suck and, too often, we give up.
That's where our writing buddies come in. They're our team. (I used derby girls for the photo because they're super tough, just like writers.) They remind us to look for the positive in those rejection letters. They tell us how much they love our book. They share their own failures and commiserate over ours. And they're not afraid to kick us in the ass when we get too mopey and start talking about crazy stuff, like giving up and never writing again. I know; I've been on both sides of that conversation and I can tell you it's a whole lot harder to give up when people are watching.
I came away from LA with new writer friends, stronger ties with old writer friends and a new critique group. And while I credit Judy Blume, Gary Paulsen, Libba Bray, Laurie Halse Anderson and a dozen other presenters with the burning inspiration I came home with, it will be my writer friends who are there for me in December and January and February, when I decide I totally suck and I'll never write again.