A few years ago (in June) there was a Vermont College of Fine Arts party at American Library Association’s conference that I was completely stressed about? It was at Tami Lewis Brown’s House. Katherine Paterson was there and I had no idea what I was supposed to say if I actually met Katherine Paterson.
I mean, what do you say to someone who wrote THE BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA?
1. You made me cry
2. You made me make my own fantasy world in the woods in my backyard.
3. No, really you made me sob.
4. Can I have 1/100th of your talent?
5. Gasp! Chortle! Squee!
Well, I did NOT make a fool of myself about Katherine Patterson. And I didn’t avoid the author M. T. Anderson even though he’s so tall I find it intimidating.
And I ended up having to wear my cardigan the whole time because my dress was way too cleavage-y.
How do I know this? I know this because the doorman at the hotel stared at it and asked if I wanted to hang out. Really. And I am a children’s book author! I am supposed to be not the type of person the doorman thinks he can ask out.
I think part of the problem was I told him I loved him when he ran after the shuttle bus for me. Bad Carrie! Bad!
Side note: Don’t tell random people you love them even when you do love them in that moment.
Anyway, I went to the party and my hair was flat and I had a cardigan on even though it was 98 degree.
And then… and then…
Katherine and Tami made speeches about the awesomeness of Vermont College. I think Tobin may have too.
And then… And then…
They gave Kekla Magoon of awesome an award for being a distinguished alumna and she cried and was beautiful and I pet her on the back and tried to comfort her while thinking how awesome she is and then….
I GOT ONE TOO!
Seriously! I don’t know what they were thinking, but I was awarded a plaque and everything and I almost died because I kept thinking, “People are going to take pictures and I am wearing my dumpy cardigan to hide my cleavage AND my hair is flat. Crud. Crud. Crud. Why did nobody tell me?”
But it was amazing.
The whole time I kept thinking that I wouldn’t even be a writer if not for the people at Vermont College and how there are so many amazing graduates who deserved that award, and I kept looking out there in the crowd and seeing those amazing writers, and it was so completely humbling.
But then I also thought about how terrified I was when I first started at Vermont. Some people were already published. I had barely written one book. I felt – no, I knew – that I didn’t belong and I almost quit that first week because I knew there was no way I could possibly belong there with all those people who had been writing for forever and who knew all the terms like objective correlative and who all the publishing houses, and I knew nothing.
I didn’t believe in myself at all.
Lisa Jahn Clough and Emily Wing Smith and Ed Briant (who said something awesome at a reading to me) then Tim Wynne Jones were the reasons I toughed it out that first semester. I am so very glad I did because Vermont didn’t just make me into a writer it gave me a community of fellowship, of learning and of people who I adore (even if they are tall).
I am still trying to make it so I can deserve that award. I really am.
More than that though, I want to make it so everyone can get that kind of dumpy cardigan moment, to get loved and recognized. It might be for running after a shuttle bus. It might be for making a children’s book, but we get to choose who we are, how we interact with the world, who we can be.
I want so badly for everyone to choose empathy, to choose their own power, to choose to make the right choices. I want everyone to feel that love and recognition that I was lucky enough to feel that June.
IN THE WOODS – READ AN EXCERPT, PREORDER NOW!
My next book, IN THE WOODS, appears in July with Steve Wedel. It’s scary and one of Publisher’s Weekly’s Buzz Books for Summer 2019. There’s an excerpt of it there and everything! But even cooler (for me) they’ve deemed it buzz worthy! Buzz worthy seems like an awesome thing to be deemed!
You can preorder this bad boy, which might make it have a sequel. The sequel would be amazing. Believe me, I know. It features caves and monsters and love. Because doesn’t every story?
You can buy limited-edition prints and learn more about my art here on my site.