Sunday, February 9, 2020

Thank You, and Save the Date for #LA20SCBWI, The SCBWI Summer Conference in Los Angeles - JULY 31 - AUG 3, 2020

Thank you for being here with us for these highlights of #NY20SCBWI!

We hope you'll save the dates, and consider joining us for the SCBWI Summer Conference July 31-Aug 3, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. **NOTE: THESE ARE NEW DATES, UPDATED 3/2/2020***

Illustrate and Write On,

Scene from the Autograph Party #NY20SCBWI

Attendees had their books signed by Laurie Halse Anderson, Derrick Barnes, Tracy Barrett, Peter Brown, Priscilla Burris, Lesa Cline-Ransome, Bruce Coville, Pat Cummings, Vashti Harrison, Brett Helquist, Ellen Hopkins, Peter Lerangis, Meg Medina, Christopher Silas Neal, Lin Oliver, Ann Whitford Paul, Miranda Paul, Alexandra Penfold, Jerry Pinkney, Sergio Ruzzier, Judy Schachner, Heidi E.Y. Stemple, and Paul O. Zelinsky!

Derrick Barnes Keynote: The BLACKEST Book Ever

Award-winning author/illustrator and SCBWI success story, Vashti Harrison introduces award-winning author Derrick Barnes with these words:

His language wraps [his characters] up and hugs them . . .

And her astute observation of his work couldn’t be truer. Derrick is a writer who writes universal stories, but as the title of his keynote declares, he is also the writer of The BLACKEST Book Ever!

In opening, Derrick celebrates Black History Month by giving away four of his books to the first attendees who could recognize some Black greats in the children’s book writing world including Alice Walker, Walter Dean Myers, Virginia Hamilton, and Mildred Taylor. He also gives a special mention to fellow #NY20SCBWI keynote, Jerry Pinkney, the first African American Golden Kite Award winner in 1991 for his picture book Home Place (Aladdin) by Crescent Dragonwagon.

Derrick speaks of his love of family, his legacy, and the reason why he writes: Black children.

            “I think every child deserves to see themselves as the hero and the prettiest 
one in the story.”

Multi-awarding winning title

He talks about how 2018 changed his life with all the praise and accolades that came his way for his picture book Crown: Ode to the Fresh Cut (Denene Millner Books) illustrated by Gordon C. James. He also mentions how his road to this success was not always easy and how he spent 2011-2014 with his head down writing books none of the gatekeepers were interested in taking on. Books that spoke to his experience. The Black experience. Books he knew deserved a place on shelves. 

His dedication to his craft produced between 20 - 30 manuscripts during that time.

But clearly that dedication paid off! 

New titles on the horizon.

We are fortunate to have more of Derrick’s books coming soon, where characters and children are guaranteed to be wrapped in a hug.  

Derrick closed to a standing ovation.

Editor and Agent Panel: Kirby Kim, Alvina Ling, Marietta Zacker

With a panel of six industry leaders moderated by Lin Oliver, this post features highlights from literary agent Kirby Kim, editor Alvina Ling, and literary agent Marietta Zacker. 

left to right: Kirby Kim, Alvina Ling and Marietta Zacker

 Kirby Kim is an agent at the Janklow & Nesbit Literary Agency.

Alvina Ling is VP and editor-in-chief at Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (a division of Machete Book Group).

Marietta Zacker is an agent at Gallt Zacker Literary Agency.

Things opened up with the question what do you look for in a submission:

Kirby wants writers to focus on one book at a time and do it well.

"I want to see stakes. I like high stakes in my novels. Create an urgency so your character is backed into a corner." 

Alvina gravitates to fresh concepts and voice.

"I’m a sucker for books that make me laugh and cry and important books. I’m always   looking for that feeling, that spark. I want to fall in love."

Marietta is looking for people who create stories and illustrations no one else can create.

"Something unique." 

