Sunday, February 11, 2024

Thank you for joining us!

On behalf of Justin Campbell, Jolie Stekly, myself, the SCBWI staff, Regional Team volunteers, and everyone who was part of making this winter 2024 SCBWI conference happen, thanks for checking out the highlights of goodness we've shared here on the official SCBWI Conference Blog!

virtual scbwi 2024 winter conference logo

You can still sign up for the Virtual Conference happening on Feb 24, 2024

with recordings of the keynote sessions and completely new online courses...

virtual scbwi golden kite award ceremony logo

And we hope you'll all join us for the free virtual Golden Kite Award ceremony

Feb 23, 2024

Illustrate, Translate, and Write On!

Wrap Up with SCBWI Executive Director, Sarah Baker

Sarah wraps up, hoping everyone had a wonderful conference. 

We are invited to also attend the upcoming Virtual SCBWI conference coming up on February 23 and 24. Register here. (those who attended the in-person conference receive a discount)

It will kick off with the Golden Kite Awards (the kidlit live Oscars) on Friday, February 23 (free and open to the public). Register here. 

Sarah hopes we take all of this great inspiration and information home with us and give ourselves time to reflect on all of it. She hopes it encourages us and feeds us as we move forward in our creative journeys.  

And she leave us with the final message: Children all over the world need your work. 

Keynote Address - James Ransome, Author/Illustrator

Keynote Address - James Ransome, Author/Illustrator

Sarah Baker introduced James with an amazing MORERAPS poem, which we learned from our fabulous first keynote speaker, Joseph Coelho. It was wonderful, met with sighs of adoration and as James took the stage, there was great applause. 

James has an extensive resume, having illustrated for 34 years (1990-2024) and has made over 70 books! Not only does he make work in the children’s book world, but he illustrates for magazines, libraries, corporations and has donated paintings to support many organizations and charities.

He took us through his life, starting from his childhood in a small town in North Carolina where his first art teacher were the comic books from the pharmacy next door. Inspired by those comics (his favorite being The Master of Kung Fu) and MAD magazine, he took his limited resources and would create books about he and his friend’s at his grandmother’s home, spending his Sundays dreaming up all sorts of stories. 

Books were hard to get in his town. There were no library, bookstores, no Amazon, no bookstores so he made his own booklets of his world around him. With his typewriter, paper, pencil and stapler, he hung out on the couch and make his books.

From then on, he would deepen his love of storytelling. He eventually moved and attended a high school with a robust arts curriculum where his teachers, who were trained at the Pratt Institute, encouraged him and his art making. He eventually attended Pratt himself, inspired by those very teachers and dove into the work of drawing and painting, focusing on the foundation that he would take with him through his long career.
Through pursuing his dream which at the time was to illustrate for Sports Illustrated, he discovered he loved drawing a series of subjects, really diving into it and exploring the same subject over and over.

“My art education began after college.”

James spoke about the mentor’s and influences in his life who really gave himself tools and guidance in his practice and process that he still uses today like Diane & Leo Dillon and Jerry Pinkney. He stressed the importance of mentorship and he learned so much from those who he studied and studied with.

“I learned the importance of sketching and planning before I start painting.” Those wonderful influences showed him the importance of sketching, and drawing, having introduced him to their process with tracing paper, where they built up scenes and characters by each layer before transferring the drawing to be painted.

Till this day, James is discovering new processes, new mediums and new flows, experimenting with his style, storytelling and approach to his work.

James’s journey to becoming who he is today was and still is a road of discovery and evolution. He continues to seek new perspectives and new ways of creating, ever challenging himself.

He started using collage as a way to play in his process and to see/compose in a different way. He felt that he had to take a risk and decided after experimenting in collage, that he wanted to make a book in that medium, which ended up being Game Changers: The Story of Venus and Serena Willams by he and his wife, Lesa Cline-Ransome.

Ever expanding his storytelling with all different mediums. He’s discovered that he loves working with watercolor and collage. Alwa challenging himself and thinking outside of the box, he advises to ‘flex your muscles’ and put a lot of work into your pieces to really improve and grow.

Conceptual elements have changed his work for the positive. Instead of the literal, he started to move toward the conceptual and it has given him such freedom. James loves working with patterns and colors to help establish the theme and focus of the story. Adding these visual elements also help the storytelling.

