SCBWI

Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

The Joys of Reading, Writing, and Living Local

The word ‘international’ sounds glamorous. ‘National’ indicates importance. What comes to mind when you hear ‘local’? Non-stop excitement? Nah…

This pandemic has forced many of us to confine ourselves. To totally step away from our frenetic, fabulous lives. To live local (or is that loco?) Really, really local. So local that for at least two straight weeks I never left the boundaries of my yard. At first, it was frightening. Then, frustrating. But more and more I’m discovering advantages to this hyper-local lifestyle; especially for those of us who read and write as if our lives depend on it. We may not think of local as exciting, but maybe it has some life lessons to teach.

Local is comforting. I had a difficult time continuing my old crazy-busy routine. Writing and marketing children’s books during a pandemic felt ridiculous and unimportant. I felt lost, so I sought out comfort. I cooked. I ate. I pulled weeds. I read what I wanted, none of it for work. Every day my dog, Nikki, and I took a walk.  I said hello to neighbors I never knew. I found out about them, they asked about me. Later, I found some of those same folks at my door, carrying my new books, Fight of the Century and Leave it to Abigail, wondering if I’d sign. One neighbor ordered all 17 of my titles. People bought children’s books in a pandemic?  It brought tears to my eyes! I signed for nieces, nephews, and grandchildren across the country. I signed for nearby elementary kids and as thank you gifts to teachers. I learned…

Local is connected. And human beings connect through story. I’ve had time to reflect on the personal stories of teachers, librarians, authors, parents and children I’ve met here. I decided to take some time to reach out—to congratulate an Illinois author I don’t see often on her new title, to see how that homeschool organizer is doing. I reached out to a few local teacher friends and a librarian that I’ve emailed professionally but decided to simply thank for all her past help. We don’t have to need something or be providing something in order to reach out; it’s most important to just connect as a human. I learned…

Local is supportive. In the past decade of publishing, I got used to being outside my local area. A speech in DC, another in New York, ALA/NCTE in all kinds of places, school visits in Texas, the Carolinas, Virginia, Pennsylvania. Great, right? That meant people knew me and my work! But, going back to the beginning, my life as a children’s writer started the day I screwed up the courage to say “I’m writing a book” to a local librarian. My work has been primarily nurtured and influenced by SCBWI-IL and other Illinois children’s authors. The first time I spoke in public was at ISLMA. The first time I did a school visit was in the next town over (I still go to that school every other year!) The first time I gave a speech was at IRC.  I grew up here, so Illinois taught me how to read and it taught me how to write for children. All the Illinois creators I know simply want to give our passion for stories back to the young people of our state. A program like READ LOCAL strives to turn the entire state into a supportive literacy community: booksellers, teachers, authors, librarians, community leaders, artists, parents and kids. Because the stories of our state’s people—all races, all cultures, all faiths, all ages— are what makes Illinois great. I learned…

Local is essential. It’s having the time and the heart to appreciate all the great resources available so close to home.

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Barb Rosenstock
 likes true stories about real people. She combines deep research and playful language into books that bring history to life. She lives near Chicago.  Her book, The Noisy Paint Box, illustrated by Mary Grandpré was awarded a Caldecott Honor in 2015. Otis & Will Discover the Deep won a 2019 SCBWI Golden Kite Award. Other titles include: Leave it to Abigail, Fight of the CenturyPrairie Boy, Through the Window, and many more.