Whew. I have just reached the finish line of another school year, and this one has been particularly full of emotion. Working at an international school where goodbyes are a constant aspect of life makes my heart feel really fragile. For the past six years, I have worked at the American School of Belo Horizonte as a preschool through 12th grade librarian. Taking this job felt like a risk for me. I didn’t quite feel capable of living up to the demands of meeting such a wide range of needs. And yet I was excited by the possibility of helping students of all ages discover joy in literature.
Part of the educational philosophy of our school is, in fact, teaching students to be responsible risk takers. While risk-taking may include things like jumping off of high walls and swinging higher than you ever have before, it also includes less concrete examples such as emotional vulnerability and perseverance in the face of difficulty. I saw the face of a risk taker in one of our English language learners this year. She raised her hand for the first time ever to share a connection she had to our read-aloud. In doing so, she risked the fear of being misunderstood, of not having the right words, and of looking foolish. I wish I could show you the look of relief in her eyes when her class applauded her English and identified with her connection to the story. There was a chorus of “Me too!” around the room. Her willingness to take a risk resulted in a deepened sense of community for her within the classroom.
I am reminded of my writing life and how a sense of community has contributed to my own willingness to take risks and be vulnerable. This business is fraught with opportunities to second-guess myself: rejection, waiting, criticism, and lack of responses. I am sure I would not survive without the deep sense of community I’ve found with other children’s writers.
In 2005, I had the privilege to attend my first conference with the Highlights Foundation. At the time, it felt like a huge risk. I was pre-published. I was putting myself out there, investing money, time, and emotional energy in declaring myself a writer. Only a handful of people had ever read my work. At the conference, I began to connect with others. We shared our work, our hopes, and our dreams. I felt a chorus of “Me too!” echo around the room. I was not alone in my hopes and dreams, nor was I alone in my fears. Even now, this feeling brings tears of relief to my eyes.
Perhaps you can relate. Perhaps you are just beginning your writing career, or you are struggling with a particularly difficult revision. Perhaps you’re finding it difficult to believe you will ever find your way. Perhaps you’ve endured a series of rejections that have left you feeling like you’ll never sell another book. Perhaps you’ve never even summoned the courage to let anyone else read your work.
This is me, raising my hand and inviting you into our community by saying, “Me too.” You are not alone. Let’s take a leap together.