Seven Years of Mostly Good Memories

2019 marks seven years since I stepped down as the SCBWI Oregon Regional Advisor, a volunteer job I held for 18 years. Today I let go the records I was entrusted with to keep for seven years (IRS requirements). It all went up in smoke in the paper bonfire we set almost every New Year’s Day. Nothing toxic, and damp cold weather meant no danger of fire spreading to where we didn’t want it. It’s always a fun way to spend a cold afternoon in January.


Seeing that old paperwork crinkle and blacken brought back a lot of sweet memories. They were mostly about our yearly retreat at Silver Falls. When I saw the retreat mascots designed by Carolyn being tossed into the fire, I rescued one copy to keep as a memory. I also kept the last bank statement when I turned over a very healthy treasury to the incoming Regional Advisors. The year before had been our first bad year in two decades, and we weren’t the only region that suffered low attendance and lost revenue as a result of the recession.

The last yearly conference I was involved with (I shared the massive task with several others) was one of the most difficult times of my life. I had announced my retirement a few months earlier, and it was like the earth shifted. There was even a big pre-conference event planned about what to do now, and I was not invited…which was pretty weird but understandable. I hung out with our guest editors and agents and tried to explain what was going on. And frankly, that was really weird.

I went through the weekend, accepting congratulations and appreciation as best I could, yet escaping to my hotel room often to collapse. My blood pressure was at crisis levels, and at one point I almost had my roommate call 911 but changed my mind. I didn’t want a scene. I still remember the sensation of almost fainting several times while speakers spoke and attendees chattered. I couldn’t wait for it to be over.

When I handed over boxes and boxes of stuff to the incoming leaders at the end of the weekend, I started to feel better. When I got in my car and began the 125 mile trek back home, I felt relieved. I had been so ignorant of how people could try to destroy another person, but that spring, I got a dandy reminder which led to my retirement. Bullies had the same effect on me when I was in 8th grade, only now I was an adult with hypertension. I thought I was strong and could deal with it, but it almost killed me.

As I drove, I worked on a new picture book called NO MEANIES ALLOWED. It made me laugh for the first time in a long time. I still have hypertension, but have learned to steer clear of situations like this. I did my time, and I’m proud of the work we did. The end. Expletives deleted. 🙂

So today, it was nice to see those few bad memories burn away. It was extra nice to be reminded of the many friends I still have from those days. By the way, I haven’t talked about this in public until now. It’s part of my effort to finally let it go. Thanks for listening. And may we all endeavor to persevere.


7 Comments Add yours

  1. Suz B says:

    You are among the life-changing and, more recently, life-saving friends I first met at Silver Falls. I wish I’d been there with you to warm my hands over that fire.

  2. Susan Jerde says:

    Hi Robin,

    I never knew about any of this- I do have some fond memories of my one weekend at Silver Falls, and other conferences too (which you were always in charge of! and did a great job.) I’m glad you are letting all this go- I feel relieved now that I do art for fun, for joy, for gifts, because a picture gets stuck in my brain- but now I’m not always looking for (and often failing at) that next job. Remember how we would talk about the art directors “under their desks” when we would coldcall? Done with that- Happy New Year!

    1. Robin Koontz says:

      Yah you were the one who helped me gather the courage to go to NYC for portfolio interviews in 1985!! SO glad that’s over – illustration is way more competitive than writing, that’s for sure. The only bummer is that it usually pays better. 😉

  3. I know you’ve been letting go of this experience for a while, Robin, and doing a great job, IMHO. And I hope that talking about it like this (to say nothing of the ritual burning of the papers!) helps the bad memories fade into the distance. You have written so many books between then and now, and worked on so many interesting projects, that I think it’s a case of “Please don’t throw me into the briar patch!”

    1. Robin Koontz says:

      Thanks, Barbara! There may be some truth in that, as I sure have tried to catch up on my career since then. I noticed one of the meanies didn’t last long in her position: it took up far too much of her writing time, I read. Gee.

  4. I’m sorry you had to deal with meanies, Robin, but I’m happy that it’s all behind you. You seem to be dealing with it now. Hope your BP is down again. Nice post.

    1. Robin Koontz says:

      Thanks, Elizabeth. Sadly hypertension is still my plague but medication helps as does my lifestyle. Situations like this may seem like nothing to people who instigate them, but the damage always leaves scars and bad memories.

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