On wide nets, the gift of ignorance, and an excessive use of White-Out: What I learned at #NESCBWI18

Another NE-SCBWI (New England chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators) Conference is in the books, and as always, it was an overwhelming success!

One of the biggest benefits of the conference, which took place April 20-22, is networking:  agents, editors, and fellow writers all converge on this one location to meet, chat, and dine with each other, which is worth the price of admission itself. The varied workshops and high-profile speakers are huge draws, too, of course, but the importance of the social aspect of this conference cannot be overstated.

That said, I always like to share a few choice tidbits of wisdom gleaned from the experience; some of it inspirational, some incidental. This list is by no means exhaustive, and even what you read here is a snippet of what you would have learned had you actually been there. So if you are an SCBWI member, please consider attending your next local conference!

  1. Jane & I have known each other for 7 years now, but there’s been no photographic proof until now!

    Writing is a vocation as much as it is an avocation. Jane Yolen reminded us of this fact during the Opening Ceremonies Friday evening. We write (or illustrate) not only because we are drawn to it as an occupation for which we each feel particularly suited, but because we enjoy it – and would be doing this even if it were not our profession.

  2. Learn to be happy, find the joy, recognize the encouragement! Author Rita Williams-Garcia was Sat. morning’s keynote speaker and related her experiences of going from wannabe writer to award-winning author with humility and humor. She explained that early on in her career, she was so focused on writing and “being an author,” she was missing out on the happiness that comes from sharing your books with the world and the joy of children being inspired by your work. She has since learned how to embrace life, career, and all that goes with them.
  3. Cast a wide net. Author/illustrator Dan Santat is a familiar face here at the conference, and is always inspiring. During one of his workshops, he was explaining how and why he enjoys different projects: one might be a picture book all his own, another might be a middle grade chapter book or
    Perennially, one of the longest lines during book-signing is Dan’s!

    graphic novel written by someone else. He said that he keeps hearing people talking about “finding your style” or “finding your voice” – but what happens when that style or voice is no longer en vogue? It is best, Dan suggested, to stretch yourself and be marketable across a wide range of genres and styles – if you plan on maintaining a career by working in the industry for the long haul.

  4. You can always tell which conference day it is, based on breakfast attendance. This is something I’ve noticed each year, and I just find it amusing. Saturday morning, the ballroom is filled to capacity! The foyer is a buzz with attendees smiling and chatting, grabbing coffee, fruit, pastries, and cereal, and finding their seats before the keynote begins. Everyone is full of energy, catching up with friends and acquaintances and  gearing up for a weekend of inspiration and education! Sunday…half of those people are still in their rooms trying to wake up, while those of us who do make it to breakfast – while still happy and amiable – are visibly much, much slower. Definitely a two-coffee morning.
  5. Dr. Seuss used way more White-Out than anyone ever realized. This was a revelation that illustrator Matt Phelan shared during Sunday’s keynote.  He had visited a children’s illustration exhibit at a museum where some of Dr. Seuss’ original works were on display and one rather large piece had what Matt described as an “inordinate amount of White-Out all over it.” He said this immediately humanized the man, as he realized that even a master such as Theodor Seuss Geisel made plenty of mistakes along the road.
    Matt also credited his success to the “Gift of Ignorance,” a reference to Orson Welles’ explanation of how he created the cinematic masterpiece, “Citizen Kane.” Welles’ claimed that he made a movie unlike any other because he had never made movies, and no one ever told him how to make

    Hanging out with friends and fellow authors at Saturday night’s annual Volunteer Dinner.

    one or not make one! Matt likened it to walking along a cliff: if you know you’re on a cliff, you’re going to be safe and careful and do everything you’ve been told in order to save yourself. If you don’t know you’re walking along a cliff, you are much more likely to be carefree and less fearful.

  6. “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” This quote from the late poet Maya Angelou was shared by one of the speakers – although I cannot for the life of me remember who! After racking my brain trying to recall, it occurred to me that the name of the person relating the quote is not as important as the truth that lies within the quote.

Again, I encourage you to join SCWBI if you are serious about becoming a published children’s author or illustrator. And do whatever it takes to attend a conference, even if it’s just for one day! The workshops, the networking, the inspiration are worth far more than the cost of attendance.

How much time, effort, and money are you willing to put towards seeing your publishing dreams come true? I know I wouldn’t be where I am today had I not attended my first SCBWI conference back in 2011. In fact, I owe my entire career to LUNCH.

Absolute truth.

I’ll have to tell you about it sometime. 😉


DON’T ASK A DINOSAUR” is now available everywhere!

I’m looking forward to heading to Concord, NH this Saturday for a signing at Gibson’s Bookstore, one of the nation’s top indie bookstores!

  • Sat., May 12, 11am:  Gibson’s Bookstore, Concord, NHDon’t Ask a Dinosaur and School People reading/signing
  • Wed., May 15, 12pm: Concord Hospital Gift Shop, Concord, NH, Don’t Ask a Dinosaur and School People signing
  • Sat., May 19, 11:30am-3pm: Barnes & Noble, Salem, NH, National Storytime at 11am, followed by Don’t Ask a Dinosaur and School People reading/signing
  • Sat., June 2, 1-3pm: Books-A-Million, Concord, NH, Don’t Ask a Dinosaur and School People reading/signing


The Dinosaur Tour blog tour continues through the end of the month! My thanks to all these bloggers for their support:

April 6:       Michelle H. Barnes (Interview w/month-long writing prompt & GIVEAWAY!)
April 8:       Kate Narita (Book trailer & activity sheet spotlight)
April 11:     Deborah Kalb (Interview w/Matt & Deb)
April 13:     Yours Truly! (Interview w/illustrator Louie Chin)
April 16:     KidLit Exchange (Blog post re: process of illustration)
April 17:     Momma’s Bacon (DAAD review)
April 17:     Yours Truly(DAAD book birthday news AND GIVEAWAY!)
April 18:     Bonnie Ferrante (DAAD review)
April 19:     KidLit Exchange (DAAD review)

April 19:     Brenda Davis Harsham (DAAD micro review)
April 25:     Bonnie Ferrante (Interview w/Matt & Deb)
May 2:        Unleashing Readers (DAAD review)
May 30:      Bookseedstudio (DAAD review/interview) 


Purchasing personalized signed copies ONLINE? Yes, it’s true!

In case you haven’t heard, there’s a new way to purchase personalized signed copies of not only Flashlight Night, but ANY of my books or anthologies I’ve been part of!

I’ve teamed up with the good folks MainStreet BookEnds in Warner, NH to present an option for people who would love to have a signed copy of one of my books but don’t live anywhere near me. MainStreet BookEnds has ALL but one of my books available for ordering…and the best part is, you can get them personalized!

Just log onto my website and click the cover of whichever book you want, and they will get it to me to sign and send it off to you. Try doing that with those big online booksellers! (Plus, you’ll be helping to support local book-selling – and wouldn’t that make you feel good?)


Thank you so much to all the librarians, bloggers, and parents who are still discovering “Flashlight Night!” 


Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!

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11 thoughts on “On wide nets, the gift of ignorance, and an excessive use of White-Out: What I learned at #NESCBWI18

  1. Thanks for giving us a window inside the conference. I always leave SCBWI conferences feeling inspired, a little smarter, and very tired. I’m looking forward to reading your career lunch post 🙂


  2. Pingback: Poetry Friday / National Teacher Appreciation Week: “Teacher” – Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme

  3. Pingback: On Dream-Chasing and Mistake-Making: Nuggets of Wisdom from #NESCBWI19 – Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme

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