Some great advice he shared was:
“Find out what will keep your butt in the chair!”
Figure out what excites you and move toward that. Get involved and get inspired. Music and a series help him get through projects. Find what works for you!

“Find a place”
We toured his beautiful studio which was lived in, messy, expressive and welcoming. A haven for an artist who loves to play. Whether it’s a library, cafe, your garage or a tiny desk in a corner, find a place that you feel comfortable and excited to create in.

“Sketch but never go with your first idea”
Continue to build upon your foundations and sketch. And as you sketch, challenge yourself. Don’t go with your first idea. See what you can come up with.

And lastly,
“The work will never equal the pay”
…but do it to your fullest potential anyway!

Thank you James Ransome for a wonderful keynote! It was such an incredible way to close out this year’s conference!

James Ransome
James E. Ransome has been honored with the 2023 Children's Literature Legacy Award by the American Library Association in recognition of his exceptional contributions to Children's Literature. With a career spanning over 33 years, James has illustrated more than 70 books. His passion for drawing was kindled in Rich Square, NC, and as a teenager, he moved to Bergenfield, NJ, before pursuing a BFA from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York.Ransome's remarkable talent has garnered him numerous accolades, including the prestigious Coretta Scott King Awards, a Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor, ALA Notables, a Jane Addams Award, and NAACP Image awards.

Creative Lab: Emily XR Pan - Storytelling Structure: Lining Up the Bones of a YA Novel


Sunday brings more excellent deep dives in the Creative Labs. 

Emily XR Pan explores storytelling structure with an engaged group of attendees who dive into a new structure for the classic Cinderella fairytale. 

A fantastic takeaway from this lab is the question: 

What am I reading for? 

We want our readers to always have an answer to that question. I'm reading to find out if they kiss. I'm reading to keep laughing. I'm reading to find out who did it. Etc. 


Emily X.R. Pan is the New York Times bestselling author of THE ASTONISHING COLOR OF AFTER, which won the APALA Honor Award and Walter Honor Award. It was also a finalist for the L.A. Times Book Prize, longlisted for the Carnegie Medal, and named by TIME Magazine as one of the 100 Best YA Books of All Time. Her latest novel, AN ARROW TO THE MOON, was an instant national bestseller, a Locus Award finalist, a CALA Award nominee, and featured on NPR’s Best Books of 2022. Emily is currently on faculty in the creative writing MFA programs at The New School and Vermont College of Fine Arts. You can find her on social media: @exrpan.

Creative Lab: The Jump Start: Playful and Practical Strategies for Breathing Life into the Characters in Your Idling or Abandoned Novel-In-Progress with Phil Bildner

Phil Bildner is the New York Times bestselling author of numerous books for young people including the NCTE Charlotte Huck Award Honor-winning middle grade novel, A High Five for Glenn Burke, the Margaret Wise Brown Prize-winning picture book, Marvelous Cornelius, and the Texas Bluebonnet Award-winning picture book Shoeless Joe & Black Betsy. Phil is also the author of A Whole New Ballgame, Rookie of the Year, Tournament of Champions, and Most Valuable Players in the critically acclaimed middle grade Rip & Red series. His other picture books include Martina & Chrissie, Twenty-One Elephants, The Soccer Fence, and his latest is the biography, Glenn Burke, Game Changer

Phil Bildner presenting the Creative Lab: The Jump Start

This creative lab is packed with stories and both paired, team, and individual craft exercises!

The first exercise from author Laurel Snyder, "Pockets" - we're asked to make a bullet point list of what's in our pockets right now. (We do this on index cards.)

Then, we trade index cards with someone else-- and we're told to take two of the items they wrote down, and then we're using them as prompts, answering these two questions:

1) Why does this person/character have these items?

2) How can/will these items move the plot/story forward?

There are so many things you can learn about your characters (and YOU) by inventorying what's in someone's pockets--and why.

There's a real reason the person has those items, you can create an invented reason, and as a third option you can hybridize the two... Phil tells us "so much of writing is experimentation."

Folks around the room share different items that were in their pockets: mini tabasco bottles, rocks, a mailbox key, grains of sand, a candy wrapper, three different lip glosses... 

