Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Travel Tuesdays: Professional Conferences

This past weekend, I attended the NE-SCBWI (New England- Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) annual conference in Springfield, MA. For those who don't know, this regional gathering is one of the largest gatherings of children's book writers and illustrators in the world. I heard there were 600 plus KidLit folks there! Authors and Illustrators such as Harry Bliss, Jane Yolen, Kate Messner, and Sarah Zarr gave speeches. Many others such as Elizabeth Partridge and Tanya Lee Stone served on panels, while still others such as Dan Yaccarino, Anne Broyles, Laya Steinberg and Sarah Lamstein facilitated workshops. To be in a place with so many "rock stars" of the KidLit world was inspiring indeed.

But what does that have to do with this blog, you ask?  I came away from the weekend so excited that I wanted to write about it but I was left wondering how I would remain true to the tagline of my blog: Muck About. Meet the locals. Expand your World. I try hard to stick to my stated mission here at Polliwog. There are often times when something interesting occurs to me but I don't blog about it if it's not related to my stated mission.

Monday, as I reflected on the conference, however, the connection became evident. I wasn't riding a city bus talking to locals, but I did connect with many people this weekend (some from the Springfield area) and I definitely expanded my world in many ways. I also met some folks in real life for the first time who I've talked to in the comments here on my blog or on my Michelle Cusolito, Writer page on Facebook.

I made an effort to talk to people I met, whether a woman behind me in the line for the ladies room or a man sitting next to me in a workshop. Not every exchange was deep -sometimes it was a simple, "Good morning" as we boarded the elevator. But it seems everyone else at the conference was doing the same as me- saying hello and smiling. Each exchange made my day a little brighter. And some interactions were downright amazing.

I confess, by Sunday morning, I was little tired after two intensive days of workshops and I wasn't feeling terribly talkative. (Yes, I do have times of not feeling talkative, rare though they are! And yes, they do usually occur in the morning). But, I pushed myself to be sociable. As I chatted with my friend K and another woman to my left, my friend S was chatting with 2 women to my right. Eventually, S got my attentions and told me I HAD to talk to the woman to my right because we have so much in common. He mentioned my blog and told me I should share the URL with her. As time went on, I learned she had written "A little non-fiction book." I asked what it was and Emily Goodman reached into her bag to show me Plant Secrets.

And I'm not even kidding, not only is it a book I own, my daughter took it out on a hike last weekend so she could "do research." I had nothing to do with my daughter's choice to even dig the book out, never mind to bring it on our hike. Even better, I had this photo of her referring to it as we walked:
Photo taken 14 April 2012

So, my message is one you've heard here before, but it's one even I need to be reminded of sometimes. Take a little risk. Push through your apprehension, shyness, or tiredness and say hello to the person next to you. You never know who you might meet! And, by modeling that behavior for your children, you'll teach them to be open to new people and new experiences. (Of course, part of your modeling should include teaching children the usual guidelines for interacting with strangers).

Have you ever made an effort to talk to someone even when you didn't feel like it and had a surprising or interesting result?

Related Posts:
Travel Tuesdays: Pushing Outside Your Comfort Zone
Travel Tuesdays: Take the City Bus, Not the Tour Bus


  1. How fun to meet Emily Goodman this weekend! It was good to talk in real life, I enjoyed meeting you!

    1. I'm so glad we met! Who would have thought you'd be the very first person I'd meet upon arrival! I guess we were meant to meet each other. Or, maybe the rubber chicken purse brought us together!? :)