The first day of the new year is already fading and my holidays are, at best, a wonderful memory, save for the storage tubs of decorations that still need put away.

By now, many of you may already have broken those resolutions that were made with such sincerity not that long ago. For me, I’ve found the best solution is to not make resolutions in the first place – no room for self—recrimination, guilt, or feelings of failure later on. Of course, the year still begins with my own personal challenges – lose weight, exercise more, clean out the toxic dump I call my office, blah, blah, blah. But resolutions? No. Which might explain why I’m overweight, haven’t walked as much as I should, and do most of my writing in a space that could tie for first in the “world’s messiest office” contest.

At the start of last year, however, a very good friend suggested to a very small and very dear group of other friends (who all just happen to be children’s writers) that we band together with the goal of offering support and encouragement to each other; providing inspiration and empathy; and sharing ideas, information, and opportunities to bring our writing to a higher level. Very similar to what a lot of critique groups provide, but on a much more intimate level. She was insistent that we not make resolutions, but simply lay out a schedule for things we wanted to achieve.

The idea was to send these personal goals to each other – submit to a new market, write every day, etc. — and to provide updates on whatever schedule we chose whether it was monthly, weekly, or daily. The group called itself Jambalaya (or Jambies for short) because as one member suggested, we were a mix of many diverse interests and talents, but all together we made a wonderful “stew.” We posted our goals on our Jambies’ listserv and members responded – or not – as their own schedules permitted.

In the summer, we had a daylong get—together at my cottage on the Mahoning River beginning with breakfast at a local eatery. Although (too) much of the discussion was about the Northern Ohio SCBWI conference, it was a wonderful day to bounce ideas off each other, share frustrations and dreams, and critique works in progress. Of course, there was also the added excitement (and plenty of laughs) involving a (newly installed and very expensive) composting toilet, someone taking antibiotics (a definite no—no with all those hardworking microbes), and a bucket – actually a leaky bucket, to boot! Then too, we all enjoyed the talents of one Jambie performance artist who can still take off her bra without removing her shirt. Geez, I couldn’t do that at an age when I should have been able to do that! But I’ll spare you the details on those events AND some Jambie embarrassment!

As fall approached, we were all caught up in our own lives and the annual conference and did not stay connected as much as I would have liked. But for me, I continued to read, read, read (one of my major goals outlined in January) and I far surpassed my original expectations. Still, it was nice to know that the connection was there and could be picked up at a moment’s notice when that one rejection that makes you want to give it all up arrives.

This year I hope the Jambies again share their goals with each other before the new year becomes too old. And I definitely want to host Jambiefest 2006, with less emphasis on the conference and more emphasis on each other.

For the rest of you, I hope that instead of resolutions, you resolve to connect with some fellow writers (better yet if they also happen to be friends) and to share those things that make the field of children’s writing so much more enjoyable.

And for those of you who are wondering, the talented Jambie performance artist does not do bachelor parties…although with the way the children’s market pays, she might make an exception!

Write on!