Sara Zarr delivers the keynote speech to kick off the final day of the 2011 SCBWI Annual Winter Conference.
Sara is the acclaimed author of three novels for young adults: STORY OF A GIRL (National Book Award Finalist), SWEETHEARTS (Cybil Award Finalist), and ONCE WAS LOST (a Kirkus Best Book of 2009). Her fourth book will be out in late 2011. She's also written for IMAGE JOURNAL, Hunger Mountain Online, and RESPONSE MAGAZINE, as well as for several anthologies. (If you need a reading recommendation, ask Sara--she recently read over 200 books as a judge for the National Book Awards.)
Click here to read a pre-conference interview with Sara.
Sara came the the SCBWI conference as an attendee in 2001, at which time she had been pursuing writing for five years and was becoming frustrated. She came back in 2005 and she was really getting discouraged that things weren't happening in her career.
"They say write the book you want to read. I'm going to give the speech that I need to hear," Sara told us. "I speak to you as a colleague, comrade and friend."
The time between when you're no longer a beginner but have yet to break into the business is probably the hardest in your career, she says. Your greatest creation is your creative life. It's all in your hands. Rejection can't take it away; reviews can't take it away. The life you create for yourself as an artist, may be the only thing that's really yours, she continues. Create a life you can center yourself in calmly as you wait for you work to grow.
Here are a few some of the characters tics of a fulfilling creative life that Sara shared with us...
It's sustainable. Celebrate career milestones, but remember that they aren't the point. What's important is the love of the work. "Most creative I know don't have a retirement plan."
It invites company. Most creatives are introverts. Seek mentoring and be a mentor. Other creatives are the only ones who understands the joys and struggles of the creative life. There's never a point where you have nothing else to learn. But at the same time, don't consider hundreds of people on Twitter who you've never meant as your inner circle of friends.
It knows when to send company away. Ultimately this is about you. When it comes to getting your work done, no one can do that but you. There's power and importance to privacy. Think before sharing, name dropping. Know when to turn off Google alerts and GoodReads. "We can't let all of these voices and opinions be present in our creative moment."
It gives back. It give back to you and to others. As you're engaged with you work and your world you'll be a better spouse, friends, sibling. You'll be more self-actualized.