I worked briefly in the world of corporate marketing, and while it didn’t really take I can say this: if you are planning to name an organization and call it by its initials, don’t go with Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Or even worse, New England Society of Children’s book Writers and Illustrators. Because SCBWI and NESCBWI do not exactly roll off the tongue. However, it is a truly amazing organization that offers all kinds of information and resources to writers around the world. But their name kind of stinks.  So henceforth I will refer to it as NESABCDIENSHSDFIOSDPGHFG and you will all know what I am talking about.

What am I talking about? I’m talking about my first ever writer’s conference, held in sexy downtown Springfield MA, which was indeed the New England regional SCVWSDFDIOIOPI conference.

It rocked.

I was inspired by Sara Zarr, who managed to apply writing theory, psychology, and more to the excellent FROG AND TOAD books. (And she read aloud to us…all of us…in the big hotel ballroom. I absolutely luuuurve being read to).

With truly practical hands-on workshops with Kate Messner, Mitali Perkins, and their kin, I learned stuff that has already helped enormously as I slog (again!) through revisions.

And my one-on-one query letter critique with agent Ammi-Joan Paquette of the Erin Murphy Literary agency was also enlightening, mostly for showing me that my query kind of sucked (Not that Joan said that – she was a paragon of kindness and professionalism). But even that news was good! Because I haven’t sent it out yet, and now I know. *wanders off to lick wounds for a few minutes*

In some ways it was a homogenous group. After all, we were all writers or illustrators for kids, and we mostly live in the New England region (with the notable exception being the incredible, talented, hysterical, and mildly creepy Kate Boorman, who I imported from Edmonton Alberta for the event). But even within the group there was diversity of experience, of age, of interest, of talents. And it was fascinating to meet watercolor artists in their 70’s who wanted to begin illustrating books, or illustrators who have dozens of publishing credits to their name but now want to dip a toe in the oceans of writing, not just illustrating.

Jane Yolen, who is perhaps one of the funniest and most deadpan speakers I’ve ever enjoyed listening to, was the North Star of the conference. She answered questions on the first day (a notable response to one gentleman who asked about constantly having to come up with new ideas: “nobody ever said writing was for sissies!”), and gave a closing speech on the last. And though it all reminded us that this takes discipline, it is not for everyone, it is important, and it never, ever gets easy.

The woman has written over 300 books. She is called the Hans Christian Anderson of America.

And she says it’s still hard work.

Just Call me Sisyphus

So yes, SCWSIAODSDFDKLDSI is an incredible organization. I loved getting my nerd on with the aforementioned and awesome Kate Boorman, and immersing myself into the world of writing for a few days. This is a great place to learn and be inspired. Just…maybe don’t take their advice on titles.