Change is good, right? Everyone says so. It’s generally thought of as a necessity for growth. Adapt or perish and all that.
As writers and illustrators of material for children, we count on our audience changing, “graduating” from picture books to easy readers and chapter books, and then onward to the ever-expanding and constantly shifting world of novels for young readers and teens.
Similarly, SCBWI has made lots of changes as an organization over the years, and recently they made another one – they decided to rename our Schmoozes. The idea was to switch to something that sounded a bit more professional, and didn’t carry with it the possible negative connotation of gossip.
Having recently taken a volunteer position with the SCBWI LA region as its Schmooze Schmizard, news of this change came as a bit of a shock to me. Let me backtrack a bit and explain that I’d been a coordinator of the Westside Writers Schmooze for a little over four years and, previous to that, had attended that Schmooze for more than a decade. The Westside Writers Schmooze was an institution for me – my baby. And with my new position, I’d be supporting and guiding coordinators of the ten LA area Schmoozes. To say I was attached to the health and wellbeing of these meetings is an understatement. To my surprise, I realized, I was also quite attached to the name Schmooze.
I was barely over the shock myself when I was tasked with the job of breaking the news to my coordinators. The dozens of group e-mails that followed proved to me that I was not alone in my fondness for the term Schmooze. It felt a little like we were renaming a major character in one of our stories – something, incidentally, I had just done in my own YA novel manuscript and was still getting used to. But in this instance, it wasn’t our choice. The change was being forced upon us, we insisted, and so, we all had a bit of griping to do, some melancholy to share. There was even talk of revolt.
A funny thing about change, though – often it’s merely the initial adjustment that’s the most challenging part. In the midst of our griping, several alternative names were suggested and discussed. Each new possibility seemed to have as many fans as detractors. What we were searching for was a term that was inviting, but not intimidating. Something that would make shy new SCBWI members (or people thinking of joining) feel comfortable showing up in some random library community room full of strangers. The most stalwart gripers among us insisted that the term Schmooze fit that bill precisely and that no other name would ever be as perfect. (Never mind that I’d heard Joanne Rocklin, the wonderful author who’d given our meetings their name decades ago, laugh as she recalled the confusion it caused at first.)
In the end, it was LA co-regional advisor Sally Jones Rogan who suggested LitMingle. When I read Sally’s e-mail (which was after my shock and melancholy had just about run its course), my first thought, sheepishly, was… I kinda like that. With some trepidation, I’ll admit, I sent an e-mail to my people. Had I sold out? Would they think that I’d joined the establishment by conforming to their arbitrary Schmooze-smashing edict? Happily, that wasn’t the case. But for a few quiet grumbles (“I guess I could live with that if I hafta…”), the response was generally positive. We had our new name!
The only remaining task (for us anyway – the webmaster had a bunch of changes to make on our region’s webpage) was to decide on my new title. Schmooze Schmizard no longer worked, obviously. After trying out several monikers, each one sillier than the last, we arrived at: Mingle-Meister. For added fun, I decided that my coordinators would heretofore be known as my Mingle Minions!
See … change can be good! And fun. And playful. Even if it is a tiny bit more professional-sounding. As creators of content for children, would you expect anything less?
Karol Ruth Silverstein writes in a variety of genres, including picture books, middle-grade and young adult novels, screenplays, op-eds and endless to-do lists. She currently has two manuscripts out on submission. She lives in West Hollywood with her exceptionally fluffy cats, Ninja and Boo.