On themes that are important to them:

Kirby believes forecasting is a difficult thing to do. So when a story idea comes, writers “should focus more on what they want to say and build out a world that encounters that.” Marietta stressed the importance of understanding that writing to trends does not work and to instead start thinking ahead. "What do you want young readers and young adults to be reading four years from now?"

On final thoughts:


            "Follow your compass, and not your clock."


            "Get way below the surface of what you are doing."

            "Make room for folks whose voices have always been there but have not been given a chance."

Agent and Editor Panel: Patrice Caldwell, Susan Dobinick, Connie Hsu

With a panel of six industry leaders moderated by Lin Oliver, this post will feature highlights from literary agent Patrice Caldwell, editor Susan Dobinick, and editor Connie Hsu.

left to right: Patrice Caldwell, Susan Dobinick, and Connie Hsu

Patrice Caldwell is an agent at the Howard Morhaim Literary Agency.

Susan Dobinick is Senior Editor, Nonfiction at Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Connie Hsu is an executive editor at Roaring Brook Press at Macmillan Publishing.

On what they're looking for in a submission:

Patrice: She's not looking for books that adults would tell a kid are "important."

"What is that story that would have hooked me? What is super engaging? What's going to make [young people] put down their phones and read a book?"


"Deep thinkers"


"Voice and the quality of the writing is the top line that drives you in." Then, on a deeper level, I wonder is the reason for the book to be.
On graphic novels:

Connie speaks about Shannon Hale's script for a graphic novel, and how it had emotional resonance.

Susan chimes in with the advice: "write the full script," which the whole panel agrees with.

Patrice shares that she's worked on a lot of graphic novels, and notes that for the ones acquired in 2018, will won't come out until 2021. Script has to be complete and edited, and then the art.

There's discussion on so much more, including the strength of nonfiction and the ongoing interest in middle grade.

Final nuggets of wisdom shared:
The core story remains the same as our favorites from when we were kids, but thinking about what kids are absorbing right now. Toxic masculinity, sexism, body image, periods, Don't lose the timeless heart and emotion...
It's not about being preachy, it's about infusing contemporary issues.

Shout out (and a standing ovation) to the SCBWI Staff

Lin introduces the SCBWI staff

Read more about the wonderful SCBWI staff here!

The #NY20SCBWI Awards - Sunday Morning!

The room is awash with waves of applause for...

The winners of the SCBWI IPOC Women's Scholarship, Kesha Grant, Rae Rose, Natelle Quek

Junghwa Park accepts the Grand Prize for the Portfolio Award

Congratulations to all!

The LGBTQ and Allies Social

Community within community - after gathering in a large circle and asking questions of our special faculty guests Heidi Stemple and Bruce Coville, we broke into two smaller circles to discuss writing Middle Grade and YA in one, and Picture Books in the other.

Heidi shared about the new Kid Lit Pride Scholarship she established at the Highlights Foundation, which is an amazing opportunity!

In the YA circle, projects and craft tips were shared, with encouragement and support.

When the session broke, the whole group went to join the Equity and Inclusion social, because, as I always say,

"our job is to be allies to all."

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Connections and Community at the Equity & Inclusion Evening Social

The Equity & Inclusion Social was all about being seen, understood, and as organizer, Adria Quinones said, “loved.”

Adria Quinones speaking to a circle of attendees and faculty.

From the start, the circle of inclusion grew larger and larger as people introduced themselves and welcomed each other—new members and SCBWI’s longtime family. 

The room reflected what many there said they hoped to continue to see at SCBWI conferences: one overflowing with diverse voices and experiences. 

Along with coming together as a larger group, there was also time for smaller group connections. A definite energy was present in the room, fueled by laughs, smiles, and shared hopes for SCBWI’s future. 

Smaller roundtable discussions.

The mission of the evening was for people to walk away feeling heard. 
Feeling respected. 
And feeling supported. 
And from the looks of things, that mission was definitely accomplished. 

Scenes from Saturday's Networking Buffet Dinner

Food and Friends, new and already-appreciated...