By Karen Jameson
Sometimes the person who’s about to change your life has been there all along!
Children’s author and friend, Dianne White, and I met way back in 1996 when I joined the teaching staff at Peachland Elementary. A well-respected primary teacher with an encyclopedic knowledge of children’s literature, Dianne pursued her love of children’s writing after hours. Sixteen years later, when Dianne announced plans for an early retirement (and a move to Arizona), I knew that it was now or never. I finally summoned my courage and shared my own secret writing dreams. I never could have imagined what happened next!
Dianne graciously took me under her wing. First, an invitation to a life changing poetry class at Ann Whitford Paul’s home, followed months later by the 2012 SCBWI Summer Conference and a winning picture book entry in that year’s CenCal Writer’s Day. I was hooked!
Providing endless support and encouragement, Dianne coached me on all things kid lit. She introduced me to many wonderful authors, including Alexis O’Neill, whose UCLA Extension course brought the first of my magazine sales, and Lynn Becker, who’s become an invaluable friend and critique partner. Along the way, my circle of SCBWI friends has continued to grow.
Since our unofficial mentorship began five years ago, we’ve become conference buddies, critique partners, and sounding boards for one another on our writing journeys. I was there to snap a picture when she got the first copy of her debut picture book, Blue on Blue, and she was there to celebrate when my manuscript, Woodland Dreams, won the Sue Alexander Grant Award for the Working Writer’s Retreat last year. In 2018, I look forward to Dianne’s book launches for Goodbye Brings Hello (HMH) and Who Eats Orange? (Beach Lane).
This year has been an incredible one for me. In January, I signed with my dream agent, Kathleen Rushall of Andrea Brown Literary Agency. Two picture books sales followed shortly after! I know that when Moon Babies (Putnam, 2019) and Woodland Dreams (Chronicle, 2020) release, Dianne will be right there cheering along with me.
Lasting friendships, like ours, are a true gift. In our teaching days, Dianne and I shared instructional strategies, best practices, and goals for our students. Now, we share our love of literature, writing pursuits, dreams, goals, and hopes of reaching even more children. I couldn’t ask for anything better.
So, what’s the takeaway here? The journey is sweeter with a friend? Reach out and pay it forward? Yes, both those things. But mostly, take a good look around you. There may be a writing mentor (or future mentee) in your midst, too. Just don’t wait as long as I did to get started!
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Karen Jameson is a children’s author, poet, teacher, and proud SCBWI member. She was awarded the 2016 Sue Alexander Award for the Working Writer’s Retreat for her manuscript, Woodland Dreams, which has since sold to Chronicle Books. Her debut picture book, Moon Babies, comes out in summer 2019. You can follow Karen on Twitter @KarenJameson15.
Images provided by Karen Jameson.