As Phil explains, you'll looking for that entry point, a connecting point to your own story.

The room is packed, everyone's engaged, and inspiration and insights are flowing...

Awards Presentations!

SCBWI's Sarah Diamond started the awards ceremony with acknowledging the conference scholarship winners:

The BIPOC Scholarship for Black, Indigenous and People of Color:
Nadine Pinede
Dorinda Nicholson

The Student Illustrator Scholarship for full-time university students studying illustration:
Bonnie Wong
Lingyan Gu

The Author/Illustrator Scholarship sponsored by Emma Dryden and drydenbks:
Lexi K. Nilson

The Author/Illustrator Scholarship sponsored by Little, Brown and Company:
Sara Aziz

The Translation Scholarship sponsored by Ruta Sepetys:
Hongyu Jasmine Zhu

The Disability Scholarship:
Leslie Nightingale

The 2024 Works of Outstanding Promise (WOOP) Grand:
Honor: Alicia J. Novo (SCBWI: Indiana)
Winner: Kelly Zhang (SCBWI: Canada East)

The 2024 Regional Advisor Marketing Grants:
Rebecca Langston-George (SCBWI: Central-Coastal California)
Nadia Salomon (SCBWI: San Francisco North and East Bay)

Paul O. Zelinsky presented the 2023 Narrative Art Award Winner:
Jerry Bennett

The Spark Award for best independently published books,
Picture Book Winner: Pebbles and the Biggest Number by Joey Benun, illustrated by Laura Watson
Older Readers: At the Edge of the Ice by Carolyn Armstrong

SCBWI's TeMika Grooms presents the much-anticipated Portfolio Showcase Awards:

Bronze Winner: Amanda G. Crabtree

Bronze Winner: Anca Sandu Budisan

Silver Winner: Steve Teare

Gold Winner: Maya Shleifer

Cheers for all!

Portfolio Showcase Winners on the big stage
receiving their award certificates and well-deserved applause

Congratulations to all the winners... and cheers to everyone who entered and put their work out there!

Saturday, February 10, 2024

Networking Party

 Networking Party

After a great morning, full of so much information, connection and tons of note taking, the members all gathered to the Trianon Ballroom for some food and drink.

There were tables set up all around the ballroom for each regional chapter, helping everyone meet one another in a more personal way. Members were able to exchange cards, ideas and inspirations over yummy food and complimentary drinks.  I personally lived by the dessert table! During a conference like this, it is great being able to connect one-on-one!

I met some many fantastic people and the time flew by so fast, priming us all to move into our chosen socials immediately after. 

I always look forward to the networking party and socials, because the conference can be overwhelming and making/having a friend alongside you makes it so much easier! 

Panel: The Outlook for Children's Publishing 2024 - Alvina Ling & Susan Ven Metre

Alvina Ling is VP and Editor-in-Chief at Little, Brown Books for Young Readers where she has worked since 1999. She edits children's books for all ages, including Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin, The Land of Stories series by Chris Colfer, The Wild Robot by Peter Brown, Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes, Troublemaker by John Cho, The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan, and The Cruel Prince by Holly Black. She co-hosts the podcast Book Friends Forever with author Grace Lin. Alvina lives in Brooklyn, NY with her husband and two cats.

Alvina is celebrating her 25th anniversary at Little, Brown. She works on picture books, middle grade, and YA. She has a soft place in her heart for middle grade. Books on the LB list tend to straddle both literary and commercial. 

TeMika :What are you reading?

Alvina: LUNAR NEW YEAR LOVE STORY by Gene Luen Yang and LeUyen Pham 
She just finished reading BIG MAGIC by Elizabeth Gilbert

TeMika: What makes you fall in love to a manuscript? 

Alvina loves books that remind her of the books she loved as a child, books she loves right now, and books she wishes she had as a child. Being drawn in by voice is important, along with feeling like she wants to keep reading even when she's busy. 

TeMika: What is your editorial style? 

Alvina asks a lot of questions. She's not much of a line editor. She loves world building and asking a lot of questions about world building. She says it's collaborative, and more like a conversation. 

TeMika: Are there any things you consider when working with an author/illustrator rather than an author only?

If Alvina can picture what the book would look like from the text, that's important for a writer only. For an author illustrator it's a question of: Do I like the art style? 

