Friday, July 31, 2020

Sir Philip Pullman in conversation with Arthur A. Levine: Kicking off #SCBWISummerSpec

Sir Philip Pullman and Arthur A. Levine kicked off the opening events for this year's virtual SCBWI Summer Spectacular with entertaining insight and thoughts about writing. I drew along as I listened, and here were some of my favorite moments:

He said writing is made up of "persistence, talent, and luck" -- and that persistence is the only component we can really control.
He said writing is made up of "persistence, talent, and luck" -- and that persistence is the only component we can really control.

He said he thinks about his characters as being in a play or a movie, and he is the director, which means he gets to decide where to put the camera in every scene.

Additionally, he finds fantasy a helpful tool to assist storytelling, and humbly said it's "easier to make things up" and that he's "very lazy"! (We all know that isn't true.)

I'm not very consistent about rules. Rules are for editors. –Sir Philip Pullman
I'm not very consistent about rules. Rules are for editors. –Sir Philip Pullman

When asked why he sometimes uses challenging vocabulary in his books, and doesn't try to adjust the language for a younger age, he said he hoped that readers would stick with it anyway. "We continue with things we don't understand because we learn from them." He also said:

"I trust readers to be at least as intelligent as I am, probably more."
"I'm writing for anyone who wants to read it."

The conversation turned toward the subject of morality and optimism, writing our values and sharing them with our readers. He said:

He shared charming anecdotes, such as being motivated by a threatening letter received from a young reader:
"Finish your book or the squirrel will die!" That's *one* way to motivate your favorite writer.

Some timeless and consistent advice for those aspiring to publish their books in the future:

"If you want to develop your craft as a writer, read."

There was so much more than I could possibly cover in this post: dinner with Tolkien, frozen margaritas and bolo ties, Paradise Lost (but for kids), present tense narration as the "scourge" of children's literature... 

Follow along with me @boygirlparty on Twitter / @boygirlparty on Instagram -- and follow the conference hashtag #SCBWISummerSpec -- for more conference highlights (and more of my live drawings!)
 See you again tomorrow morning bright and early for a live conversation with another legend, Judy Blume.

Lin Oliver's Welcome to the 2020 Online Summer Spectacular

Lin Oliver (top) welcomes the community (including you!)
Jennye Kamin provides sign language interpretation.

From her dining room table, Lin shares that doing this 49th annual SCBWI conference digitally (due to COVID-19) has opened so many doors. There are 4,800 of us attending, gathering around Lin's table virtually over the next four days, talking about children's books!

4,800! A record (by far!) for SCBWI conferences. 1,600 of us are published (one-third!)
We come from every US state, and from 48 other countries around the world.

Lin reminds us that every session will be recording and will live on the SCBWI website for the entire month of August (so if you miss one, or want to re-watch one, that's where to go.)

She also suggests we all check out the SCBWI bookstore - 2 books by each faculty member, as well as books written and illustrated by our fellow attendees!

There's the online portfolio showcase - over 450 artists have submitted their portfolios! "The work is incredibly beautiful, so browse, and reach out to people."

And don't forget the meme contest!

All those links are in the conference attendee packet - which you can access by signing in at

Everywhere else, #SCBWISummerSpec is the hashtag.

Lin introduces Philip Pullman and Arthur A. Levine, and we're off on the adventure of the next four days...

Thursday, July 30, 2020

3 Things About Me (Lee Wind). Well, YOU. Okay, Us. And the 2020 SCBWI Online Summer Spectacular #SCBWISummerSpec

I don't have a photo of you, but here's one of me from this week.

1. I love this community, of children's book creators. Writers, Illustrators. And the industry folks, editors, agents, art directors, marketing and PR peeps, librarians, booksellers, really, everyone who is passionate about books for children and teens. I love the community because I'm part of the community. And I became part of the community, really, the first time I attended an SCBWI event. I'm a writer by dint of my writing. And I'm a member of this community by dint of claiming a spot in the community. You can claim a spot, too. Just be being here, reading this blog. Attending virtual SCBWI events, like this SCBWI Online Summer Spectacular. And working at your own craft. We've saved a space for you.

