Wednesday, February 6, 2013

SCBWI Winter Conference Recap (Part 1)

If you have never attended an SCBWI Conference before...what are you waiting for??  Seriously.  I am still blown away by this past weekend and although I am going to try and put my experience into is times like this that words fail me. 

But here ya go...


On a cold blustery morning in NYC, 999 kidlit writers and illustrators gathered at the Hyatt Grand Central for a weekend of celebration, dedication, inspiration and aspiration.

These kidlitters were made up of 796 women, 138 men and 65 undeclared!  Perhaps some of our anthropomorphic friends were there, as well.  :)

They came from the far reaches of Earth:  17 different countries (including Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, South Africa, and Canada--our proud and ruckus neighbors to the North) AND 46 States with the greatest numbers coming from NY, MA, CA, NJ, CT and PA (no show states were WY, ND, MT, HI and MS).

And they were in for the conference of their lives!


I figured that if I was going to attend the conference this year I was going to go all out!  And so I registered for the optional Friday Writers' Roundtable Intensive.  And yes, it was intense.  Here are my take-aways

  • Editor Panel:"Five Traps to Avoid in Your Writing"  Tara Weikum from HarperCollins Children's Books talked about the need for each writer to decipher what is good advice and what is bad advice.  How brilliant is that?  Simply said, but so true.  The ability to both handle opinions and filter feedback is priceless for a writer.  And remembering that critiques are just that--opinions!  Stay true to your heart and write the story that you need to tell. 

  • Critique Session #1  I had the honor of sitting at the table with 8 other kidlitters and the wonderful agent, Jenny Bent of The Bent Agency.  And although Jenny does not handle picture books, she has agents at her agency who do.  I have to admit, I was extremely nervous and anxious.  The process was that each one of us had 15 minutes to read the first 500 words aloud to the table and then receive feedback.  Its like speed-dating for your manuscript.  And yes, 15 minutes is plenty of time...although it doesn't seem like it.  I had read my piece aloud to people before, but somehow this hearkened back to the days of theatre audtioning and I was nervous!  However, I was thankfully the second to last person to go and the nerves had subsided a bit by my turn.  It was actually fun and I received great comments from Jenny and the others at the table.  It felt supportive and not critical...but of course, that is the spirit of SCBWI and one of the reason why I just adore the community!
  • Critique Session #2  After lunch we had yet another critique session, this time of course I felt like a veteran.  I was so confident and excited to share my 486 word Picture Book.  I was sat at the same table as Kate Sullivan, and editor at Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.  Again, the comments were helpful.  I felt built up as a writer.  Perhaps, it is this great experience that helped paint the rest of my conference weekend in such amazing light. 

  • Agent Panel: The Market Place and What it Needs Now  With the stress of critiquing behind us, the closing of the day was a panel, scheduled from 4-5pm.  I won't lie...I was tapped.  We had spent the past 7 hours in the same hotel ballroom (not including lunch) and my eyes were getting heavy.  It was hard to focus on the panel and I felt a little sorry for Ed Necarsulmer, Ginger Clark and Jenny Bent.  Looking back on my skimpy notes on the panel, I did however have one takeaway.  Ed Necarsulmer said, "It is a great time to be a picture book author.  Each house is publishing less titles, but they are more focused on the titles they do publish."  Thank you, Ed.  I admit, I perked up at that.  :)
It was off to dinner with 3 of my beloved kidlit girls and then Kid Lit Drink Night to follow.  Yes, it was a long day...but conference is about your Tribe.  Its about breaking out of your solitude and finding connection with like-minded souls.  I was determined to drink it all up!

Join me tomorrow, as I recap Saturday's Conference jam-packed with keynotes from Meg Rosoff and Shaun Tan, as well as panels and breakout sessions from some of the most influential people in the business.


  1. Yay for all that input and support. I must have missed you at the kidlit drink night as I left just before 10:00. :(

  2. Thanks for sharing, Marcie. Would love to hear more about what Tara Weikum said. And congrats on all the helpful comments you got!

  3. SCBWI conferences are the best kind of high, aren't they? I can't wait to read about Shaun Tan's speech. He is one of my favorite author/illustrators.

  4. Glad you had a great experience, Marcie! I wish I could have gone this year. Looking forward to reading about Saturday.

  5. Sounds fun, Marcie! I would love to come to the NY conference one of these years...

  6. Thanks for sharing, Marcie, for those of us who can't attend. Sounds like such a neat experience!