TeMika: How do you find illustrators? 

Alvina echoes what the others have said about the importance of social media and websites. Little, Brown also has something they call picture book breakfast where the picture book editors and designers get together and share illustrators they've discovered

TeMika: Trends in picture books?
Alvina has a wish to shift back to more storytelling. 


Susan Van Metre is the Executive Editorial Director of Walker Books, a new division of Candlewick Press. Previously she was at Abrams, where she founded the Amulet imprint and edited EL DEAFO by Cece Bell, the Origami Yoda series by Tom Angleberger, the Internet Girls series by Lauren Myracle, THEY SAY BLUE by Jillian Tamaki, and the Questioneers series by Andrea Beaty and David Roberts. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, Pete Fornatale, and their daughter and the ghost of their Lab mix.

Susan works on mostly fiction and graphic novels. She's also in love with those books for kids aged 8 to 12. Susan is CeCe Bell's editor, who just had a wonderful conversation with Sarah Baker on the stage. 

TeMika: What are you reading? 

Susan: Ever Since by Alena Bruzas

TeMika: What makes you fall in love to a manuscript? 

Susan: The recognition that there are high stakes for kids in the ordinary events of their lives, and how big those feel to a child's life. 

TeMika: Are there any things you consider when working with an author/illustrator rather than an author only. 

For Susan, it depends on the type of book. Susan does get excited when she has an author/illustrator for a graphic novel. But, with picture books there's something wonderful about the partnership between author and illustrator, however the timeline can often be longer. 

TeMika: How do you find illustrators? 

Instagram is important way to find illustrators, as well as having a good website. 

On a final note: As the the panel wraps up, all the panelist see SCBWI as an asset to writers and illustrators in terms of learning and growth, to have a better understanding of the business, and for the all-important community. 

The Outlook for Children's Publishing in 2024: Mallory Loehr

Mallory's first person bio: I'm an EVP and Publisher at  Random House Children's books, working with the five trade imprints (20 editors): Random House trade, Doubleday, Random House Studio, Labyrinth Road, Little Golden Books, and Crown Books for Young Readers. I've been with Random House for over three decades! As an editor, I've shaped the careers of many authors, including Mary Pope Osborne, from the inception of the Magic Tree House series and New York Times Best Selling Author and Illustrator, Emily Winfield Martin. I continue to edit books, including Jimmy Kimmel’s THE SERIOUS GOOSE and Rachel Ignotofsky’s WHAT'S INSIDE A CATERPILLAR COCOON.  My house is full of books, 3 kids, a partner, an English Shepherd, and too many art supplies (in no particular order).

Mallory Loehr on the big screen

When asked to share your proudest moment in publishing, Mallory cites The Magic Treehouse Series, because it "created so many readers."

Mallory suggests - if you're going to submit a rhyming picture book text, make sure it really works--that it really rhymes. That someone else can read it aloud and it rhymes for them (and not just in your mind).

What she's looking for: "I feel like I read like a 12 year old. That's my inner reader... If you don't get me on page one, you're not going to get a 12 year old. Or an 8 year old... Something has to happen." She continues to explain that she wants the characters in the first pages to be people you want to hang out with, you want to be friends with, that at minimum you are curious about.

Mallory shares about how her editorial style is different with different authors, and how for picture books, she once asked the author to write out separately what they thought their book was about, to better be able to help them realize their vision and make sure it was on the page.

There's also a story Mallory tells us about how one of the editors on her team received a picture book manuscript from an agent, and they liked it but didn't love it. They turned it down. But then the manuscript was paired with an illustrator and re-submitted together -- and the editor was now able to envision the book and acquired it! (Lee's note: This is fascinating, as it goes against the "rule" about not submitting a book with illustrations if you're not also the illustrator. Perhaps it worked because the matching was done by the agent, but proceed with caution on this one...)

Advice on a publisher choosing to pay for someone to go to a conference is an investment. Publisher wants to know it will be worth it. Have you been going to schools? Building your speaker chops locally? Hard to know if you'll be comfortable in front of a room of people. Work on it. Take videos. Share those videos with your editor/publisher so they know you'll be amazing.

Figure out your thing. What can you do? You are your best advocate.