2. I have a voice. It took me a long time to find it, in life, and in my art. (Words are my medium.) I started out writing picture books about frogs and princesses and manners. Not that there's anything wrong with that. But it wasn't the story of my heart. (Thank you, Esther Hershenhorn!) And now I'm telling those heart-driven stories. My blog I'M HERE. I'M QUEER. WHAT THE HELL DO I READ? has been a great way to figure out what I want to say and how to best say it. I'm even doing video newsletters! My crowd-funded debut YA Novel, QUEER AS A FIVE-DOLLAR BILL, is about Wyatt, a closeted teen, who triggers a backlash when he outs Abraham Lincoln. (It was a Publishers Weekly Indie Success Story. And Foreword Reviews said it “Will change the way young readers look at history…”) My Middle Grade Nonfiction book is due out from Zest/Lerner in April 2021, and it's called NO WAY, THEY WERE GAY? HIDDEN LIVES AND SECRET LOVES. And I have a picture book (not formally announced yet) coming out in the Fall of 2021 that's an empowering story for kids about social justice. Here's the thing: You have a voice, too. Take the time to develop it. And then share it with the world. We want to hear it. Kids and teens need to hear it.

3. I'm aiming for this long weekend conference to be spectacular. Yes, it's online, and meeting in person is so much more, well... personable. But this virtual incarnation is so much more accessible. Like having 10 team bloggers this time around, everyone doing a little bit so no one gets completely zoomed out. (Shout out here to Jaime, Jolie, Don, Leah, Mike, Susie, Bingham, Olugbemisola, and Gaby! Make sure to check out their introduction posts here at the scbwi conference blog, too.) I get to listen, and learn from some of the giants in our industry, having conversations with each other. LeUyen Pham and Dan Santat talking about visual storytelling? I'm there. A fantasy deep dive with Philip Pullman and Arthur Levine? Can't wait! And of course, the LGBTQIA and Allies Social, happening Monday August 3, 2020 at 5pm Pacific in a safe space zoom that I'll be hosting with special guests! Whether you're following along on twitter and elsewhere with the conference hashtag


or you're jumping into every big zoom conversation live (or watching the recordings later), whether you're grabbing time to be creative in between sessions, or enjoying some of the live virtual yoga "interludes" led by my friend Lori Snyder, you can make this conference experience just what YOU need it to be for you. And that sounds pretty spectacular, doesn't it?

Here's to a wonderful conference ahead, all!

Stay safe,

It's conference time—like, tomorrow! *insert happy-face emoji*

Okay, folks, my name is Don Tate. I'm an author-illustrator, school presenter, dad, husband, and all around nice guy (most of the time). I'm also an SCBWI  Team Blogger.

Thing is, this pandemic has my sense of time totally discombobulated. I was knee-deep in my book deadline today and— OMG—my calendar sends an alert that it's SCBWI Summer Spectacular time—like, tomorrow! Still trying to adjust to my new life in Zoom.

All that said, I'm not gonna spend too much time with this post, because I have a conference to plan for! See you guys this weekend—it's gonna be the best summer spectacular ever!

See you there!

Daily Gentle Yoga "Interludes" with Lori Snyder at the SCBWI Online Summer Spectacular!

Lori Snyder, Author and Yoga Teacher

Here's a note from Lori, explaining more:

Hi everyone - I’m Lori Snyder, a writer and yoga teacher. I’m a long-time member of SCBWI—my first conference was in 1998!—and also a long-time yoga teacher, and have been leading yoga at the Summer conferences for, oh, about fifteen years or so. My debut novel, the MG fantasy THE CIRCUS AT THE END OF THE SEA, is coming out from Harper Collins in 2021 (hooray!!!).

