Shasta County (and Cottonwood in particular)is small and rural. Rodeo is big and folks drink the football koolaid, starting their tykes out playing as early as they can hold themselves up while wearing pads. At the elementary school, they have two teams that play at recess: the Eagles (those on the team) and the “Suckies,” those who have not chosen to partake in the koolaid. You get the picture.
When we moved from LA less than a year ago, one of my biggest concerns was small town thinking and the impact that would have on my ability to find critique partners as dedicated as I was, network with other writers, attend conferences, workshops and retreats and so forth. My fear was I would be sitting in the corner reviewing the local practice times (and by default by snack bar shifts) for pee wee football lest my son be ostracized at his new school with no time to write and no writers to behold.
Quite the opposite has occurred.
First, I have written more then I have ever written in my life (and been paid for it as a refreshing change from my pro bono contributions when I started three years ago). The wide open space allows my mind to open somehow, giving me more ideas then I could finish in this lifetime and the quiet to play them out. I am now choosing my projects carefully as to finish revising my YA novel, though did recently have to act on an inspiration from a horse to complete a picture book (my first nonfiction).
Next, I have discovered many talented writers here. They keep a low profile, but have published numerous books and stay true to the craft. I noticed a large number of children’s writers around and not just the kind that say, “Yeah, I’ve always wanted to write a children’s book” (which is like, EVERYBODY.)
When I saw an invitation from local SCBWI RAs Patricia Newman and Erin Dealey to start a schmooze in the local area, I thought, why not? A few of us can meet and network. I sent a response with a venue (local joint where I write sometimes) and time. I got a response saying Linda Boyden wanted to do it, too. Linda and I had met through email correspondence before, and I was fairly certain she and I were the only SCBWI members in the North State. I was happy to work with her to find a time that worked for both of us, and the gig was on. That night it posted on SCBWI’s site.
“At least we’ll have two people there,” I thought. “Three, if you count Carly.”
I serve on the board of Writers Forum, a writers group in Redding with very strong writers. At the Thursday night board meeting, I asked how they felt about promoting the SCBWI schmooze as many members wrote for children and I thought it would be good if Linda and I had company. They were enthusiastic about the idea of cross-pollination and about promoting writing whatever the type. So I gave them some fliers to hand out at the Saturday meeting.
On Friday Carly called from The Elegant Bean. “I have someone standing in front of me who just came over from the library. Apparently, the SCBWI schmooze was all the talk at toddler story time and there are a number of people that want to come. Do you have fliers?”
Next, I got an email from the RAs telling me we had 8 confirmed schmoozers. (This all before the fliers even went out at the Writers Forum meeting.) Then, in my phone call just now with Maxine she said, “At my writing group last Monday, there were five people who said they wanted to come.”
Children’s writers, they are emerging! I am thrilled to know that interest is so high and encouraged I will have new writer friends with whom to drive to the conferences in Sacramento and San Francisco. Who knows? Maybe we might even have a workshop in our own neighborhood?
And, by the way, our son will NOT be playing football.
SCBWI Schmooze: Sunday – November 15, 1:00 – 2:00
The Elegant Bean (or next door at the Eagles Nest if we’re too many)
20633 Gas Point Road
Cottonwood, CA 96022
firstname.lastname@example.org for more info