She started her talk with a shoutout to SCBWI for filling a void she did not know existed in her, and for all of us, creating a domino effect that ultimately benefits children around the world.
"Vulnerability is a double-edged sword," she said. 'It cuts and it hurts."
She shared her publication journey with us, starting with her debut novel, ONE FOR THE MURPHYS, which is about a girl who lands in foster care and gives her new family a hard time at first.
Linda's character is terrified by love in the book, a fear that comes from her own life. "My head knew that love and fear shouldn't hold hands, but my heart just couldn't peel the two apart for a very long time."
Linda wanted to depict a child's journey of claiming the light, of looking forward and not back.
The book had a hard journey into the world; she received word from an editor who wanted her to make an unacceptable change, she received a no from a wonderful agent. But then ...
changed her mind.
The book ended up with Linda's dream editor (well, beyond her dream editor, Nancy Paulsen). And that's when anxiety hit. Linda traveled to New York and couldn't even speak with the editor, something that devastated her.
So she turned to her critique group for support. "And sitting at that table, a very rare thing happened," Linda said. "I started to cry. The kind of sadness where you whole body knows how you feel. Through that despair, words rose up through the center of me. 'You don't understand,' I said. 'Kids like me don't grow up to be authors.'"
That was her vulnerability. Everything she never wanted anything to know about her 12-year-old self was there.
At the table that day, the genesis of her second book, FISH IN A TREE, was born. It was about a girl who know she had potential that she could not reach. "That epiphany became the first emotional syllables of FISH IN A TREE. Although they hurt, I used them."
"The stuff we are ashamed of can make for very good storytelling," she said.
She has learned that her vulnerability has helped children, and that has made it easier for her to become vulnerable as a writer.
Her books are hard fought, and one of her secrets is to stay grateful. As a child and teen who struggled, she always looked for the good things in her life. "I do believe that was my best coping skill."
Publishing has a lot of frustrations. But it also holds so much joy. "We get to write for kids! Joy begets creativity. Joy will help your work."
This work is about the children we create for. The work is personal. And it's understandable to get caught up in awards and accolades, but kids need our hearts... they need us to care more about them than our careers and ourselves.
She mused about what if she let her disappointments and rejections stop her. "We should change 'rejection letter' to the 'not yet letter'."
It takes courage to send things out. "That's badass points," she said. And there are no consequences to getting one. You hone your work an you move on. You can handle a rejection. You just have to decide that you can.
"Will you spend your one cherished life devouring Netflix? Or will you fight to make a difference. Leave a mark. Improve the world.... change your wishes into goals and take your goals and act on them. Nothing in this amazing life is every accomplished without action."
"If you can go home and dig deep, share the shards of yourself. If you can put your heart own the page, be authentic and true, well, you are going to change lives. Maybe even your own."