The discussion also touched on the blurring of the boundaries of age and categories, a discussion on romantacy, representation, and lots more!

PANEL: The Outlook for Children’s Publishing in 2024: Patrice Caldwell

The Outlook for Children’s Publishing in 2024

Favorite/Proudest moment as a Publishing Professional: Negotiating an imprint called Freedom Fire at Disney. Freedom Fire will aim to acquire stories from Black authors around the world, celebrating the diasporic culture.

What are you reading?: Reading a “spicy romanticacy” called Persephone and Hades. Loves mythology and highly recommends this modern take on an old tale. 

How to submit to Patrice:  Some people have messaged her on Instagram/LinkedIn but Patrice recommends to try and follow the guidelines of the agency/publisher you are interested in.  She has reached out to authors/illustrators through DMs but she does read the submissions in her slush pile.

What makes you fall in love with a manuscript?: Patrice is a “mood reader” and her taste spans all genres but if something can hold her attention, she’s onboard. Her latest read kept her awake until 3 am which excited her, even if the next day at work was LONG! She loves romance and knows the contemporary romance genre very well, so she is very interested in that genre. 

In your query letter, Patrice is most interested in the logline and will dive into the manuscript immediately. It’s okay if the first few pages are clunky—she’ll bounce around and get a feel of the manuscript but something about the book need to be intriguing. Editors and agents are willing to take on something that is not perfect if the story has legs. 

What is your editorial style?: Patrice will ask “Was this the book you meant to write? She asks about the client’s logline and comparable titles and if the writer describes it one way but the work doesn’t reflect it, she works to marry the two. She can help you get there but wants to make sure that she and the client are on the same page.

How involved are you in searching for illustrators?: Patrice went to the portfolio showcase and grabbed tons of postcards. Instagram is a great tool, especially utilizing hashtags to get your work seen as well as staying open to queries and referrals.

Question about Promotion: Having an agent who truly understands and is exciting about strategizing is instrumental. Having someone alongside you to push you and your work into the right spaces does make a big different. Knowing who has influence and where can help you get eyes on your book. It is an investment but it gets you out there. School visits can be really help and you can make money through public speaking and workshops. 

“Write the next thing. Nothing will sell your backlist then your front list.” 

“You are running a small business. Figure out the intersection of what works for you and what your readers love!”

When you are submitting, think about your WHY? “Why” did you spend countless nights and weekend to write your book. Showcase that passion! 

Patrice Caldwell 

Patrice Caldwell is seeking commercial, character-driven fiction for middle grade, young adult, and adult readers as well as narrative nonfiction. Across the board, she is especially looking for middle grade and young adult science fiction & fantasy, mythology retellings and reimaginings, romance novels, and anything that can be categorized as horror and/or gothic literature. Patrice loves to champion stories from writers & illustrators from marginalized backgrounds. She does not represent picture books.
Before becoming a literary agent, Patrice was an editor at Disney-Hyperion and, before that, Scholastic. She went to Wellesley College, where she studied Political Science and English, and is the founder of People of Color in Publishing, a grassroots organization.

Moderated by TeMika Grooms
Manager Of Design And Illustration

TeMika Grooms is a Georgia-based writer and illustrator creating stories with a belief that all children should be able to see themselves as the hero within the pages of a book. In 2021, she was selected as an Illustration Mentee in the We Need Diverse Books Program and was a member of the first cohort for the Highlights Foundation and The Brown Bookshelf Amplify Black Stories program. Her latest illustrated book Put Your Shoes On & Get Ready! by Senator Raphael G. Warnock was released by Philomel Books in January 2023.

The Outlook for Children's Publishing in 2024


From left to right, moderator TeMika Grooms,
Mallory Loehr, Alvina Ling, Susan Van Metre, and Patrice Caldwell.

The panel begins!

Keynote: An Interview with Cece Bell

SCBWI Executive Director Sarah Baker interviewed author/illustrator Cece Bell.

