By Sarah Lynne Reul
Today is the launch of my debut picture book, THE BREAKING NEWS.THE BREAKING NEWS is about a girl who wants to make things better after she sees how her family reacts when devastating news shakes their community. Since connecting with community is such an important theme in this book, I’d like to talk about the wonderful kidlit world that has supported me throughout my bookmaking journey.
I came to picture books on kind of a winding path. I had just finished an MFA degree in 2D Animation when I discovered that two out of the three local animation studios were going out of business. I was looking for a way to pivot to a related field using the new skills I’d gained, and illustrating picture books seemed like a perfect way to practice the storytelling, drawing, composition, character design and color work that I’d been studying. However, I didn’t know much at all about children’s literature or the publishing industry.
Unbeknownst to me at the time, I had stumbled into a field that was more welcoming, collaborative and supportive than I ever could have imagined. In fact, the content on the Writer’s Rumpus blog gives an excellent example of this – how authors and illustrators generously share their hard-earned knowledge and resources in hopes of making the path easier for those who follow.
A good friend (Alison Potoma!) invited me to my first NESCBWI conference. I walked around in a wonderful daze the whole weekend. I started to meet authors and illustrators of all levels of experience, and I couldn’t even begin to absorb all of the fantastic advice and information that was flying all around me. All I knew is that I wanted to be part of this community.
Upon Josh Funk’s suggestion, I volunteered the following year at the NESCBWI registration table (it truly is one of the best ways to meet people!) and this year I’m the portfolio critique coordinator. When I designed the logo for the 2017 NESCBWI conference, I tried to capture some of the excitement that I feel about the event. I am still stunned when I think about the fact that these fantastic conferences are run entirely by volunteers.
Another wonderful way that I’ve found support from the kidlit community is through critique groups. Marianne Knowles, (who runs this blog & also runs the Andover critique group), graciously connected me with the illustration critique group that has been an essential lifeline over the last few years. I’ve also been a member of several different writing critique groups, all of which have offered important feedback and support.
I can’t overstate how instrumental these critique groups have been to my development as an author/illustrator as well as to my sanity and my success. In addition to getting to see great friends (!), there’s also the sense of connectedness, mutual encouragement to keep on going and reasons to set deadlines for personal projects. Oh, and of course, there are thoughtful critiques!
I’m not the first Rumpus writer to extoll the virtues of critique groups! If you need more convincing, here are some great articles on the subject:
This line of work can often be isolating – in fact, I need large chunks of time to myself in order to focus, write, draw and revise. However, it is such a comfort to know that there are others are out there too, and I love the opportunity to connect – when I have a kidlit event coming up, it’s always a bright spot on my schedule.
Edited after the April 10th launch date: Thanks so much to everyone who made it out to the KidLit Drink Night event and to the book launch at Porter Square Books! Sam Musher, the wonderful organizer of the Boston Kidlit Drink Nights, sent along this note:
If anyone is interested in joining us for future KidLit Drink Nights — writers, illustrators, librarians, teachers, editors, agents, booksellers, etc. all welcome — join the Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/kidlitdrinknightboston/
Hope to connect with you at a Kidlit Drink Night, conference, book launch or other kidlit event soon!
Sarah Lynne Reul is an illustrator, writer and award-winning 2D animator who likes science, bright colors and figuring out how things work. Learn more at reuler.com.