I don’t take great stock in omens and superstition, but when I hear the same thought repeated in divergent places and with different voices, it gets my attention.
In June, I heard a conference speaker quote a saying to make her point, and this last week read the same words in the Horn Book Magazine. Ekua Holmes in her Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award speech attributes an African proverb with the words that now have my notice, “If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
I thought about an irony that demonstrates this principle in the children's writing community. On the surface, one would think there was no advantage to writers helping one another out since a multitude of them compete for the relatively few publishing opportunities out there. Yet, a day doesn’t pass when I don’t see Facebook posts from other writer friends about joys and woes of successful school visits or embarrassing question from kids, works-in-progress going well or stuck in the mud, publications and book signings, or awkward encounters. From their peers, comments proliferate with appropriate sympathy, encouragement, and congratulations.
The group photos picture my most regular opportunity of going together on the journey. This SCBWI group meets monthly in New Orleans and has occasional retreats. Notice the intensity as they listen to work being read. We critique each other’s work hoping to make it better, share our latest rejections and acceptances, and give each other advice and hints on places to submit. When I think about the proverb, this group has sometimes slowed me down because I often wait to get their feedback before sending a submission or they suggest a way to rework a piece that I had thought was ready and I go back to try again. They have also taken me farther with their polish for my manuscripts.
As this saying has rambled thorough my head, it has been easy to think of what floats my boat, but I think there’s more. I can’t help but wonder how much of life would go farther and better if we all adopted the principle of going together?