The stories I’ve enjoyed all my life are those to which I feel a strong connection. I don’t know a reader who doesn’t feel this way. But it wasn’t until I became a writer that I fully appreciated that sentiment. Before, I would say whether I liked a book. It was a “feeling,” but it was a feeling I couldn’t quite articulate.

When I became a writer, I realized that connection is the very reason some people like certain books and others do not. We all bring our own experience, emotion, and imagination to the stories we read. When we connect to a story, we want to keep reading. While respecting that not every story is for everybody, for this writer, connection is the goal. It’s deeply personal, so it’s perfectly fine that not everyone likes everything I write.

That connection to readers is amplified when readers and creators of children’s books meet. Recently, I participated in the Rochester Children’s Book Festival—its 25th celebration of literacy and literature! Little did we know at the 2019 event, it would be three years before we would enjoy a live event once again. You know what they say about absence making the heart grow fonder…well, having endured the absence of this special connection to readers made the 2022 event all the sweeter.

It was lovely to be surrounded by those who love books – from authors and illustrators, to volunteers, to children, librarians, and families. This year, I featured two picture books that weren’t yet published for the 2019 event. What a joy it was to share them with the greater Rochester, New York, community, and well beyond.

I can’t thank the organizers enough, especially because I know what it takes to be one. In 2002, I began volunteering for the Festival, eventually becoming its Sponsorship Chair and then Co-Director. This year’s volunteers were warm, welcoming, enthusiastic, and thoughtful. I’m so grateful to be a part of this fabulous event.

The retiring Co-Directors, Vicki Schultz and Barbara Underhill, led the RCBF through the pandemic, having to envision ways to keep it going. In 2021, it was virtual. This year, they had to find a new venue. They met each challenge with grace, now leaving the Festival in the very capable hands of Jim Chaize and Ronny Frishman.

In commemoration of our days as Co-Directors of the RCBF, Elizabeth Falk and I received the RCBF Inspiration Award. I will point out though, that the RCBF inspires ME. Every day.

To share my stories with young readers has been a dream come true. To celebrate stories for young readers with Rochester Area Children’s Writers & Illustrators (RACWI) and the RCBF is a dream that when I set out – I didn’t know could exist. I’m so thankful. Connection. That’s where it begins. That’s what sustains us through reading a book, through writing a book, through managing the ups and downs of the publishing industry.

Thank you for connecting with me, here. Happy Holidays!