Monday, April 30, 2012
April has been a month of conferences and school visits. Each week I’ve been away from home, in a hotel, and I now don’t envy my business-suited brothers as much as I once did. But these trips have also been a blessing.
At the NESCBWI conference a woman introduced herself and recalled meeting my mother, Margery Facklam, many years ago at another conference. The woman was alone, new to the world of children’s writing, homesick, and feeling isolated in a sea of writers until my mother, speaking at the conference, invited the woman to have ice cream. In a little pack of writers old and new, published and unpublished they sat in the grass, talked and laughed, and the woman felt right at home. “I’ll never forget that,” she said to me.
At the ASJA conference, when my panel was over, I was tired and ready to put my feet up, but I made myself go to the little reception they were having at the end of the day. I wandered, quite alone in a sea of writers, until I pushed myself toward a partially full table and asked to sit down. Then another woman joined us and suddenly we were a group. After pulling out business cards and sharing titles, the woman gasped, “Margery Facklam?” “Yes, that’s my mother,” I told her.
And she shared with me how my mother drew her into the world of writers. Years ago she saw my mother on a local news program, called the TV station and asked for more information. Before HIPA and identify theft, the TV station gave her my mother’s phone number. Mom talked to her about writing, offered to look at her manuscript, and even invited her to join a critique group. “She made me feel like a real writer,” she said.
There is a saying that you should be an angel to at least one person every day.
My mother was an angel to many people in the writer’s world and I am blessed to hear the stories, especially in a time when my mother’s memory is failing her. I can remind her of past places and faces so that she still feels connected and right at home.
But it makes me wonder – was I an angel to anyone at these conferences? I have stepped into my mother’s shoes as writer, speaker and mentor – but how successfully have I filled them? At the conferences I spoke at, did I inspire? Did I draw them in? Did I make them feel at home? Did I encourage them to continue writing?
Perhaps years from now I will know, or perhaps I will never know. I just hope that, like my mother, I will be someone’s angel everyday.
Monday, April 2, 2012
Writing is such a solitary endeavor that it is a great treat to talk to people with like minds. I loved hearing that Loree and Pamela both had aspirations to be a scientist as I did, and like me put those dreams aside for marriage and children. Some people may condemn us for “settling” or giving in to traditional pressures, but those people do not realize that we have the best of both worlds. As nonfiction science writers we are every bit as driven and committed to science as we would be if we wore a lab coat. Our commitment is to make science accessible to children, who are the most receptive and eager to learn it. One science teacher I met at NSTA mentioned a research paper that stated most scientists got hooked on science when they were 8 or 10 years old. I love to hear that. Because I feel like it is my job to dangle that well-baited hook in the water with my books, and I’m sure my fellow panelists would agree.