Ah, the SCBWI Winter Conference, an event that has been on my bucket list for a very, very long time. I’ve yet to attend a national conference, but today, I get to live vicariously through the several regional members who attended this year’s conference and offered their insight!
So let’s get the recap started with thoughts from our awesome…
What a big, bold, beautiful conference! With over 1000 attendees from 48 states and 13 countries, there was a whole lot of creative energy bouncing around. I especially enjoyed the Published and Listed Author’s Forum, a full-day intensive featuring programming on everything from promotion to social media (with Maryland’s own Matthew Winner) and when to quit your day job. It was an uplifting and inspiring weekend that had me itching to get back to the keyboard to apply everything I had learned.
I always come away inspired and energized, but I noticed an awful lot of talk about the political climate and how it’s affected everyone’s creative lives. As usual, the keynotes were among the most inspiring. Bryan Collier brought me to tears. Sara Pennypacker made me want to write the Great American Novel. Seeing Jane Yolen and Tomie dePaola recognize upcoming talent also brought me to tears. Maybe I was just teary. The breakouts I attended gave me a lot to think about on my own writing. I learned from our own Elizabeth Crasster, who won the joke contest with a joke that illustrators are sketchy.
I love our tribe more every time I’m among them.
And I found Waldo! (The hotel staff, upon learning that they were hosting a bunch of children’s book people, decided to hide Waldo around the hotel for us.)
From our members:
The conference was just the boost I needed to keep moving forward with my work. There was great practical advice about promotion and communication to get and keep work, and there was inspirational talk about the importance of making books for young people and about persisting in one’s work even when it feels difficult and discouraging. I was honestly not prepared to for the experience to be so moving and emotional. I came home with renewed passion and determination, as well as concrete next steps to take.
My head is still spinning from all I learned at my first national conference. I came home with many practical tips to improve my craft as a writer. Sara Pennypacker’s advice on making your work memorable filled pages in my notebook that I know I will be returning to again and again. Sonya Sones provided an experience I’ve never had at any other SCBWI workshop: She handed out earplugs and sleep masks, lowered the lights, and invited us to relax in darkness. After 5 minutes, she gently instructed us to start writing. She encouraged us to practice this type of meditation each night before we go to sleep to allow our subconscious mind to come to the surface and inform our work.
As always, I came home with my spirit nourished. Our three keynote speakers were so moving. Here are three of the many quotes that I will treasure and add to the pantheon of inspiring words I post around my writing space:
Bryan Collier: “Your dream should scare you . . .Hold on to all your memories. These are your gifts.”
Tahereh Mafi: “Your vulnerable heart is your greatest tool. Don’t grow a callus around your heart.”
Sara Pennypacker: “Make beautiful what was ugly. Heal what is broken. Make just what is unjust.”
My only regret: I didn’t find Waldo!
It was a great experience. Those I met from our region and other regions reaffirmed what I have learned: Creative people are generous and giving people. I wish I had spoken to every one of you.
One of the big take-aways from the conference was the universality of our feelings of isolation, inadequacy, and rejection among both new and established artists and writers. Also our need to nurture supportive creative communities, both face-to-face and online. I think SCBWI plays an important role in bringing us introvert types together.
There were many inspiring speeches on the importance of books that nurture empathy, give voice to the voiceless, and cultivate a sense of wonder. Also humorous moments, like Geisel Award-winning author/illustrator Greg Pizzoli’s advice to keep your picture book short “because little kids are squirmy and need lots of bathroom breaks.”
I, for one, had a fantastic time. I learned so much and met so many wonderful people. And I can’t tell you how refreshing it was to be around so much positive creative energy!
Here are some notes and quotes I have:
Andrea Beaty (rhymes with Lady): “When I write in rhyme, it’s like writing music. When I write in prose, it’s like writing poetry.” She mentioned writing rhyme and it coming to her as if it were in the next room over and she had to press her ear against the wall to let it come into clarity. I thought this was beautiful and the idea resonated with me and my own creative flow.
For picture books: The power of choice is huge for a kid. Create choices for them to make in your work.
Nonfiction: Make nonfiction beautiful. Fact check! “Fact checking is a political act.” – Andrew Harwell
YA novels: Turning points in lives are much more interesting than “being stuck” or daily life. “Are readers feeling what you want them to feel?”
Be flexible, malleable, be easy to work with! Be realistic about what you can do. Do things you love and it will show through and be appealing to agents, publishers and readers.
What an amazing conference! I did my very best to just take in every single minute. I have never attended a conference before where I felt like so many individuals were focused on connecting with one another, lifting one another up, championing each others’ work, and positioning yourself to be open to learning new things. This made for a tone throughout the conference that felt both uplifting and supportive. I hope to make it back to the national conference very soon (AND to ours one day as well! …it’s been too long!)
This was my first SCBWI conference. I was as inspired as I was informed. I came away with sound direction for a project I have in the works. I appreciate what I was able to take away about craft, the writing process, the publishing process, as well as important information about the current literary landscape. I met some interesting and successful illustrators and writers and do appreciated the generosity and genuineness they shown to a newcomer like myself. This was the first opportunity I’ve had to hear from professionals regarding writing for marginalized kids. It is my passion and the information was a tremendous help.
The one thing that encouraged me the most was how I identified with Tahereh Mafi’s circumstance of not having any close friends who are writers. For a long time I’ve thought that this was something that was detrimental to my writing life and chances for success. Seeing how far she has come gave me the boost of confidence I needed to keep working hard and believing in my work. I’m planning to attend the LA conference. Wouldn’t miss it!!!
Many thanks to our regional advisers and members for offering your thoughts and notes. This really makes me want to bump going to a national conference higher on my bucket list!
For more information about this year’s SCBWI Winter Conference, check out the official blog.
And what about you?
Did you attend this year’s national conference? Or is it on your bucket list, too? If so, I hope you have the chance to attend one very soon.
And that you totally find Waldo.