I am a *HUGE* fan of the New York Public Library. (Yes, I’m a Friend of it, too.) While I’ve found something to love about each and every one of my local public libraries over the years, being able to have NYPL as my local still amazes me. Why? Well, besides feeding my voracious reading habit and providing me with a gorgeous place to work on occasion – plus the ever-enjoyable Children’s Literary Salon – NYPL has some very cool exhibits. This week an invitation to a new one popped into my mailbox: “The ABC of It: Why Children’s Books Matter.”
According to the NYPL’s website, “The ABC of It is an examination of why children’s books are important: what and how do they teach children, and what do they reveal about the societies that produced them? Through a dynamic array of objects and activities, the exhibition celebrates the extraordinary richness, artistry, and diversity of children’s literature across cultures and time.” I can’t wait to see it.
Another literary exhibit I’m enjoying – it’s too rich for just one visit – is available to all with a an internet connection. What Jane Saw is a spectacular online recreation of the Sir Joshua Reynolds retrospective that Jane Austen attended on May 24, 1813. (She was seeking a portrait representing her beloved Mrs. Darcy.) Do take a moment to enjoy it with a nice cup of Earl Grey. The scholarship and effort in creating this historical reconstruction is just plain jaw-dropping, a treat for Janeites and art history buffs.
Now that I’ve focused on a couple of ways to avoid your seat and your writing, here’s one way to get back into it. A new writing friend asked me how I found such great tidbits that I kept sending her. (Thanks, Kathy! It’s all because of you.) Seriously though, while following helpful blogs is one way, it’s not the only way. I realized that the true answer would be that I immerse myself in children’s lit. I read children’s books and reviews of kid lit, I search out new and helpful writing friends (and their blogs), I subscribe to writing magazines and newsletters – in short, I treat writing for children as my career. Which means not only *doing it* but also researching it and absorbing what ever information I can. (I know, easy for me, I’m a librarian by trade and by heart.) Look at any career. The most successful practitioners are those who continuously educate themselves about that career and its opportunities and developments.
Belonging to a trade or professional association is a first step. The second is participating, not just through attending workshops, networking events, or conferences, but by making time to keep up with the world of your chosen career. In our case, it’s writing for children. Like exercise, putting in a few minutes every week adds up to significant benefits. You don’t need to know every move an agent makes or every new trend on the horizon, but keeping your eyes and your mind open allows you to spot those tidbits. You never know when one of them is the one you need right now.