SCBWI 2019 Winter Conference Recap

Today’s guest post is by Charlene Avery. 

Tingles and an instant grin accompany memories of NY SCBWI 2019. Six people journeyed from Wisconsin to the Winter Conference: illustrator and writer Brianna Capra; writers Sue Fondrie, Pat Zietlow Miller, Lisa Davidson, Beth Mulkerron, and Charlene Avery. We enjoyed meeting at dinner Saturday evening, and throughout the weekend.

Over the course of the conference, SCBWI Executive Director & co-founder Lin Oliver was a hoot, a calming presence, and professional. Lin reported that 788 people from 14 countries and 44 states attended NY SCBWI 2019.


Charlene Avery at the Golden Kite Gala

Throughout the conference it was inspiring to witness the wisdom, beauty, and strength of spirit radiating from the stage. There was brilliance, courage, and grace from the people who introduced or won Golden Kite Awards, as well as keynote speaker Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor

Many people spoke of the dedication and courage needed to hone their skills, to get support for their journey of writing or illustrating from their hearts and souls about abominable life circumstances. They faced challenges at all levels, even from advisors who believe in you but don’t get you. Sonia Sotomayor and Elizabeth Acevedo shared their beauty, strength, drive, and perspective. We had goosebumps and tears in our eyes many times this weekend. And there was humor sprinkled throughout.

Elizabeth Acevedo shared a story of writing to an author when she was younger. The positive experience that resulted helps her keep her readers in mind, always. And to continue the cycle with the next Elizabeth Acevedo.

We gained perspective from agents and editors during panels and their individual presentations. Hearing their sincerity about heartbreak and a ‘blow to the gut’ when the project they had championed isn’t accepted for acquisition in the intimidating conference room with the larger team. How they gather their grace and professionalism to start breaking the news to others. Hearing how mismatches are best stopped as early as possible. If we don’t figure it out with our research, agents and editors try to help us on our journey by not wasting anyone’s time and sending us on to find our best path.

Wisconsin Illustrator Brianna Capra displaying her portfolio in NYC

At the diversity social, I watched two illustrators melt with awe when Floyd Cooper (illustrator and author) walked near us and then up to us. That was well worth dragging our tired butts to the evening social.

Jarrett Krosoczka showed that doodling kids may use their skills to entertain and let other kids know they, too, belong. From the Lunch Lady series to Hey, Kiddo, Jarrett shows his skill and artistry with words, ideas, illustrations, and design. Thank you for sharing your soul, your pain, and your strength.

Jane Yolen receiving the Golden Kite Award presented by her daughter Heidi Stemple

Over 700 people sang Happy Birthday to Jane Yolen, then shared creamy, sweet cake to celebrate her eight decades thus far. She was the second member of SCBWI, and has written 378 books. Jane won her third Golden Kite Award this weekend. She encouraged us to reinvent ourselves every ten years. Publishing and the world change; we need to as well. It was fun hearing her plans for her coming years of writing. Her updates on social media report she’s already made progress toward more books and her goals.

Some additional take-aways from the conference, besides exploring the honored books (golden kite award books). Work on your craft. Have balance in your life.

I’m past the magic number of words for a blog. There will be more on my website I apologize for not doing the conference justice. Attendees agreed not to share things verbatim. Thank you to Sue Fondrie for suggesting I share the Elizabeth Acevedo letter and influence story. Thank you for the opportunity to share.

Unknown copy.jpgCharlene Avery enjoys meeting others in the children’s lit world, exploring and expanding perception and perspective. She volunteers at a local elementary school library. She’s an active member of SCBWI-WI, SW region, and Diversity Committee. She also participates in 12 x 12 and We Need Diverse Books.

Charlene enjoys writing chapter books, picture books, and everything in between. Some of her non-fiction stories switch to fiction, and vice versa after critiques and contemplation. In 2019 she’ll be exploring freelance writing and work for hire in her areas of expertise.

Charlene lives near Cross Plains, WI and loves spending time outdoors, reading, traveling, creating, and exploring. She also enjoys being an Occupational Therapist at a community hospital where she works with people who have cognitive, physical, neurological, and other challenges and concerns.

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