by Lisa Rogers
MY CONNECTION TO THE WRITERS’ LOFT began when I stole Heather Kelly’s cat.
I didn’t intentionally commit a crime: my husband, daughter, and I were on our daily hour-and-a-half walk with Tucker, our 90-lb. Treeing Walker Coonhound. After our Dalmatian nearly had his ears cut off by a cat crouched in some bushes, we’d been wary of letting this dog nose his way into shrubs. So when Tucker’s sniffer started eye-deep into a patch of greenery near a baseball field, we pulled him back.
What was in there turned out to be Heather’s cat, Jelly.
I’m allergic to cats, but my daughter isn’t, and she reached in and snatched up a beautiful calico female. We figured she was lost, so we took her home and safeguarded her in Tucker’s never-used crate.
Days later, I connected with Heather, and she claimed Jelly as her own.
Heather had just founded The Writers’ Loft. I was intrigued, but I figured I already had a quiet place to write. I thought about joining a Loft critique group, and even sent in a story, but was too shy to follow up.
When I was ready, The Loft was there, and fortunately Heather didn’t hold a grudge. The Loft had grown to include author, editor, and agent presentations. Seasoned Loft members offered free craft chats. Everyone I’ve met has helped move me forward, by example, an encouraging word, or a smile.
I’m a member of an online picture book writing community, which was instrumental in jumpstarting my long-term goal of becoming an author and landing me my agent. But the world of children’s writing is both narrow and wide, and connections cross and join. Like synapses, the more the connections, the better.
And wow, are the Loft connections rich. It’s where I’ve found wealth untold: Community. Expertise. Friendship. People happy to share what they’ve learned during this nigh-impossible journey.
I’ve benefited from Laura Woollett’s nonfiction research methods; Erin Dionne’s revelatory revision classes and her bullet journal technique; Allison Pottern Hoch’s book event planning tips; Karen Boss’ hands-on picture book workshops; Brian Lies’ insider look at illustration, and more.
Dave Pasquantonio encouraged me to submit to Firsts, The Writers’ Loft inaugural anthology. Hayley Barrett’s scrumptious book-themed treats have tempted me to the monthly Friday-afternoon Snack ‘n Scribe. Josh Funk gave me a personal tutorial on using Twitter. I’ve had manuscript critiques, taken part in book discussions—begun by Julie Reich—and am helping to launch this blog with Dave, Julie, Sandy Budiansky, and Wendy McDonald.
I’ve learned that keeping to myself does not make me a better writer. Writing, editing, and publishing is a complicated business. It’s necessary to learn from each other, celebrate successes—thanks, Pam Vaughn, for Tell Us Tuesday!—and receive and provide encouragement and advice. I hope to be able to pay forward even a small portion of what I’ve gained.
We’ve got lofty goals. The Writers’ Loft supports us as we reach for them.
Lisa Rogers is an elementary school librarian and a former newspaper reporter and editor. Her picture book, MR. MARSHALL’S RED WHEELBARROW: A STORY ABOUT WILLIAM CARLOS WILLIAMS’S BELOVED POEM, illustrated by Chuck Groenink, will be published by Random House’s Schwartz & Wade Books in spring 2019. She is the winner of the 2016 PEN New England Susan P. Bloom Discovery Award.