Where Inspiration Comes to Life: My First SCBWI Conference

Ever wondered where great books are born? Well, after my weekend in Miami, I have your answer.

Andy Warhol Marilyn Monroe

OK, my “weekend in Miami” definitely differed from most people’s “weekend in Miami,” as I attended the winter conference of Florida’s Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. It was, by far, the most inspiring and educational conference I’ve attended. And I loved every moment.

“But what about your babies?” you’re asking yourself nervously.

Yes, yes, I did abandon my sweet kiddos for two nights, but I abandoned them into the more-than-capable hands of my husband and parents. They were fine and loved on, even with Mama hours away.

Fortunately, I had met (and clicked with) two fellow children’s-book-loving women at an SCBWI boot camp in October. They mentioned they needed a fourth for the January conference, and I jumped at the opportunity (after clearing it with The Hubs, of course). I was blessed to have a built-in group and didn’t have to face mingling and networking alone.

children's book editor

SCBWI is an international organization for aspiring, pre-published authors and illustrators, as well as published veterans, of picture books, middle-grade books, and young-adult novels. We had keynote speakers who’ve been published 20-plus times, as well as editors of major publishing companies and literary agents. I felt like I was drinking from a fire hose of literary education.

Fred Koehler
Author/Illustrator Fred Koehler generously took a moment to autograph “How to Cheer Up Dad” for George. (Red shoe to protect George’s real name)

I’ve written a witty (in my humble opinion) picture-book story about a shapes adventure, so I submitted it for a critique. Author Ruth Vander Zee critiqued my manuscript for 15 minutes (which felt like 4ish because it flew by), and I didn’t leave sobbing. I have a lot of work to do, but as my mom says, “You don’t know what you don’t know.” I’m more excited than discouraged by the critique to funnel my new education into my story. It’s always hard to put yourself out there, but it can only make you better and stronger.

Author Judy Schachner
Author/Illustrator Judy Schachner gave us a brief glimpse into her creative mind. What a fascinating place.

My favorite author/illustrator to meet was Judy Schachner. She wrote the very popular children’s series, “Skippyjon Jones.” Judy took the time to sit and doodle a sweet autograph to my son. She taught a workshop about character development, which challenged me to get to know my own characters so much more deeply. Plus, she’s so, so talented, passionate, and emotive, so who wouldn’t want to spend time with someone like that?

I thoroughly enjoyed being a part of the SCBWI tribe. It was a weekend of support and encouragement, and, even as a newbie, I left feeling like I could be successful as long as I kept putting in the work. Stay tuned, and pursue your dreams too, fair reader.

Do you have any hobbies or dreams you’re hoping to pursue? I never thought I’d give this a shot, but I’m thrilled I’ve started the journey.

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