I am so thrilled to be celebrating the book birthday for my debut picture book, BEFORE YOU SLEEP: A BEDTIME BOOK OF GRATITUDE. But I am also celebrating those who helped me get to this day: the kidlit writing community, because I wouldn’t have a published book if it hadn’t been for them.
Writing is a solitary pursuit, and when I began pursuing writing as far more than a pastime, I’d sit at my computer and write. Alone. Then I stumbled across SCBWI’s website and thought, “This could be helpful.” I joined, but more as a passive observer than an active participant. An acquaintance told me, “You should go to a conference.” But it took me several more years to finally attend one. I’m not ready for that, I imagined. Conferences are for writers with more experience than me who know what they’re doing. Umm…WHAT? No. No. NO!
After registering for my first New York SCBWI conference, my husband asked, “How do you feel?” My reply? “I think I’m going to vomit.” The conference was three months away and I had fighter planes dive bombing in my stomach. Fast forward three months, and I realized attending that conference was the best thing I’d ever done for myself as a writer, but not just for the obvious reasons of honing my craft, networking, and being inspired by keynote speakers. My biggest realization was discovering how much my writer spirit had been wanting by not being actively involved with the writing community. Maybe I was intimidated by it. Perhaps, because I was unpublished at the time, I didn’t think I belonged there. Maybe I'd been fearful there would be a sense of cut throat competition. Nothing could be further from the truth.
If I hadn’t become connected with the kidlit community, I truly don’t believe BEFORE YOU SLEEP would have become a published reality for me. Without my sharp-eyed critique group, BEFORE YOU SLEEP never would have reached “submission ready.” Without my writers’ group, 24 Carrot Writing, I never would have continued submitting after countless rejections on multiple manuscripts. Without the online kidlit village, I wouldn’t have realized other opportunities besides querying, such as #PBPitch, which is how BEFORE YOU SLEEP ultimately found its publishing home with Page Street Kids. Becoming engaged with fellow writers brought me support, camaraderie, and encouragement from others who know what it’s like to feel that unyielding call to put pen to paper—or fingers to keyboard—and create. That support propelled me forward and kept me writing…through multitudes of drafts, over piles of rejections, and—gratefully—to joyous celebrations.
Do not underestimate the value of connecting with the kidlit community. Be it through SCBWI, Facebook or Twitter contacts, critique partners, writing groups, workshops, or conferences…these players keep writers learning, focused, supported, and informed. They encourage during the rough spots and celebrate the victories. If you haven’t done so yet, fully discover the writing community beyond your four walls, and join forces with those who share your passion for the art of the written word. It’s an amazing group…and one I’m raising a glass to as BEFORE YOU SLEEP enters the world!
Annie Cronin Romano is a writer specializing in picture books and middle grade novels. In addition to BEFORE YOU SLEEP, her second picture book, NIGHT TRAIN: A JOURNEY FROM DUSK TO DAWN is due out in April 2019 with Page Street Kids. Visit her website, www.anniecroninromano.com, or follow her on Twitter @AnnieCRomano. You can also read her writing group’s blog and book picks at www.24carrotwriting.com.