Marcia Strykowski

NESCBWI18 SPRING CONFERENCE

Every year, the New England Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators hosts many events including a big annual conference. This spring it was, once again, held in Springfield, Massachusetts.  One of 700 attendees last weekend, I was fortunate to be able to stay overnight in the same hotel where the conference was held. Although I was hardly ever in my room, I did notice there was a lovely view out the window.
The first thing I did after arriving (besides checking in and registering) was to meet up with former Picture Book Boot Camp attendees in the MVP pub. Take note of the man in the far right back corner. I have yet to figure out if he’s merely trying to pay his bill, or if he’s a photo-bomber hoping to get into a picture with Jane Yolen.
After lunch I attended a workshop called Plotting Your Picture Book with Ann Marie Stephens. She gave some great tips, activities, and handouts. Please excuse how badly all my speaker pictures turned out. I have an old-fashioned camera and didn’t want to use the flash.
Patricia MacLachlan was scheduled to be the speaker for Fireside Chat, but unfortunately she was sick and had to cancel. I’ve heard Patricia speak before and she’s wonderful—truly inspiring. So, that was the bad news, but for good news, Jane Yolen stepped in and took over last minute. Her daughter Heidi Stemple, as moderator, asked questions that brought out all kinds of interesting thoughts on writing and creating and not giving up. Below is a blurry picture of them.
Another highlight of Friday night was a First Look Panel featuring agent Linda Camacho, keynote Matt Phelan, author/illustrator Dan Santat, and author Nancy Werlin. John Bell moderated the panel. First pages and illustrations were turned in ahead of time and then, on the spot, the panel gave their thoughts on what worked and what didn’t work in each submission. Again, an extremely lousy picture, but, hey, this time I was sitting in the back and lucky to have remembered to pull out my camera at all.
After that, I mostly hung around the Meet & Greet Portfolio Showcase. So many wonderful displays of talent and fun to run into people I hadn’t seen in years. There was also an open mic event going on, but I never did get there. I did check out the conference bookstore, though, where stacks of many gorgeous titles were available.

Saturday morning dawned bright and early, starting with a continental breakfast. Then we moved on to Welcome and Announcements in the ballroom. Below is a wide picture of committee members and volunteers. They did an amazing job on this conference. What I liked most (aside from the gluten-free chocolate cake for ALL 700) was there was hardly any downtime (unless you chose it), every minute was jam-packed with interesting things to do, see, or learn about. I’ve been to conferences of a different sort where there are huge lulls between events in hopes attendees will take advantage of the many vendors—not my cup of tea. Our keynote speaker that morning was the fabulous Rita Williams-Garcia who shared humorous details of her long ride to success.
During lunch, as well as other times, a giant slide show displayed book covers for attendees with book releases during 2017 and 2018. Here are two views of Roller Boy.
I attended several great workshops on Saturday. By then, I’d given up trying to take pictures. I went to Twisted Plotting with Nancy Werlin, Rigorous Research with Michelle Cusolito and Karen Boss, part of Matt Phelan’s excellent workshop on graphic novels, and an informative Point of View class with Karen Boss.

All the while, there were many other workshops to pick from, as well. Therefore, I’m missing many presenters who I’m sure gave fantastic presentations on topics across the board. If only I could be in more than one place at a time!

Another great keynote speech to wrap up Saturday’s events featured Amy Reed who spoke with warmth and sincerity about her struggles to find her place.
Throughout the conference there were many door prizes raffled off along with award announcements. Unfortunately I was only able to stay at the conference until Saturday evening. I posed for a picture with many of my critique group members (being a last minute idea, we missed a few) and then, home I went, inspired and ready to write.

54 Comments

  1. Sounds like a great conference!

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    • Oh, it was, Yvonne. I hadn’t been since the time I met you in person. Great to be back!

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  2. That sounds like fun, Marcia, as well as a great learning experience. The attendance is huge! How wonderful that it’s so popular. Great seeing your book up there on the big screen. 🙂

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    • Yes, it’s a huge gathering. We used to hold them in Nashua, NH, but then had to move to a bigger venue. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m so glad you posted your fuzzy pictures. I have a collection of fuzzies, too. Being kind to others in a big group is very important. That was fantastic that you have two very clear shots of your book cover. I can’t imagine how it would feel to see one’s own name that large where tons of people are looking at it. Congratulations!

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  4. Thanks for this wonderful recap! Sounds like it was an inspirational event. Can’t wait to see what your writing produces from it…and to see Roller Boy in book stores here. xo

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    • This conference is always exciting and inspiring, such a great group of people create books for children. (As you know, ha ha). xo

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Sounds wonderful, Marcia. I’ve always wanted to go to the conference.

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    • Oh, I hope you do get to attend some time. It would be great to see you!

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  6. Thanks so much for the recap, Marcia. I wasn’t able to attend this year, so you gave me a taste of what went down. So glad you had such a great time…hopefully, I’ll be able to join in next year. 😉 And congrats on your book being up on the scroll…that is AWESOME!

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    • Thank you, Vivian. I recognized your name when it was announced at one of the huge ballroom meetings–congratulations!

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  7. Barbara Fisher

    It sounds like a fascinating event Marcia, thank you for sharing it with us.

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    • You’re welcome, Barbara. It’s a fun and fascinating event for sure. Hope all’s going well with you! xo

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  8. Michelle Elder

    Sounds like a great conference. How exciting to have Roller Boy on the big screen!

