Reflections from the SCBWI Winter Conference


I spent last weekend in New York City at the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators’ Winter Conference. There were 999 attendees from some 17 countries and 45 states. Meg Rosoff opened the conference telling the 999 attendees that she is tired of the question, “When are you going to write a real book?”  – yes, that questions – the one that seems to pop up rather frequently for those who write for children and young adults – as if writing picture books or YA novels is somehow easier than writing a mainstream novel targeted at an adult audience. But Rosoff points out that this isn’t just a perception issue. She argued that children’s and YA writers often make excuses for the fact they are not writing for adult audiences.

She then reminded the audience that books have the power to change kids’ lives. Books like A Wrinkle in Time, Winnie the Pooh, The Hobbit, The Phantom Tollbooth, or The Giver have and will change the lives of children for years to come.  What book changed your life?

There were so many other great speakers: Shaun Tan, Tomie dePaola, Margaret Peterson Haddix, and Mo Williams, plus all of the breakout faculty representing the big six and many other top publishing houses, but final speakers of the conference were Julie Andrews and her daughter, Emma Walton Hamilton. They spoke about their collaborative writing process: how they trust one another, value each other’s opinion and thought processes, and how they enjoy it. But they also talked about the responsibility in writing for children. Julie Andrews said, “You can’t get it wrong.”

Books help kids navigate the murky and often rough waters of adolescence. So I ask again – what book changed your life?

Anne Converse Willkomm


One thought on “Reflections from the SCBWI Winter Conference

  1. Various children’s books changed my life, depending on what stage of life I was in at the time. I know the American Girl series holds a special place in my heart and certainly sparked my interest in history. Harry Potter was and still is a major influence on my life. And (as you know, Anne), since “Jane Eyre” is apparently considered YA, that particular book spoke volumes when I was 14 and sparked my interest in Victorian/Gothic literature.

    Children’s and YA literature is vastly important! It triggers the imagination, love for reading, interest in new hobbies, opening up to new ideas. The target readership is in the time of life where everything influences their future decisions. Those books are probably more important than those other “real books” as these favorites are the ones people will remember for the rest of their lives!

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