This past weekend I attended a fabulous writers’ retreat through the Ventura/Santa Barbara SCBWI chapter. I spent Thursday and Friday packing my book bag (loaded with 13 critiqued mss for my fellow group members, my notebooks, first pages, complete mss in case my dream miracle occurred and an editor asked me if I had the complete ms on me so she’d have reading material on the plane) and my personal belongings (still managed to forget my robe–nighttime sprints to the bathroom way down at the end of the hall were interesting, to say the least).
We spent two days together–40 attendees and 3 editors. We read, discussed, mentally cheered for each other, felt each other’s disappointments, joined in each other’s hopes, helped each other to resolve our story glitches, all as we reviewed our precious works. Sunday morning, as I was in my room readying myself for the final push, I-Pod a blazing, I was dancing. Yup, dancing. Right there in my tiny little dorm room. I couldn’t help it. I LOVE being with other writers and kidlit industry folks! It’s so uplifting (and exhausting!). There’s an energy that children’s writers share that I’ve never experienced anywhere else. It’s another reminder of why I love what I do. And why it’s worth the 3.5 hour drive I have to make to these kinds of things (yes, I do officially live in the middle of nowhere).
Why do I bring this up? Because all too often it’s easy to just stay home. It’s comfortable, easy and cheap not to participate. I know. Been there, done that. But as I was driving home from this weekend’s retreat, it occurred to me that five years ago I made a resolution to step outside of my comfort zone. I took that first courageous step and signed up for a writer’s retreat. I didn’t know a soul there, other than my regional advisor. I’ll admit, I was nervous. Okay, scared to death. I’m basically an introvert, so I was definitely stepping out of my comfort zone. Like stepping off the Titanic–before it hit the iceberg.
But guess what? I survived. I learned that attending writing events was a good thing. I made connections and improved myself as a writer. Five years later, ironically at the same location as the first retreat I attended, I could walk into a room and feel like it was a high school reunion (no, better than that–none of us had gotten bald or fat since we last saw each other). I connected with my old friends, met new ones and could easily chat with our guest editors (a big difference from the time I almost sprouted a second tongue just trying to say hello to Arthur Levine :-}.
So, the next time you get one of those retreat fliers in the mail, don’t sluff it off in the trash. Think about stepping outside of your comfort zone. Stop dreaming about moving your writing career forward and do it!