See You in the Cosmos recently won a 2018 Golden Kite Award, and I was in New York at the beginning of February for the awards banquet at the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators’ winter conference. I put together a short speech, and writing it felt so much like writing one of these Sunday letters that I thought I’d share the prepared text here. There’s also a video of me giving the speech (starting at the 22-minute mark) with a bit of me stanning for Linda Sue Park, who I totally didn’t realize was going to be the one introducing the book until just moments before it happened.
First off, thank you to SCBWI for this insanely cool honor. Lin, Stephen, the judges. I did not expect this. Big BIG thanks to my COSMOS team at Dial and Penguin: Jess, Lauri, Lindsay, Kaitlin, Nami, everyone! Also to Anthea and crew in the UK, and Jessica in Barcelona. Quick shout out to my SCBWI Michigan friends – Carrie, Leslie, everyone. If I don’t see you tonight, I’ll see you all tomorrow at lunch.
This book didn’t start out as a middle grade novel. I didn’t even know what middle grade was when I first started writing it. I just wanted to tell a story about a kid going on a journey and meeting, along the way, loving, caring, compassionate people, and finding a family he didn’t know he had.
Such has been my journey in becoming a children’s author. I feel like I’ve found, over the last few years of working on this book, my own family – my own community, in all of you.
And one thing about communities is that they’re not transactional. They’re not about giving something in order to get something in return. Instead of standing on opposite sides of a counter, it’s more like walking next to one another on a mountain trail. Even the times when there is a literal transaction taking place – like when we buy a book from a local bookstore – within a community there’s always something more, and bigger, that goes with it. There’s this attentiveness.
Have you seen that new movie Lady Bird? I watched it a couple weeks ago, and I thought it had the most beautiful message – that attention is a form of love.
Attention is a form of love. I could see that being a kind of mantra when we’re overwhelmed by our schedules or by what we see in the news. To return our attention here, to our community and the work we do in it. To be attentive to authors and illustrators, new and aspiring and established, the way others have been with us. To be attentive to kids, from the ones with a million questions about our books to the ones who don’t like to read because they just haven’t found the right story yet. And also to be attentive to ourselves, and kind with ourselves, especially in the moments when we’re being inattentive.
Attention is a form of love. And maybe it’s less that love happens in community than it is that community flows out of these acts of love. Maybe.
I guess all that’s to say, thank you, again, to this community. I love you. And I’ll see you on the trail.