One of the key ways the SCBWI conference changed me was in helping me define myself as a writer. I have loved to write since I was a kid. I knew I was meant to write and HAD to write. I had a vague idea of WHY I wrote, but the past couple years I’ve been struggling with answering the WHY with a concrete answer that I believed in. Sure, I write because I love kids, I love stories, and I love expressing my creativity in this way. But there had to be a deeper reason. I knew there was one, but I hadn’t found it, mainly because I had not been challenged to.
One of the keynote speakers, YA author Matt de la Pena, challenged us with two poignant questions:
Where am I coming from as a writer? What’s my point of view as a writer?
Essentially, WHY do I write?
I spent the rest of the weekend pondering this. By the time I was leaving the conference, I knew the answers to these questions, and it lit a fire in my heart. The funny thing is I was able to answer the second question (what’s my point of view) through the answer of the first question (where do I come from?)
I had a magical childhood. My childhood was safe, nurturing, imaginative, and downright fun. I was given time and encouragement to make-believe, play, explore, and create. I grew up going to Disneyland. I spent lots of time with my grandma at her house where imagination thrived. I read a ton. And I didn’t want to grow up.
This is all reflected in my writing. I love writing stories of whimsy, imagination, and childhood.
But I realized something both sobering and heart wrenching.
I was lucky—I was not the norm. Not every kid experiences a safe, happy, and creative childhood. In fact, a lot of kids don’t even have a childhood. Their childhood is robbed from them by unfortunate events, cruel grown-ups, and naïve choices. This is a tragedy. Every kid deserves a childhood.
That’s where I can help. I can give every child who reads my books a bit of childhood magic. So that no matter what their life is like, no matter how they’re growing up, they are guaranteed a bit of childhood that they are owed.
That’s why I write. That’s why I HAVE to write.