I always looked forward to the fourth Monday of every month because that meant I would drive across the Richmond–San Rafael bridge to the Book Passage in Corte Madera for Kid Lit Salon, hosted enthusiastically by Lissa Rovetch.
For three years, Lissa arranged for children’s book authors, illustrators, editors, agents, and publishers to speak on a panel and answer questions posed by a smallish audience of mostly aspiring children’s authors and illustrators. Mostly aspiring because a few lucky souls actually got published, and so had graduated from the aspiring category.
Those thirty-four Mondays kept us writing and submitting even when faced with minuscule odds of landing a book contract. In a business where rejection is the norm and the work is a solitary occupation, Kid Lit Salon was a place we could gather as writers and illustrators to vent our frustrations and celebrate each other’s accomplishments.
Lissa asked us to share news, probably because she knew that the salon might be the only forum where members could brag about landing an agent or completing their middle grade novel, and other members would be genuinely happy for them. It was a group of individuals who generally toiled in silence but enjoyed the camaraderie of peers who truly understood that writing for children is hard but rewarding.
But the best motivation she provided was introducing us to published authors who were once in our shoes, letting us know that we weren’t crazy for dreaming that we might one day be signing books with our names on the covers. Hearing their paths to publishing and realizing that getting published is possible were gifts more valuable to us than tips on how to improve our platforms or telling us the latest trends in publishing.
And of course we got to meet some of our children’s writing heroes or discover new ones along the way. I talked to Thacher Hurd, whose books I’d read and taught from for years, while waiting in line for the restroom before the salon even began one night.
We heard some great stories, even some news that bordered on gossip. Gennifer Choldenko confessed how low she sank while trying to get published. I found out that Margaret Wise Brown didn’t really care for children all that much. And more than once we were privy to bad author/agent relationships that illustrated that the drama wasn’t always just on the pages of the book.
I had a front row seat to hear published authors describe their creative process and I got some great advice. (Don’t quit your day job, but never give up.) Mostly I felt like part of a writing community of kind, hopeful souls with Lissa cheering us on.
I happened upon Kid Lit Salon right when it started, which was shortly after I’d lost my job teaching elementary school after 24 years and had decided that I wanted to write for children. It was just what I needed.
Thank you, Lissa.