Cece Bell is the author and illustrator of the groundbreaking graphic novel, El Deafo (Harry N. Abrams), which is loosely based on her loss of hearing at a young age. It received a Newbery Medal, an Eisner Award, and a Cybils Award. Other stand-alone titles include Bee-Wigged (Candlewick) and I Yam a Donkey! (Clarion). She’s also the creator of beloved character-based series, including the Rabbit and Robot books and the Chick and Brain books (all Candlewick), and she illustrated the Inspector Flytrap chapter books written by her husband, Tom Angleberger (Harry N. Abrams). Her next book, Animal Albums from A to Z (Walker Books US), will be released in 2024. She works in both digital and classic media to create her distinctive art.

Cece Bell (left) and Sarah Baker,
with a montage of slide images shared

Cece shares about her childhood, losing her hearing beginning at age four, early books she loved, and how being funny and making things were elements of what makes her her. Cece got a graduate degree in design and illustration, and reflects that the design part of that education was more helpful -- because even things that are illustrated need to be designed first.

Cece was 30 when she got her first book going, and speaks of how technology like emails and zoom have made her career possible.

Highlights from their conversation include:

In response to Sarah speaking about how kids react to Cece's books, Cece said:

"I'm actually not thinking about the kids. I'm thinking about what's fun? What's funny?"

On writing El Deafo:

Cece wrote it at a low point, in a very collaborative way with her editor, Susan Van Metre, Executive Editorial Director of Walker Books US. The favorite thing Cece's heard about El Deafo:

"My kid liked this book so much that they sleep with it, like a stuffed animal."

And we get a sneak peek of Cece's next book, Animal Albums for A to Z, where every letter is an album cover, with animal musicians, and lyrics (a.k.a. poems), each a different musical genre.

Being a deaf person, Cece says, "there are more ways to appreciate music than just hearing it."

We also get to see process shots of the E page, paper cutouts and hand-drawn lettering, sculptures, and Cece tells us she even produced 26 songs that you can hear on a webpage from a QR in the book! She's also producing music videos!

Sarah comments that the book busts through both ideas of the relationship hearing impaired folks can have with music, as well as ideas of what a picture book can be... Cece's response? "Good!"

Much more was shared in this fun and engaging conversation... and it ended with a standing ovation!

Illustrate, Translate, and Write On!

Creative Lab: Kate Messner - Revision Half-Marathon: Revision Strategies to Get Your Novel to the Finish Line

This conference features two opportunities for deep dives in Creative Labs. While we can't share that deep dive in this space, here's a little taste of what we were up to. 

In Kate Messner's Revision Half-Marathon, we're off and running. Kate has us working on many elements related to character, story, and writing. 

In mile one, Kate share's a tip I've personally learned from her before, and still use with all my writing.  Complete the following sentences.  

These sentences will be a guide to the work you do as you revise your manuscript. The choices you make should connect to one or both of these, and often to the second. 

Happy revising! 

Creative Lab - Don't Call it "Self" Publishing: How to Successfully Publish Your Own MG and YA Books

Andrea Fleck-Nisbet getting into detail about a P&L

Two highlights from the session I co-taught with Andrea Fleck-Nisbet:

1) "Self publisher" is a problematic term, because it tricks people into thinking they can do it all themself. But if you're going to publish a book you wrote (and/or illustrated and/or translated), you're the publisher. That means you have to hire a team of professionals to help you put out a book that is professionally published. 

An example: If no one is going to pay me to design the cover of their book, I have no business designing the cover of my book.

That's why we suggest the term "Author publisher" instead.

2) Readers generally don't care who published a book, as long as it is great. Part of what makes a book great is that it is professionally published. There's a lot of "tells" that reveal if a book has been professionally published--or not.

There's a nonprofit called IBPA (The Independent Book Publishers Association, that Andrea is the CEO of and that I work at as well as their Chief Content Officer) that offers a lot of resources for author publishers and indie publishers. Among those resources is the free-for-everyone Industry Standards Checklist

It's two pages long, and well-worth checking out with a book next to you -- there are some surprising things that go into a professionally published book...

Pop Quiz: Do you know what a colophon is?

(Hint, it's on the spine of pretty much every professionally published book.)

You can find out more about IBPA here.

Illustrate, Translate, and Write On!

Creative Lab- Illustrators Break Through! Pushing Past Career, Creative, and Mental Blocks

Illustrators Break Through! Pushing Past Career, Creative, and Mental Blocks

W/ Pat Cummings, Cecilia Yung and Christy Ewers

What a great first Creative Lab Session with a fantastic panel! There were so many nuggets that I couldn’t write fast enough! We discussed burnout, branding, style, voice and more! 