This year, I’m excited to be leading 20-minute online gentle yoga interludes every day, Saturday through Tuesday, from 1:10 - 1:30 PM Pacific Time. This is gentle, Level 1 yoga, open to all. You do not need to be flexible or have yoga experience at all to participate, and you do not need a mat. (If you have one, feel free to pull it out, but it’s not necessary.) We’ll be doing gentle yoga and breathwork to open and relax the shoulders, hips, and lower back, all those parts of the body that tend to freeze up with a lot of screen time or computer work.

I’m also the founder of the Writers Happiness Movement, which offers what I call "free happiness tools" for writers. This includes free online yoga for writers twice a week, free online writers’ retreats every other month, micro-grants for writers, and more. For info on this, or to sign up for class links:

Hope to see you! If you have any questions about the yoga, feel free to contact me at lori (at) lorisnyderyoga (dot) com.

Thanks, all!


Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Let's draw together!

Attending my friends' wedding on Zoom
 Zoom events can be very exciting!

Hi! I'm Susie Ghahremani, and I'm so happy to be back on Team Blog as we go virtual! (See also: attending my friends' wedding, pictured here)

I don’t know about you, but I'm spending a LOT of time on Zoom lately. I'm loving the fantastic #SCBWIDigitalWorkshops, but I’m tired of typing — so I’m bringing something a little more visual to the blog this year.

I’ve got my coffee and tea, my pens, notebook, sketchbook, a roll of newsprint, pencils, paints, markers, crayons,… 

I’m bringing some visual note-taking to the blog this year with pages from my sketchbook or iPad. 

I encourage you to draw along with me and get creative with your note-taking as well. It's a great way to take home your favorite ideas from the conference!

Taking some visual notes in my sketchbook
Bring your beverage of choice and your sketchbooks to join me!

You can find more from me during the conference and beyond by finding me on Twitter or Instagram @boygirlparty, or on my website at

There are so many events I'm looking forward to, including Philip Pullman's opening keynote, the conversation between Jacqueline Woodson and Nancy Paulsen, the Illustrator's Virtual Portfolio Show, and the fact that the marvelous Cecilia Yung has finally joined Twitter

(Also, that I can attend in PJs.)

Please note: many events and socials are visible on the conference schedule to attendees only. Log in to download your attendee materials with the full schedule at: 

¡Ponte Las Pilas! Register for The Summer Spectacular today!

Hi y'all! I'm Gabrielle Rodriguez, your not-so-local Puerto-Rican Dominican. I'm a junior at Mount Holyoke College (shout out to my fellow red pegasi) and I'm so excited to be part of the blogging team for The Summer Spectacular! I've done work in almost every area of the arts including being a staff writer Mount Holyoke News for the Book section, being the Managing Editor and subsequent tanker of inQluded, hosting The Love Club on WMHC, an actor in various student plays, and am currently writing my debut novel. 

Events like these usually aren't accessible for me, peep the not-so-local again, so I'm excited to have access to such amazing authors, artists, agents, and collaborators of all types. Being able to cover conversations with Jacqueline Woodson, Jason Reynolds, and Regina Brooks and all of the other icons is an amazing opportunity! The blogging team is full of wonderfully talented folks as well! Truly this is an avalanche of talent! Have I said talent enough yet? Register and join us in the fun! 

If you're looking for more of me, you can find me at my Instagram, Twitter, and website. Hope to (virtually) see you there!


