Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Pulling Up a Chair

Have you heard of The Grotto? No, not the one of Playboy Mansion fame. The writer’s grotto in San Francisco. It’s a collaborative workspace filled entirely with writers and filmmakers, started initially by Po Bronson, Ethan Watters, and Ethan Canin. I love this idea—an office of artists. Maybe not financially feasible for most, but I love the idea of having a place to go every day where I’d have my own work space and could get writing done, but also have regular, in-person access to a community of like-minded, creative individuals.

This was one of my favorite things about the SCBWI summer conference: The sense of community. It was something I hadn’t been expecting, oddly enough. I’ve always attended smaller conferences where it was fairly easy to meet people. I assumed because the LA conference is so large I would be lost in the shuffle, one of the masses, and would have a much harder time meeting people. But boy was I wrong. I was first proven wrong Friday morning, sitting outside the airport waiting for my shuttle to take me to the conference. I befriended Ginny and Marilee traveling from Oregon, two new friendships that continued throughout the weekend and I hope will continue beyond the conference. Friday night, I went out to dinner with a group that assembled in a casual, haphazard way. We were members from New York, Michigan, New Orleans, California, and myself from Colorado, everyone was a new acquaintance to me except for my long-time writing buddy, Rachel.

I think my favorite memory of the entire conference was sitting in the lobby area one night after all the days events were over. My roommate Robin was there, who I hadn’t known before the weekend but quickly became fast friends with, and Rachel, and several other new friends. I think it was Sunday night because I remember feeling so full of information and inspiration and also feeling very tired. I remember laughing in that delirious way that you do about the smallest thing that might be chuckle-worthy on a regular day but suddenly seems hysterical in your overinformed, deliriously tired and inspired state of mind. Oh man, it feels good to laugh like that. And we sat around a table and just dished and talked for what seemed like hours about the conference, about agents, about our work, about our life in general. The windows of the lobby were blackened with night, our few gaps in conversation were filled with the clinking of glasses from the bar, the clatter of someone typing furiously into their laptop. People came and went from our table, pulling up a chair to join us, scooting it back to go say hi to someone across the room. An editor or author that spoke at the conference would walk by and we’d all quiet down and straighten up a bit, paying attention to them while we pretended to not pay attention.

In the midst of this, I saw another old writing friend across the lobby—one I haven’t seen or talked to in years and didn’t know would be attending the conference, a woman who was in my very first children’s writing critique group. I ran after her and we were able to chat, catch up on each other's lives. It was so good to reconnect with her, and I returned to my table of new and old writer friends feeling overwhelmed and grateful, SO grateful for this community I’m a part of. So grateful for the friendships I’ve made and continue to make. And I wished it wouldn’t end. I wished I could have that every day: a table to sit at and chat and laugh and be inspired by and commiserate with these writer friends. And having both a Starbucks and a bar mere feet away as they are in the Hyatt lobby would be included too, of course.

While that night inevitably ended, I realized that table could be a virtual reality. I’d already been eavesdropping on the table really, with all the writer’s and illustrator’s blogs and websites that I’ve frequented these past years. So starting this blog is my way of pulling up a chair and joining the conversation.