Here are some takeaways from the session:

Pat Cummings 

“You have to lose sight of the shore to find new land!”

You just have to show up and do the work. Play—experiment! Don’t get discouraged. Rather take it as an opportunity to invest in yourself and your craft.

Cecilia Yung

“Is it time to change the approach? Upgrade the tools or adjust the goals?”

When experiencing burnout or mental blocks, a great way is to go down a checklist and see if there is anything you can change to help propel you forward in your career. Check off the mental checklist and find actionable goals to help you achieve your potential.
Christy Ewers
“You are the CEO of your career. Immerse yourself! Get a good feel of what’s going on in the market.”

You are an artist but you are also a business. Take action, dive in and immerse yourself in it all. Discover what is out there, where you see yourself, and where you fit in. Be honest with yourself, don’t compare and consider what’s important to you and what YOU are good at!

Pat Cummings 

Pat Cummings is the author/illustrator of over forty books for young readers. She also edited the award-winning series, Talking With Artists, which profiles prominent children's book illustrators. She teaches at Parsons and Pratt, and her children's book illustration class has a growing number of notable illustrator/authors among its graduates. Pat serves on the SCBWI Board of Advisors as well as on the boards of the Authors Guild, the Authors League Fund, The Authors Guild Foundation and as Chair for the Founders Award for the annual Original Art Show at the Society of Illustrators. She is a member of the Writers Guild of America, East. Along with visiting schools, universities, and organizations to speak about children’s books, she conducts a summer Children’s Book Boot Camp that brings writers and illustrators together with agents and top editors and art directors from major publishing houses.

Christy Evers

Owner and agent, Christy Ewers, has been a part of children's literature since her mother started the agency in 1994, and joined as an agent in 2013. With a degree in English and decades of experience in various creative fields, Christy brings a unique perspective to the agency, while maintaining the enthusiasm and love of art that is her mother’s legacy in the industry. She works closely with the entire “family” of artists, spearheading the promotion and deals for CAT Agency illustrators, as well as working alongside the authors in the group to help craft their writing for young readers.

Cecilia Yung 
Art Director, Illustrator

Cecilia Yung is the former Executive Art Director and Vice President at Penguin Random House where she was responsible for illustration and design for two imprints, G. P. Putnam's Sons and Nancy Paulsen Books. Over four decades in the industry, she is fortunate to have worked with some of the major illustrators of children’s books, but the highlight of her work is to discover and develop new talent. She is on the Advisory Council of SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) as well as a member of its Illustrators Committee.

Keynote: Joseph Coelho

Joseph's poems have been published in several Macmillan anthologies including Green Glass Beads ed. by Jacqueline Wilson. Joseph has been a guest poet on Cbeebies Rhyme Rocket where he was beamed up from The Rhyme Rock to perform his Bug Poem. His debut children's collection "Werewolf Club Rules" is published by Frances Lincoln and was the winner of the 2015 CLPE CLiPPA Poetry Award. 

Joseph is the Waterstones Children's Laureate. Read all about his goals and the powerful things he's doing with and for kids. 

Joseph starts by sharing,"Poetry can help all of us, no matter what we write, can make our writing sing."

"I truly believe we are all poets."

Joseph writes across formats...all kinds of books. He grew up in nature, and loved writing with friends. Into his 20s he began preforming poems, which led him to writing for young people, which led to him writing for TV. He still turns to the outdoors to be inspired. 

Joseph says a good poet distills writing down to its essence, cutting straight to the marrow (like an artist drawing the perfect circle). 

He asks: Did you know you can write a poem with one word? 

The trick is to have a very long title!

The Sad Tale of a Fly


Joseph tell us we are all poets and we all need to claim that right as poets. 

Poetry can be freeform or structured. 

With the help of attendees ,Joseph creates a MORERAPS poem which uses poetic devices. Each line of the poem is one of the following poetic devices. 

You can create your own MORERAPS poems to explore your story, to add more to your work. 

Like poetry, creativity needs to be fed and shared. When Joseph willingly started to give his creativity, rather than feeling it was something that he had to do, everything started to flow for him. 