Hey! I'm Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich, longtime SCBWI member and mostly-middle grade author of books like 8th Grade Superzero, Someday Is Now, Above and Beyond: NASA's Journey To Tomorrow, and co-author of Two Naomis and Naomis Too. I've never been to the Summer Conference in LA, so I'm especially excited for the 2020 Summer Spectacular! It's virtual this year, so that gives even more of us an opportunity to get in on the trademark abundance of AMAZING that I've heard about for years. I mean...a lineup that includes Jacqueline Woodson, Namrata Tripathi, Kwame Alexander, and Jason Reynolds, to name just a few? Sign me up! OK, I am signed up, actually, and I'll be sharing here and on social media, including tidbits from conversations between legendary kidlit powerhouses Laurie Halse Anderson and Meg Medina, and Judy Blume and Lin Oliver. I mean! But wait...THERE'S MORE! So...sign YOU up! There's still time. Come hang out with me and the Conference Blogging Team; we can enjoy snacks together, and be inspired.
Find me on Twitter @olugbemisola and Instagram @olugbemisolarhudayperkovich

SCBWI Summer Spectacular: Let This "BE THE DAY YOU BEGIN" To Write

We've been on shutdown and the days seem bleak. But we still have to write, to be creative, to find inspiration. So what do we do? How do you rejuvenate and get inspired again? Simple. You seek out other creatives, other writers, other illustrators. You listen to the pros whose been writing, revising, editing, and drafting new stories. You learn what makes them write. You learn what motivates them to get up day-in and day-out and create stories for teeny-tiny-toddlers through young adults. You go to their gathering spot. This year, that's online at the SCBWI Summer Spectacular Conference.

I'm coming to this SCBWI Summer Spectacular Conference ready to get "Nicced!" - Stone that is. I'm ready! I'm ready! I'm ready! If you are a no-show at this years conference, this SCBWI Summer Spectacular, then you are truly the ODD ONE OUT as NIC STONE would write. This year's conference hit the JACKPOT. It is inexpensive (cheap for the picture book writers), You save money on travel, hotel, and fancy dining. Nic might be writing DEAR MARTIN, but I'm writing "Dear SCBWI, it's about time you make this conference affordable...Sincerely, A-Writer-On-A-Budget." 

I have been to SCBWI conferences in New York, LA, and Springfield. None of them I have been excited about as much as this one. One, I don't like crowds and people hovering over me. I don't talk to folks much. It is so much going on and the fear of missing out (FOMO) forces me to try and make every session which can be tiring and overwhelming. This is what the doctor order. I get to watch from home, with my pen, paper, and peanuts honey roasted. And with Covid-19 craziness and restrictions, I won't have to wear a mask! But, if you go out, listen the WIMPY KID and mask-up! Isn't that right JEFF KINNEY?

Mask? Did someone call LAURIE HALSE ANDERSON? You know, Laurie wrote about MASKS before it became a fashion statement and staple in 2020. She wrote about FEVER, 1793 which has returned, took up a pseudonym, and has unleashed it's evil on mankind as Covid-19. There's an idea for you Laurie. I gave you the title to your sequel.  (So go ahead, start writing!) Normally, if you are sick, you would have to miss this conference. But it is online and you can attend no matter if you are sick or well. Zoom allows you to stay six feet apart. So if you have Covid, Flu-like symptoms, or TURKEY POX, have no fear. You are welcome here at the SCBWI Summer Spectacular. Wear your favorite pajamas, nice top, and a hat.

Hat? Did someone lose a hat? JON KLASSEN? I hope you wear that hat you spent all that time harping about. You know the one where he kept saying, "I WANT MY HAT BACK." Then he was like, "THIS IS NOT MY HAT." Next you gave the hat away to turtles after all that. I hope he won't want it back. Turtles? He's going to have to wait forever if he expects them to return it. Maybe he can knit a sweater with some extra yarn he borrowed from Mac Barnett while he waits. 

This SCBWI Summer Spectacular will be so epic, MAC BARNETT will need some EXTRA YARN to stitch together this commemoration of awesomeness. He's going to have to create another THE TERRIBLE TWO series. This time, naming it, THE TERRIBLE TWO-ZERO-TWO-ZERO! That's 2020 for those who needs a little extra time to process. 

