SCBWI New York Highlights
I’m finally sifting through all my notes and experiences from my trip to New York. It was a cold weekend to be in the big apple, with temperatures outside hovering in the single digits. Despite the frigid weather we were warm and safe inside the hotel, surrounded by a star-studded faculty of kidlit experts. Here are just a few of the highlights:
Two-time Newberry Honor winner Gary Schmidt made everyone cry about five different times during his moving keynote about the importance of writing for kids. He emphasized that writing should be an expression of empathy and compassion: we must “show up” instead of leaving the reader behind. I can’t do Mr. Schmidt justice, so I’ll just encourage you to read all of his heartrending books and leave you with a quote:
“Writing should be an act of empathy in a broken world. What ails you? That is the question we ask.” – Gary Schmidt, author
If you’ve ever submitted a manuscript exactly one time and, upon receiving a rejection letter, decided to give up: William Joyce, Oscar winner and acclaimed writer and illustrator of dozens of books, received over 250 rejection letters at the beginning of his career. So maybe it wouldn’t hurt to keep revising and try again. He also offered this advice to illustrators on finding your voice:
“Find the artists you love, find out what you love about them, and then… steal.” -William Joyce, author/illustrator and filmmaker
Newberry Honor and Coretta Scott King award-winner Rita Williams-Garcia made everyone laugh during her keynote about the “Dos and Don’ts” of writing. Her witty anecdotes shed light on the hard-earned successes and naive missteps along the road to publication.
“Do live with gratitude. Do live in the plan. Do what you’re doing.” – Rita Williams-Garcia
The delightful Sophie Blackall inspired everyone with the story of how her personal project to illustrate the Missed Connections column on Craigslist helped to jump-started her career. She also shared stories and photos from her travels working with Save the Children and other humanitarian organizations, and gave us a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at all the research and love that went into this year’s Caldecott winner, Finding Winnie. She signed my copy of book and even drew a little sketch in it!
“Do that thing that’s just for yourself, because it’s almost always your best work.” -Sophie Blackall, author and illustrator
The conference also featured several panels representing editors, art directors, publishers and agents who offered a broad perspective on the state of the industry. There was a lot of encouraging news about the health of children’s literature and plenty of sage advice for aspiring authors and illustrators. Here are a few quotes that stood out:
“You’re only as good as the people you work with.” – David Saylor, Creative Director at Scholastic
“Don’t take shortcuts. If you put everything you have in [your work], you can’t fail.” – Holly McGhee, Agent at Pippin Properties
“You have something that no one else has, and your job is to figure out what that is.” -Cecilia Yung, VP and Art Director at Penguin Random House
“Know your competition. […] Your competition is everything kids are doing other than reading books.” – Andrea Pappenheimer, Director of Sales at HarperCollins