I’m in the process of getting ready and packing for NESCBWI. I always stress out about make sure I have the right clothes in my suitcase, my writing stuff and my business cards all ready to go. 


The New England weather does not seem to be cooperating at all this year as we are on  what seems like our 45th snow day of the year even though it’s the middle of April.  


As I pack and repack my suitcase to make sure I have the stuff to navigate the weekend, I think about my first conference and my second conference and my third conference and how with each one, I brought more and more with me. Not just scarves and layers to deal with the ever changing hotel climate, but knowledge and confidence and experience and a community.  I am packing my bags with a lot more than just clothes and shoes. 


I can’t wait to learn and connect with other writers and creators this weekend, people who understand this journey.  People who know what it’s like to pack for a conference and know all the other baggage that comes with it. 








In between the two biggest winter storms the Northeast has seen this year, I scooted down to #ny17scwbi. Friday night was filled with dinner and a tour of the Google offices with my cousin who works there. What a creative and thoughtfully designed space!  The views of the city were amazing, even though we couldn’t go out onto the terraces because of the snow...


On Saturday morning, I settled into the back of the ballroom ready to listen and learn. Bryan Collier did not disappoint with the opening keynote.  I’ve heard Bryan speak several times (and even have a gorgeous print from Dave the Potter hanging in my house) and each time his thoughtfulness and care blow me away. My takeaway from his speech was to think about all the kids I’m writing for and where I am creating “space for them to dream” and where “their invisible holes” are.  I want to both create space and acknowledge and recognize those holes.


I always love listening to people talk about their art and so the picture book panel with Andrea Beatty (Iggy Peck, Architect), Andrea Davis Pinkney (A Poem for Peter), Greg Pizzoli (The Watermelon Seed) and Daniel Salmieri (Dragons Love Tacos)  was terrific. I think my favorite quote from that was when Daniel Salmieri said “I mess up so much more than I get it right.” It’s what I needed to hear that day.


Sylvie Frank from Paula Wiseman Books talked about picture book pacing and I left that breakout session wanting to make sure that things are balanced in my writing. I can’t make things too heavy for one character if I’m mirroring dialogue and behavior; it has to be balanced.  And those untidy endings are okay, which made me wonder if my endings are too neat...


I could listen to Sara Pennypacker talk all day. She is so knowledgeable about writing and book making and kids. She spoke a lot about making the reader do some work and not letting it all be told in the words. Let the reader fill in the gaps, they can do it.


Tahereh Mafi’s speech was too beautiful to even take notes during. I found myself on the verge of tears the whole time. Thank you Ms. Mafi. 


At the Gala Saturday night, New England was well represented. Since I’ve been coming to these conferences for a while now, it’s nice to see familiar faces. After the Gala, I was able to go out to dinner with my agent and some other clients of the agency. (It feels a little surreal being able to say that.) I felt very “New York” going to a restaurant that you wouldn’t know existed until you walked in the door.  I love the city at night. There is something about all those lights and people that just feels magical to me.


Sunday morning started off with inspiring words from both Jane Yolen and Tomie dePaola. Tomie told us to “Read. Read. Read. Read. Read. Read everything. Read anything.” Also to, “Find the joy of compassion. The joy of creating something that didn’t exist before… and the courage to do it in the first place.”


I snuck out early and missed my last workshop and Sara Pennypacker’s keynote hoping to beat the storm home. Alas, I didn’t. For some reason the New York SCBWI conference never fails to throw me a curve ball.  I had to stop halfway home because the roads were just too bad. It’s okay though, I got to spend more time with writing friends.  Even with the unexpected delay, the New York SCBWI conference delivered on inspiration, connections and questions that I needed to ask myself about my writing and creating.

Being part of a crowd of over 1,000 people all thinking about writing and children’s literature never ceases to awe me. Most important thing from this weekend? Books matter. Stories matter. Writing matters. 

Road Trip


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.