I'm going to be like Merci Suarez right now and "change gears." Newbery award-winning author Meg Medina of MERCI SUAREZ CHANGES GEAR will be making an appearance. Yes, Meg is bringing her creative story telling of writing stories for Latinx children and writing about families and life changes. I am a huge supporters of good storytelling. But I love authenticity in storytelling. We always hear, "Write what you know!" But more times than most, authors writing stories about marginalized communities do not have stakes invested in those communities. So Meg, do you, Boo! I am here for it. I am here for Merci! And I am here for all the storytellers telling their own stories. #OwnVoices


  So MARLA FRAZEE asked me who was I most excited to see. Of course, she already knew the answer to that. But she wanted me to say it out loud. So I will reveal that person last. However, I am excited to see so many including the legend that is JUDY BLUME. Yes! Calling the Queen of storytelling to the stage. I'm handing her a bouquet while she is here on Earth. I'm singing her praises. One of my favorite books of all time is ARE YOU THERE, GOD? IT'S ME, MARGARET. Apparently, it is 2020 fave as well because it too have been heralding the heaven's resident saying, "Are you there, God? It's me 2020!" I'm ringing the heavens too Margaret and 2020. 


 Jason Reynolds have the "write" idea and the right idea. It's a SUNNY day FOR EVERY ONE coming to this conference. SCBWI is about finding your people, your creative sidekick. Folks who won't GHOST you. We can do it. We can band together and learn together. Jason stepped out on faith and found his true calling - telling stories and empowering
others to do the same. Jason is only AS BRAVE AS YOU. Continue  to LOOK BOTH WAYS and write! Write! Write! 

In conclusion, there are no WIMPY KID(s) here. I don't know who in the back needs to hear this. But I tell you what, if you write your name, a poem, a short story, a book, then you are a writer. Keep writing in those diaries. One day, you may be the next JEFF KINNEY, selling your diaries for a lot of money. Or you can be JANE YOLEN waiting on an OWL MOON to write and sell a book. Jane writes about DINOSAURS GOING TO SCHOOL. I have an idea for you Jane. Next book, HOW DO WRITERS GO TO SCBWI SUMMER SPECTACULAR? Make sure it includes - pajama bottoms, nice shirt, wine glass, bottles of tequila, gin, vodka, and water. And you must, must, must include Zoom. Make sure it is poetic and lyrical. Do you! So go ahead and start writing. 

Some of us, this is our first conference. JACQUELINE WOODSON lives in ANOTHER BROOKLYN; and we too are living in another world. A world on lockdown and shutdown. A world threatened by a virus and housed in a pandemic. But Jackie wants the best from us. She wants us to show EACH KINDNESS to others.  Let this SCBWI Summer Spectacular be THE DAY YOU BEGIN to write. Because soon you will all get to THE OTHER SIDE, full of hope, faith, and love.

Bingham writes picture books and will be a debut author in the Fall of 2021. Her picture book, SOUL FOOD SUNDAY, is about a boy coming of age and learning to cook soul food; and will be published by AbramsKids. You can find Bingham on Twitter at @ArmyVet5.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Ruh roh, it's Mike Jung, lowering the bar on the conference blog yet again

This is a picture of me, Mike Jung! C'est moi!
It's a picture of me, Mike Jung! C'est moi!
Aw, I'm just kidding with that title. Mostly. Ok ok, I'm all the way kidding, because truthfully, one of the great joys of joining Team Blog for the SCBWI Summer Spectacular 2020 is getting to report on some of kidlit's brightest luminaries, including more than one person I've had the good fortune to meet and/or work with. 

I've never been bashful about saying the 2010 SCBWI Summer Conference is where I met legendary editor (formerly of
Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic, currently of the brand-new publishing house Levine Querido) and Summer Spectacular kickoff event host Arthur Levine, who subsequently plucked my manuscript from obscurity and introduced me to the industry. It's a memory that's hard to top, you know? And fast-forwarding back to the present day, Arthur and I have now collaborated on three novels, the latest of which is The Boys in the Back Row, comin' at ya like a freight train on October 6. 

