A few days ago, Barbara and I were at a school fair selling our books, All Too Much for Oliver and Aiden Finds a Way (pre-orders), alongside our author and illustrator colleagues.
It's always fun to catch up, chat about our progress and plans for new books while we meet new people, big and little.
What I like most about meeting up with our Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators family (the lovely people in the picture above), what I find most therapeutic, is the reassurance I get that we're not alone in the struggle to make it in the most competitive industry there is. Making quality picture books is hard. And getting your books out there is even harder. And to hear that from people who know and understand gives me the energy I need to go on, because these very people will remind me that it's so worth it in the end.
Last weekend, we got a very special reminder of why we do what we do. It was a moment that will forever be engraved in my memory.
A lady came up to us, staring at our Oliver banner with a sweet smile on her face. She picked up our browsing copy and asked us what the story was about. As I told her about Oliver, about how Oliver likes to play alone, likes the quiet; about how he meets and becomes friends with a little girl who is nothing like him; about how he finds the strength to push himself out of his comfort zone because of the love and support he was shown by his friend and family; I looked at her and saw the tears rolling down her face.
This lovely lady, this beautiful soul, was so touched that she started to cry. She told us that her son was like Oliver and that for a long time she didn't know how to give him what he needed. She said that she was also like Oliver and never quite understood herself. She was so relieved to see there were not only others like her, but people who are giving the sensitive a voice.
It makes me so happy when I stop and think about where we were a few years ago, and where we are now. We had no idea what was going on with our child. We didn't even know what to look for. And now there are communities of supportive people who get it. There are books, blogs, websites, podcasts, news articles, a documentary, and even picture books.
I will never forget this lady. I will never forget the relief I saw on her face. She found her answers that day, at our stand, in our Oliver.