On Friday, I am going to throw my bags into the car and set off to New York for the SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) Winter Conference. I’ll swing through western Massachusetts to pick up a writing friend who has become a friend friend. And I’ll navigate the streets of NYC before finding our hotel (hopefully GPS will be my hero). I am excited for this weekend. Let me tell you why.
My first SCBWI conference was seven years ago. I registered on a whim while holding a new baby in my arms. Maybe it wasn’t really a whim though, I had googled SCBWI for the past 6 months at all hours of the night (since I was awake all hours of the night with a newborn). I had always wanted to write for kids and had decided to do something about it. People kept mentioning SCBWI to me and I had finally worked up the courage to check it out.
I arrived in New York with my husband and tiny baby to stay in the world’s smallest hotel room on the coldest weekend of the winter (and I’m from New Hampshire). I had no idea what I had signed myself up for. In retrospect, I should have attended one of the smaller regional conferences first, but there I was in New York City with 1,000 other people who wanted to write for children. Even though I was completely overwhelmed, I was hooked. The speakers, the knowledge, the community, everything about it made me want more.
Fast-forward to a few years later, I went to New York again to the winter conference. This time with some writer friends in tow, I wouldn’t be so alone. I just wasn’t aware that the Norovirus had struck my household and after arriving in the city came down with extreme shakes and fever and stomach pains for 24 hours. So if you were at the conference circa 2012, I’m apologize if you left with an unexpected souvenir! Even though I had to keep retreating to my hotel room to lie down, I still left inspired and motivated.
This year, seven years after attending my first ever SCBWI winter conference in NYC, I am headed back again without new babies, without a stomach virus (fingers crossed), without that deer-in-the-headlights look. I am headed back knowing some familiar faces in the crowd and knowing 200% more about children’s literature and the publishing world.
I still google “what to wear to a children’s literature conference” and “what to bring to a SCBWI conference” obsessively just in case things have changed though. In case there are other people like me out there, they haven’t. Wear what you feel comfortable and good in. Be yourself. The Gala Dinner does not require a cocktail dress. Bring your notebook to scribble notes and ideas in. And, yes, still bring business cards even though it’s 2017. Most importantly, bring your love of children’s books and you’ll have something in common with everyone in the room.