Monday, February 6, 2012

SCBWI Winter Conference: One Writer's Recap Part 2

I had another topic all lined up for today, but I gotta give the people what they want...and they want more recaps of the SCBWI Winter Conference which took place last weekend.  :)

On Friday, I recapped with Part One...Saturday's events.  Today I move on to the shorter Sunday's events and on this coming Friday I will give my little recapped of the three Breakout Sessions I attended.

But, as's Sunday!

I have to be totally honest, I was exhausted from a chock-full Saturday and took my sweet time getting to the conference from Brooklyn on Sunday morning.  So I do not have a recap of the Tomie dePaola Award and Art Showcast Winners.  I apologize.  However, you can read about the winners and see their work by clicking here and here.

When I did arrive at the conference, I found time to grab a bagel and a cup of coffee, and be in the Ballroom to hear Jane Yolen's surprise announcement...which was NOT the fact that she says she still gets rejection letters...although that was a total surprise, and actually, depressing to me.  If Jane Yolen still gets rejected what does that mean for little ol' me??  Anyway, Jane's actual announcement was about her new Mid-List Author Grant that she is launching.  Again, I am not Jane click here to hear Jane, herself, tell us about it.

So, onto the next Panel entitled "Methods to the Madness:The Process of Making Picture Books featuring the Bookmaker's Dozen and moderated by Laurent Linn".  First let me say that this panel was made up of some true stars!  Of course, it was exciting to see one of this year's Caldecott Honor winners, John Rocco. As well as others such as John Bemelmans Marciano who took over the Madeleine franchise from his father.  True talent!  And the little bits of wisdom and peeks into their processes were just as golden as the talent they were!

Perhape the most inspiring part of the panel was when each of the Bookmaker's Dozen was asked to finish the following, "If you only knew then what you know now..."

Sophie Blackall responded with the need of community and making connections.  She said that moving into a studio she shares with 4 other artists has been fun.

Peter Brown talked about how the hardknocks are part of creative growth.  Learning the hard way can be so important in  moving you to the next step forward.

Brett Helquist spoke of a need to have a "broad sense of the world".  He said that when he was younger he was so focused on art classes, but he wished he had a broader education.

David Gordon waxed philosophical with "success is proportionate to the ability to take rejection."

And Sean Qualls said to embrace people who embrace your work.  They see the raw talent.

Next up was another panel, perhaps not so light-hearted.  "The Current Market for Your Work: Four Agent's Views".  Bottomline, they all agreed that in order to sell these days, a book needs to have a clearly defined “hook.” As Ken Wright of Writers House observed, an agent can no longer “acquire a book just because you like it. You need to know where it will fit in the marketplace.” Knowing how your book will be positioned means you need to research what's currently in the marketplace and who your audience is.  Also, it is important that a writer research agents to find who is best to represent their work.  Regina Brooks, founder of Serendipity Agency, got both chuckles and smiles from the audience in saying that there is an agent out there who is our “soul mate,” and we just need to do the work to find him/her.  Personally, I would LOVE to believe that!  In any case, writers are advised to always do their homework before approaching agents, and to show that they’ve done their homework. No agent wants a submission that’s not appropriate for him or her or to be a work's first reader.

Closing out the conference, Kathryn Erskine gave a wonderful keynote on "What is Your Focus?"  This was an excellent way to help all in attendance be inspired and look for ways to apply all that they learned over the weekend in their hectic lives at home.

She used FOCUS as an acronym to bring home the following ideas....

Freedom: believe in yourself; put all your daily tasks and other distractions into a waiting room, and tell them you’ll get to them when you’re done working; “think about that one kid out there that needs you.”
Organization (again with the tech stuff!): make electronic folders for each aspect of your work: business, marketing, works in progress, etc.
Creativity: take care of yourself; daydream; if you get stuck, try techniques like sitting down and interviewing your character, or eavesdrop on him/her.
Understanding: what is it you’re trying to say with your book? Get out and do research. As much as you can, literally experience your story. Do the things your characters do, and go where they go.
Sharing: let your baby out into the world, but make sure it’s well-prepared when you do. And start connecting to your readers before you send your baby out. Make a book trailer to generate excitement. Do school visits, book signings.

Her final words...DON'T GIVE UP!

So...with all of that, I boarded the F Train back to Brooklyn with a fist full of business cards and a heart full of inspiration and sense of community. 

Thank you to SCBWI for a wonderful conference.  It was a great introduction into this amazing community.  As a first-timer it was exactly what I needed.

In June I will be attending the NJ SCBWI conference in Princeton, which doesn't seem as "overview like" of the business and will help make even more industry connections.  However, I am so happy I had this experience. 

Tune in Wednesday for Writers Weigh In and then on Friday I will recap the 3 Breakouts I attended.

And as always, Happy Writing!


  1. Excellent wrap-up, Marcie. I especially appreciated the FOCUS acronym. Thank you for sharing!

  2. I agree - NJ SCBWI looks amazing. If I could be there, I would! Thanks for sharing your notes.

  3. Thanks for sharing with those of us who couldn't make it.

  4. Thanks, Marcie, I live vicariously through these updates. Do you plan to go to LA in August?

    1. Joanna, I do not plan on going to LA in August this year. However it is on my "things to do" list. Perhaps in 2013. :)