Banner image for the SCBWI Online Summer Spectacular: illustration of a cat and rabbit sitting at a desk, writing booksThe SCBWI summer event experience is obviously different this year, and I know I'm not the only one who'd rather be hobnobbing with everyone in person. But the show goes on, and this will still be a special and meaningful event, if only because you'll get to read more blog posts by me, haha, MWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA...


Hey, it's cover of my book, THE BOYS IN THE BACK ROW!
Hey, that's my book, The Boys in the Back Row!
Ok, sorry, I know. The arrogance, it rankles. Team Blog is full of fabulous people, though, and I'm genuinely honored to be in their company. So yeah, here we go, it all begins Friday. Onward, ONWARD TO GLORY!

Mike Jung is the author of Geeks, Girls, and Secret Identities, Unidentified Suburban Object, and The Boys in the Back Row, and contributed to the anthologies Dear Teen Me, Break These Rules, 59 Reasons to Write, (Don’t) Call Me Crazy, and The Hero Next Door. He is a library professional by day, a writer by night, and a semi-competent ukulele player during all the times in between. Mike is also a founding member of the #WeNeedDiverseBooks team, and lives in Oakland, California, with his wife and two children, both of whom are in the process of rapidly surpassing their father. 

The Summer Spectacular is almost here!

Hi Everyone!

Leah, here. I’m excited to be blogging with the SCBWI Blog Team again! I had so much fun during #NY20SCBWI recapping wonderful panels and keynotes.

#NY20SCBWI Conference Highlights

And I have no doubt, that even with the new twist of an online event, there will be so many more worthwhile moments and extra special takeaways at the SCBWI SUMMESPECTACULAR!

I’ve been a member of SCBWI for almost 10 years and have learned so many valuable lessons, connected with some truly amazing people, and have grown as a writer (and person) in numerous ways. Although we won’t be face to face, there will be a fabulous lineup of conversations and panels to connect with. And I’m sure we’ll all gain so many nuggets of wisdom over the course of the four-day event! It’ll be jampacked screen time full of craft, industry info, and more. 

I can’t wait! Only a few more days away!

See you there (virtually).


Leah Henderson is an author, mentor, avid traveler, dog mommy, and a believer in all people experiencing their possibilities and stars. Her forthcoming MG novel, The Magic in Changing Your Stars is out August 4th!

Hello from JOLIE. And an invite to join me for ORIENTATION!


Where We’ll All Be First-Time Attendees  

Hello, friends! 
The SCBWI Spectacular is almost here and I can't wait to see you or meet you for the first time. 
I'm Jolie.  I’m a writer, teacher, and coach. I’ve been a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators for nearly 20 years—which is hard to believe. I’m a former regional advisor, one of the original members of SCBWI Team Blog, and for the past 8 years I’ve had the honor of welcoming the first-time attendees to the SCBWI summer conference in LA. 
Have I met you there? #bird
While I’m sad to miss the time in LA attending the annual summer conference, how amazing is it that thousands of us, and I do mean thousands of us, will be gathering together in the coming days to learn, to be inspired, and to soak up the goodness of the SCBWI Summer Spectacular. 
And what does that mean for the first-time attendee orientation? Well…
It’s a Summer Spectacular Orientation and we’re all attending for the first time. 

I hope you’ll join me on Friday at 1:00 PST before everything kicks off. (Check your inboxes for Spectacular information!)
I’ll be sharing ways to make the most of your experience: 
  • how to market in a largely virtual conference and age; 
  • ways consultations are improved using this new format; 
  • tips for making virtual connections that offer real-life benefit; 
  • and much more. 

This will be our version of arriving at the hotel, chatting and connecting before the big event gets rolling. So bring your coffee, ice tea, or a glass of whatever…
Let’s make it spectacular! 
Do you have any questions about the upcoming event. Feel free to reach out to me here, or on social media. 
Still need to register? You can. Click here!