Joseph shares a powerful message:

"Wait for no one. There are no gatekeepers except to those you give keys and chains to."

Joseph tells the room, "It's okay to play. There's no right or wrong way to do things. By sharing and being of service, your creativity blossoms."

Check out Joseph's YouTube channel and his Poetry Prompts: 5 to 10 minutes interactive guides for kids to write poetry. 

Welcome with Sarah Baker, SCBWI Executive Director

 Welcome and welcome back! 

Sarah Baker, SCBWI Executive Director kicks off the conference with a WONDERFUL welcome!

There were hundreds of members smiling back at her as we all came together once again for the SCBWI In-Person Winter Conference.

The Industry party was back and in full effect. The ballroom was packed with so many industry professionals. They were thrilled to be there and were impressed by the portfolios they saw. 

Congratulations to all the illustrators who participated. It takes hard-work and courage to put your work in the showcase and it was the highlight of the Industry party.

Introduce yourself!

People from all over the world are in attendance! We have Council Members from Australia, Taiwan, the UK and Nigeria. SCBWI is an abundant community and there’s a lot of people to meet and a lot of great opportunities to connect with leadership, and staff members at SCBWI.

Don’t forget to introduce yourself to your RT (Regional Team leader). SCBWI has chapters all over the world with a vibrant community near you! They are ROCKSTARS, and are really important people to know in this organization.

There are so many great sessions and opportunities to learn, grow and meet new members this year!

Here is the LINK to the SCHEDULE! Join the socials, come to the Networking party and take LOTS OF NOTES during your Creative Labs!

REMEMBER, you’re in a very supportive and welcoming group. There is no competition here. You are surrounded by people who are rooting for you!

“Take advantage while we are in person. Look to your right, look to left, you might meet your critique partner!” 

Leave everything at the door.

Get completely immerse. 

Turn off and tune in. 

DRINK water and take a stroll when you need a moment to breathe.

And remember, you took a step toward your goals and that is such an amazing accomplishment.

There can NEVER be enough children’s books in the world!

If you post anything during the conference, don’t forget to use the social media hashtag: #scbwiNY24 so we can connect with you!


We're minutes away from the 2024 SCBWI Winter Conference #scbwiNY24

Stay tuned/dialed in/bookmark this site because Justin Campbell, Jolie Stekly, and myself (Lee Wind) will be live-blogging highlights from the conference right here on the official SCBWI Conference Blog!

2024 SCBWI Winter Conference Team bloggers (left to right):
Justin Campbell, Jolie Stekly, and Lee Wind

Here's to all the inspiration, business, craft, opportunity, and community ahead,


Friday, February 9, 2024

Portfolio Showcase / Industry Party


The 2024 In-Person Winter Conference is here and we started it off with the Industry Party! With the portfolios as the centerpiece of the party, the excited industry professionals poured over them! And what a SELECTION! 

There were over 100 portfolios submitted. All styles in all genres. As a fellow illustrator who submitted my own portfolio, it was a sight to see and it warmed my heart to see how the work displayed really sparked inspiration, conversation and excitement! My smile grew as the postcards depleted!

To all those who submitted, congratulations! Having prepared a portfolio myself, it is a great feat to finish one and put it out there! Vulnerability is your superpower! I know I was sweating as I handed mine over but what I learned from last year’s Portfolio Showcase to this year’s was:

  • Be proud of yourself and work
  • Trust the process
  • Plan ahead in case you need to revise
  • Curate your art space
  • Find how your PRACTICE meets DISCIPLINE to facilitate GROWTH
  • Be kind
  • Lean into your flaws
  • Take breaks

I was deeply inspired by what I saw and I can’t wait until we all find a home to tell our stories through our art!

Here are some of my FAVORITE portfolios!

If you post anything during the conference, ESPECIALLY those notebook doodles, don’t forget to use the social media hashtag: #scbwiNY24 so we can connect with you!

Monday, February 5, 2024

We're a week away from the SCBWI 2024 Winter Conference!


Jolie Stekly, Justin Campbell, and I will be blogging live from the conference floor... Between the keynotes, panels, portfolio showcase, socials, and creative labs there's going to be so much KidLit creation goodness! See the full schedule.

And we hope you'll follow along here...

Illustrate, Translate, and Write On!