I still remember the first time I heard about SCBWI. “It stands for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators,” my friend told me, “and you need to join.” I did. And when I went to my very first SCBWI event – the regional conference in New England – I understood why. The writers I met at that conference seven years ago are among my best friends now. They critique my manuscripts, share struggles, cheer successes, and keep me going. It is a magical thing to walk into a hotel conference center and realize, all at once, “These are my people!”
So when I was invited to give a keynote talk at this year’s SCBWI Winter Conference in New York, I jumped at the opportunity.
I made it into the city a day early and spent some time researching an upcoming book here…
Hint: I was upstairs in the Museum of Natural History’s invertebrate zoology department most of the day. Think bugs!
I also had a chance to see the children’s book exhibit at the New York Public Library, which was an amazing tribute to the history of our work.
There were so many books, original art, and manuscripts to ogle, but I think my favorite part of the exhibit might have been this small display of library cards – reminding us how libraries (and the books inside them) create great thinkers.
Here’s Carl Sagan’s card…
Thursday evening, it was off to the Grand Hyatt, where the giant head statues in the lobby were decked out for their children’s book celebration.
On Friday, I gave a talk and facilitated a roundtable discussion at the Plot Intensive, which was such a fantastic experience. The participants at my table were all such great people as well as writers, and they not only shared their own work but supported one another beautifully. I’m fully expecting to see their novels in bookstores & libraries before too long.
Here’s SCBWI’s Lin Oliver welcoming the tribe for the full conference Saturday morning.
Sunday morning was my talk on “The Spectacular Power of Failure,” and it was an absolute gift to speak to this incredible group of writers and illustrators.
Photo courtesy of Nancy Castaldo
I learned that sometimes, illustrators draw pictures of you while you are talking.
(Thanks to Dana James Sullivan for sharing this great keynote doodle!)
During the autographing session, some people asked me about the books & poems I’d talked about in the keynote. “What Happened to Your Book Today” is here, just in case you need a reminder of why we write and illustrate for kids. And here are links to some of the books and website I mentioned:
Regina Dugan’s TED Talk (She was the “What would you do if you knew you could not fail?” speaker.)
My 2012 TED Talk (This is a TED blog summary – the video hasn’t been shared online yet.)
My son’s project-blog (This is not about the project that caught on fire….it’s about his weather balloon that got stuck in a tree in MA. Another “malfunction” with a happy ending.)
And of course…our anthem. With lyrics, so you can sing along when you finish your work today.
One last note…I was actually working on this blog post at the airport, waiting for my flight home. Just before it was time to board, a stranger stepped up to my seat and said, “I made this for you.” It was a thank you card (she’d been at the conference) with this on the cover:
(Thank you so much, Meagan Moore! You made my whole night.)
I want to say a HUGE thank you to the staff and volunteers who made this conference happen and invited me to be a part of it this year. It was truly a magical weekend – one that reminded me how very lucky I am to be part of this incredible community of writers and artists.