Here is a taste of his keynote:
Bruce knows most of us are here because we have this crazy belief that children are worth our best efforts. Crazy because society seems to be saying one thing but doing another.
“…How can we not call ourselves crazy to believe kids matter when our society seems to believe it’s more important to give bankers their bonuses than children their books in school?”
Take a look at why our craft matters, what you do as children’s book creators has the opportunity to reach out far into the future.
“Our children are in crisis, and not just the ones at the border in cages… Children are told they're important as consumers, that they should buy things, but we’re not giving them anything that feeds their hearts.”
Bruce reads a fan letter to us, from a boy who'd read all of Bruce’s books as a kid, and the thoughts and themes that Bruce shared in those books shaped the way the boy looked at the world, ultimately informing what he did with his life which was to go into medicine, saving people all over the world in its most needy locales.
Bruce saved this letter in a folder he calls ‘To Look at on Bad Days’.
Think about what you write or draw as perhaps having a Butterfly Effect on future generations.
The ripples of stories through generations fascinate Bruce, one thing you write or one picture you paint can change a person’s heart forever. “That is what we have a chance to do every time we create our art. Bring to that creative effort your full heart.”
You cannot know all the effects your work will have on the world or how.
You don’t need to be an earnest angel, you can be ironic, silly, a little naughty, but no matter what, do it with your best heart.
Bruce’s last word of advice is do not start your story with a message.
Start instead with your own good heart: Fabulous characters, intriguing situations and out of that will come what needs to come.
"The right story at the right moment is like an arrow to the heart, it can catch and hold a hurt and bring it to the surface."
You will change the world, you can’t help but do so simply by being here, and you won’t know how you did. Every creative action is a pebble making ripples that will spread out to places you can’t even imagine, and from there, those ripples will set other waves in motion, and on and on.
Every act of courage, moment of compassion, every kindness matters.
Go home, get busy, drop some pebbles in the pond, says Bruce.