It hasn’t been hard to find things to feel grateful for these past couple of years. My book was published, obviously, but there’s a whole host of lovely and enjoyable things that have come along with that, most of them centered around the people I’ve had the good fortune to meet. The work I’ve been able to do alongside of those people is something I’m immensely proud of, but equally important is the way I feel about being a part of the children’s literature tribe. That word, “tribe,” is bandied about with great frequency by us kidlit types, but I still put great stock in it, you know? I love that it implies a kind of responsibility – a commitment to promoting the general welfare, if you will.
We’re all invested in keeping the industry healthy on a commercial level, and we’re even more invested in a deep, rich, enduring culture of storytelling. The collective investment I just might appreciate more than any other, however, is our investment in taking care of each other on a psychological and emotional level. There’s no single manifestation of that investment in care, and of course we don’t all give or receive gifts of emotional care in the same way. We take our occasional lumps from care-giving efforts that don’t align with our individual modes of being. We fight, we bark at each other, and occasionally the great, fuzzily-defined tribe (and its sub-tribes) develops fissures and splits. Sometimes we redirect our allegiances in unexpected ways. The kidlit tribe is not humankind’s first true, unsullied utopia; we’re all still just human.
But we try, you know? We really try. We commiserate when things are hard, and we celebrate when things are good. We push each other to take risks, help each other lean into discomfort, and hold each other up as we persevere in the face of our inescapable imperfections. We share so much: our work, our progress, our hard-won knowledge, our hopes and dreams, our insecurities and fears. This is a business, and a challenging one. No, it’s not as hard as coal mining in 19th century Colorado, or subsistence farming in the rocky soil of Honduras, but it’s still hard. Contending with the psychological battering rams of rejection, discouragement, and envy is no small task. But still, we try.
That means something to me. Here’s to the tribe.