Open Letter to The Loft’s YA Conference Attendees

Dear Aspiring Writer at The Loft Literary Center‘s Children’s and Young Adult Conference,

First, it was such an honor to meet so many of you last weekend. I loved those moments after panels when we had a few minutes and you told me about where you are on your journey. I want you to know what an incredible honor it was to be able to share my journey with you on the panels: Preparing for Publication NOW and You Wrote WHAT? Sex Scenes in GLBTQ YA Lit.

I wish I could tell you what an extraordinary honor it was to present with the writers below (Nikki Urang is not pictured since she was in my other panel), but sadly, my words fail me. Just believe me that this moment was one of my all-time highs as a writer:


(From left: Elizabeth Wheeler, Juliann Rich, Dawn Klehr, Molly Beth Griffin, Kirstin Cronn-Mills, and Rachel Gold)

But I’m really writing today is to address something I KNOW many of you were feeling: that those of us sitting on the panel are somehow, intrinsically, different from those of you who were in the audience. How do I know this? BECAUSE I WAS AN AUDIENCE MEMBER at this very conference just a few years ago and that’s exactly how I felt! That’s right! I sat (with Dawn Klehr, by the way!) in Kirstin Cronn-Mills’ presentation on Writing Quirk, and I remember looking at her with awe because she’d done it. She’d manifested a reality I was almost afraid to dream.

Okay, I’m still in awe of Kirstin Cronn-Mills because let’s get real, the lady ROCKS (both her A and B Side). But it’s a different kind of awe than what I felt two years ago. Today I’m in awe of her because of her amazingly kind heart, because she pours it all on the page, and because I get now how difficult that is to do.

Here’s what I want you to know, dear member in the audience, YOU ARE NO DIFFERENT THAN ANY OF US ON THE PANEL. There is no secret handshake, no hidden truths that we are all privy to and you just haven’t figured out. There is nothing that makes us any different from you.

In his presentation with Carrie Mesrobian, Andrew Karre, acquiring editor at Carolrhoda, said, “The difference between cliché and brilliance is sweat.”

As usual, I agree with Andrew whole-heartedly! But I would also add, “The difference between being in the audience and on the panel is sweat.”

It’s a journey—a helluva tough one for sure—but it’s a journey. So keep sweating. Keep working it. And join me on that panel in a few years.



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