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    • It was a great idea a few years back (Paula Tigar’s, I hear) to show new covers on the big screen. Where else would you have so many fans of children’s books all in one room? See you soon, Michelle!

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  9. Bobbi

    Wow! What a great overview! I so wish I could have attended. I have heard that it was truly inspirational!

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    • Oh, it was, Bobbi, and it would have been such fun to see you! I enjoyed meeting your friend, Cynthia. 🙂

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  10. Wow. WOW! I can only imagine how exciting and inspiring this was. I feel lucky to have heard Jane and Heidi speak. I remember your picture book boot camp story. And now Roller Boy, up on the big screen. Wonderful! I assume your group is only open to published authors and librarians. One day I will be ‘there’ and can join. Thank you for sharing this event, Marcia! BTW, just bought After the Fall, by Dan Santat. One of the best books!

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    • Hi Jennie, if you mean the huge conference group, it is open to all whether published or not. And everyone is welcome to join SCBWI. If you go to their website (dot org) you’ll find all sorts of information including free access to the message boards. For information on my particular critique group, you’ll find that on the Writers Rumpus website. It would be so much fun to see you at some of these events!

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  11. Ashley

    This looks like a awesome conference!!

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    • One of the best I’ve attended. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by, Ashley!

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  12. Sounds like a great time. I love these writer’s conferences. I am going to one in Winchester, UK. I hope it is as good. Lovely to see your book on the screen. xo

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    • It would be fun to go to one in the UK, is it an SCBWI-affiliated conference? Maybe you’ll see my friend Rebecca Colby there. Enjoy the event, Darlene!

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      • It isn’t connected with SCBWI. Do they ever have any conferences in Europe? I will keep an eye out for Rebecca.

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        • I know there are SCBWI branches in Europe, but I don’t know anything about their conferences. I got curious and just looked it up, there’s a group of five regions in continental Europe, that hold a big conference every so often. Oh, and now I’ve noticed there was an SCBWI conference in Winchester last November. Enjoy the one you’re going to!

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  13. mirkabreen

    Clearly an active and fruitful (and tasty) chapter you have there in New England!

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  14. Perfect recap! It was an excellent conference and I appreciate all your photos, even if blurry!

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  15. I hope to get there one day, since it’s in the East, although 700 is a lot of people! Nice for you to see your book on the big screen! Just finished reading CALL ME AMY (which I found in my library here in tiny Wolfville, Nova Scotia) – really enjoyed the trip back to the 70s and I loved your characters!

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    • I’m very happy to learn Call Me Amy is at a library in Nova Scotia (and that you read and enjoyed it). My grandmother grew up in Mahone Bay. I wonder if that’s anywhere near you. It would be wonderful to see you at one of our big conferences. 6-700 may sound huge, but the sessions and workshops are all much smaller and more manageable. Thanks so much for letting me know, Jan!
      Edited to add, I just looked up the distance between the two places, just over an hour. That whole area is on my bucket list. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  16. That was such an interesting post. I’ve been to a few, much smaller conferences, but yours sounds like it was such a productive weekend. I hope it helps your books to get into the hands of more people!

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    • Thanks, Sharon! It was a productive conference. When I used to volunteer at these events, I saw just how much work goes into getting everything to run smoothly.

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  17. Conferences can be so energizing. This one sounds wonderful. I especially enjoyed seeing the photos of Roller Boy on the screen.

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    • It’s great to break away from day to day problems and be immersed in kidlit, definitely energizing. Thanks, Sheryl!

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  18. So glad you were able to get to the conference Marcia!! Sounds like such an inspiring time– and a chance to sit and talk books with so many people. I could never hope to write a book, but it would be so fun to listen in on all the authors and hear what goes on behind the writing scenes! And so fun to Roller Boy got recognition!! Can’t wait to read it! hugs hugs!

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    • I’ll bet a full-color recipe book written by you would sell like hotcakes! 🙂 Thanks, Rhonda.xo

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      • ha ha Marcia! Looking forward to reading your newest! xox

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  19. I wish there were events like this in South Africa with such wonderful speakers. What a fabulous experience for you, Marcia.

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    • I’m glad to see there are SCBWI groups in South Africa. (I was curious and looked it up–Cape Town and Gauteng–anywhere near you?) Hopefully there will be big conferences soon, too. Meanwhile, it’s wonderful how online information can spread worldwide. Thanks for your comment, Robbie!

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  20. This looks like a great conference, Marcia. How exciting to see your name in lights! I trust you came away with some tips and insights and connections for your NEXT book. 🙂

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    • I tried to get as much as I could from the conference, fingers crossed for the ‘next’ book. Thanks!

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  21. Marcia – this looks like a super event. It is always wonderful to be with other creative spirits. It helps keep us “keeping on”.

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    • I agree, good to catch up with others doing the same craft. I enjoyed your latest paintings!

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  22. I have been wanting to go to a SCBWI conference- but so far they have all been on dates I have something else scheduled. This looks like a lot of fun. I am glad Jane Yolen was about to fill in for Patricia. Thanks for sharing your experience with us. 🙂

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    • That would be great if you could attend, Stephanie. Next year’s New England conference will be the first weekend in May. It’s a busy time of year, so they try to vary the dates a little. 🙂

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  23. Bette Norton

    It sounds like a wonderful conference that you attended with all your writing peers! How exciting for you to have your latest novel Roller Boy up on the wide screen for all to see. I am looking forward to reading it! So glad you had this opportunity! 🙂

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    • Thanks, Bette, it was a really good conference and fun to see Roller Boy up on the screen! 🙂

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