Friday, February 8, 2013

SCBWI Winter Conference Recap (Part 3)

After much deliberation, my girlfriends and I devised a plan to arrive at the hotel on Sunday as early as possible to ensure seats close to the stage.  Afterall, Sunday's line-up packed quite a punch.

So I arrived first and threw my coat and scarf and bag and bagel on about 6 seats in the 4th row center and awaited what promised to be a fangirl's kidlit dream.

We now bring you the conclusion of my recap....

  • Award Presentations  What better way to start out the morning than to recognize those among us who have exemplified the field.  The winners of the Tomie dePaola Award, the Emerging Voices Award, the Art Showcase winners and the Jan Yolen Mid-List Author Grant winners were announced.  (For a full list and to see the winners' work go to the SCBWI Official Conference Blog.)  But, perhaps selfishly, I was awaiting the announcement of the winners of the annual Joke Contest.  For those of you who have never attended conference, each year they pose a scenario and ask us funny people to submit jokes.  This year I was pretty proud of my entry.  The scenario was that you walk into a NYC bar where all of the characters of Children's Literature gather and you approach a character with an opening line/pick up line.  What would you say and to who?  My joke was directed to Charlotte and I would say, "I am so excited to meet you.  I have read everything you have published on the web!"  Needless to say I did not win.  Oh well...there is always next year.

  • Keynote:  "Tell Me a Story"--Margaret Peterson Haddix  "Its the stories that matter much more than the devices kids read them on," says Margaret and therefore we need not worry too much about the changing climate of books, but focus on writing the best stories we can write.  Margaret used to tell her daughter stories, reminiscing, and telling her events from her own childhood. During one rambling story, her daughter became quite angry with her and yelled at her mom to get to, "and then one day."It took Margaret a while to realize what her daughter was screaming for was plot.  When Margaret starts to think she's going on too long in a scene, she asks herself if what she's writing matters, and her internal editor starts telling her to get to the and then one day.  And perhaps the best bit of advice I took away from Margaret's keynote:  "Fail big if you have to, but go down trying."  My theater teacher in high school used to always say this.  "Fail big."  Thank you, Margaret, for the reminder. 

  • Keynote:  "It Takes Two" The Pleasures and Pitfalls of Writing a Series--Julie Andrews and Emma Walton Hamilton  Alright it was time for my inner fangirl to freak out.  All weekend I had joked that Julie Andrews must be some sort of diva to have such strict rules on photographs and autographing.  Our conference bulletin had bolded notes about legality issues such as these.  Howeve, when they announced Julie Andrews and Emma Walton Hamilton and I immediately started to tear up.  As the crowd stood to applaud their entrance, I became that little 6 year old girl who knew every word to Mary Poppins and who spun around in her living room as if on that hilltop in the Sound of Music.  This was Julie Andrews!!! let's not forget that Julie and Emma are also wonderful writers.  They were a delight.  Although I have no inclination at this time to write a series, their talk was informative, touching on the 6 things they pay great attention to when writing their picture book series (Dumpy the Dump Truck and The Very Fairy Princess).  These 6 items were:  character, consistency, flexibility, surprise, satisfaction, and perspective.  For a little more insight into these items, visit  They closed with talking about their mandate: a celebrated sense of wonder.  Wow.  Julie Andrews a diva?  If so, own it Julie.  You are a true inspiration.

  • Closing Keynote: "Writing in 3 Easy Steps, 3 Somewhat Less Easy Steps, 2 Pretty Difficult Steps, and 1 Impossible Step"--Mo Willems  Its not easy to follow Mary Poppins, but Mo was certainly the man for the job.  Of course, digital devices flashed and clicked throughout the ballroom as the iconic writer took the stage, yet Mo yelled "You are writers which means you are filters, not spigots! So turn off the devices!  Live in the moment!"  I loved him already.  His keynote was hilarious and peppered with some fabulous advice as well as timeless questions such as "In Frog & Toad, which one is Frog?  The one with the pants?!  I don't have a biology degree!"  LOL!  Of course, he had a point in saying this...although I was really laughing too hard to pay attention!  But it was something about reading the BEST and then finding the holes.  To him, the hole in Frog & Toad is that they are not different enough and it is confusing, hence Elephant and Piggie.  "No one ever asks which one is Elephant."  If you want a breakdown of his 9 Steps check out  And remember, as picture book writers "We're not trying to make stories that are going to be read, we're trying to make stories that are going to be read a milliondy billiondy times." 
Well, that's all folks!  My heart is full, my brain exploding with ideas.  I headed home that evening with my signed copy of Knufflebunny and a Julie Andrews song in my heart. 
Thank you to my Tribe, SCBWI, and everyone that made this conference an utter blast!  Til August.  Til LA!


  1. Great to hear your assessment of Julie's & Emma's keynote, as well as Mo Willems.

    "We're trying to make stories that are going to be read a milliondy billiondy times" -- I think I need to write that out and put it prominently on my desk.

    Thank you!

  2. Thanks for letting us live the experience vicariously, Marcie. But you didn't tell us what the winning joke was!(I thought Charlotte was pretty good)

  3. Thanks, Marcie. It's sounds like everyone was drinking in the inspiration.

  4. It would have been great to see Mo Willems. His books are incredibly funny.

  5. Thanks for the wonderful recap, Marcie. I had fun reading your posts. So inspiring! I can't wait for my first International conference in LA!

  6. Thanks for the recap Marcie. It was fun hanging with you at such an awesome conference. And thank you, thank you for saving those center seats in the 4th row. They were great seats, and I, like you, teared up when I saw Julie Andrews in the flesh. Fun!

  7. Thanks, Marcie, for sharing your experiences! Hey, I like your Charlotte joke!!

  8. What a fun post! I think your little joke should have won. But I'm sure you lost BIG, so good job, there. I don't think I've ever wondered which was Frog and which was Toad. Ugh! Something else to worry about. I'm heading over to Mo's 9 steps. Thanks!

  9. Great! Thank you for letting us peep in the window of the conference!

  10. Really enjoyed all 3 of your conference recaps. Well done for going, they are so worth it. I look forward to going again.