The 2011 SCBWI Winter Conference

Originally Published: April 5, 2011

By Sheila DeCosse

The 2011 SCBWI Winter Conference held in New York City on January 28th-30th, showcased a prestigious array of legendary authors, illustrators, editors and agents. The event offered opportunities for new and established writers and illustrators to gain information, hobnob with the pros, and enjoy a plain and fancy good time.

Keynote speakers included Lois Lowry, Jules Feiffer, Linda Sue Park, R.L.Stein and Sara Zarr. The keynote talks were inspirational. Lois Lowry gave a range of responses to the question “Where do ideas come from?” which included the responses, “A haunting phrase,” “What if, what if,” and “How I wish I could have been.”

Jules Feiffer told the audience his books “are dredged up from his own feelings of childhood,” and that “Nothing I’ve ever done is what I planned to do.”

Linda Sue Park admitted that even now she loses confidence in herself, particularly between books. R.L.Stein told his audience that “a writer has to be open to everything…I just stumbled onto something people wanted to read,” and Sara Zaar talked of how hard it is to work and wait for publication. The Panel on Picture Books presented three inspiring and passionate speakers: Patricia Lee Gauch, Mark Teague and Jane Yolen.

The hilarious Panel on Humor, at times an exercise in one upsmanship, included Leonore Look, Mo Willems and Marvin Terban and was moderated by Leonard Marcus.

Breakout workshops addressing the topic “What Makes Your Work Publishable,” were led by editors, art directors and agents. These smaller groups gave writers and illustrators the opportunity to learn about contemporary book publishing as well as new electronic modes of publication. Editors and agents described some of the books they had recently edited, and they laid out their specific likes and dislikes for submissions.

In the midst of this avalanche of inspiration, several awards were given. An Amazon award of $25,000 was presented to SCBWI by Amazon executive, Jon Fine, for the Grants in Progress fund to encourage new writers and new books. The 2011 Tomie dePaola Award was awarded to Katia Wish, based upon her illustration submitted for the opening of Johanna Spyri’s book Heidi. The Illustrator’s Showcase Award, chosen from art submitted for the Friday night Illustrators Showcase, was won by Leeza Hernandez.

For those who paid an additional fee, Friday’s writers’ Intensives furnished an opportunity to present 500 words of a manuscript to leading editors, fellow writers and agents. At the Illustrators’ Intensives, art, promotion and licensing were discussed with other artists and Art Directors. These Writers and Illustrators Intensives were also well covered by the SCBWI Team blog. The bloggers included photos and personal impressions as well as hard information. The people, programs and experiences found at the Winter Conference are just hinted at here.

For more details, take a look at the TEAM BLOG on the SCBWI web page. Or sign up for the SCBWI Los Angeles Summer Conference, August 5-8 or next year’s SCBWI Winter Conference in New York City and judge for yourself.

Sheila DeCosse is editing her middle grade historical novel on a young Acadian girl in colonial New York


One comment

  1. I wish I had been there! I am looking to hook up with an illustrator to produce with me (of course, for free!) a very literary graphical novel (details on the front page of my blog). Anyway your book sounds fantatic; and I’m now going to browse through some other areas of your blog.

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