Member Monday: NESCBWI Spring Conference Buzz with Joyce Johnson, Conference Co-Director

Here at Creative Chaos, the NESCBWI 2012 conference buzz is building. “Keeping It Real,” takes place from April 20-22 at the Sheration Springfield Place, in Springfield, Massachusetts. Today I’m happy to have Joyce Shor Johnson, Co-Director for the conference. She’s agreed to answer some of my questions about the conference and if you have more, please put them in the comments!

Hey, Joyce!

Springfield, Massachusetts is a new location for the conference. What did NESCBWI gain by changing venues?

NESCBWI gained space to expand our conference offerings. This year, we are able to offer more opportunities for manuscript and portfolio critiques, Agent Quick Queries and brand new opportunities to help improve your chances for advancement in the industry with Submission Strategy meetings and NetWit Social Media and Promotion consultations. The way the traffic flows in this space allows for more interaction among attendees and faculty and makes networking easy.

Since Springfield is a transportation hub, did that make editor and agent recruitment easier?

I don’t know about making recruitment easier, but it certainly makes transportation to and from the conference less complicated. Recruitment this year was more about fielding request to participate from agents and editors. They want to be here as New England holds these industry professionals in such high regards.

So now that we have all these great industry professionals, I see that NESCBWI is offering more critiques then ever before! Tell us about the walk-in, and other new options for critiques.

Yes, On-The-Spot critiques are a go. They are with Elizabeth Carpentiere and will be 3-5 pages for 15 minutes. You can sign up at registration. Also the registration desk will have sign ups for NetWit Social Media and Promotion consultations and other high demand bonus offerings. I’d say that this year, people should bring with them a large stack of business cards, the very polished first five pages of a completed manuscript or portfolio and their checkbook so they can jump on any bonus item opportunities they may arise.

We have Sara Zarr, and Harry Bliss as Keynoters this year. What other speakers can attendees expect?

Okay just so you know, we have AMAZING panels this year. Our Friday night Keynote is an Independent Editor Panel: What’s Going on in Children’s Publishing Today and How to Navigate It with Harold Underdown, Tamson Weston, Eileen Robinson, J.L. Bell and Lionel Bender. Kate Mesnner is presenting her TED talk, and there will
Keeping it Real After the Signing: Author/Agent Relationships with Vickie Motter, Jennifer Laughran, Stephen Fraser, Kate Messner, Chris Brodien-Jones, and Kristine Carlson Asselin. The list just goes on-and-on.

I love that there are so many intensive options this year: novels, picture books, nonfiction and illustration. I’ve even had other regions ask me how we do it. How do the intensives change kind of learning that goes on at the conference?

I think the intensive offerings elevate the level of our conference by helping writers and illustrators really dig into their crafts. The downside is having to limit it. This year intensives offerings were pretty much full within 36-48 hours. We were all shocked at this. Really, none of us thought they would fill up as quickly as they did.

The schedule is just packed with great workshops. At the national conference they used the Guidebook App so people could keep track of everything they have to do and everywhere they have to go – on their smartphones. Will NESBWI be using it too? How do attendees get it?

Funny you should ask. I have been working on the NESCBWI Guidebook app for a while now and it should be ready for unveiling any day now. There will be an E-blast and an announcement on the website. This app allows you to personalize your itinerary to your conference needs. it lists faculty, bonus items, and special interest groups. You can even post photos of your adventures at the conference.

What other conference related technology should members know about? Is there a Twitter hashtag people should use to tweet about the conference?

The Twitter hashtag is #nescbi12. I do urge everyone to make sure they use it. Technology is evolving so quickly, I think we will see many more people with ipads and other devices. I hope attendees will keep a lot the technology at bay so they can reap the benefits of being in a building with close to 750 people who are all like minded and work on their networking. This is a tremendous opportunity to get away from the social media and technology for a short time and immerse themselves in just being with other authors, illustrators, editors, and agents who think being in children’s publishing is the best thing ever!

I hear there might be some surprises in store for the conference. Can you reveal any clues?

I’m not ready to reveal the cool additions, but people should be prepared. Bring first pages, bring portfolio items. You just never know what additional opportunities might pop up this year. We are still working out some of the details!  I do urge anyone with a Cat In The Hat hat, to wear theirs.

It may be too early to ask, but can you give us a sneak peek into your thoughts for next year? When and where will the Call For Proposals (CFP) be posted?

The NESCBWI 2013 Conference is Word By Word – The Art Of Craft. The Call for proposals will go out June 1, 2012. You can sign up through NESCBWI’s Constant Contact email lists (if you haven’t already) to be included in the Call for Proposals. It will also be announced on the website and tweeted. The conference date is set for May 3-5, 2013 and will be at Sheration Springfield Place, in Springfield, Massachusetts.

Thank you so much for visiting Creative Chaos, Joyce. Having been in your place, I know that the Co-Directors give up tons of their own time to basically create a college for the weekend. NESCBWI puts on amazing conferences all with volunteers. A huge thank you to everyone who plays a part in creating this incredible learning and networking opportunities for SCBWI members. Let the countdown begin… 17 days and a wake up! If you have questions for Joyce, please leave them in the comments.

Member Monday: What’s new at

Things have been busy here at revision central which means I give more time to my WIP and less time to all things social networking. Today, a few links from the kidlitosphere to keep you procrastinators busy, then we can both get back to work!

1. Planning a trip to New York and Book Expo America? The Expo takes place June 4-7, 2012 and includes a concurrent conference of Book Bloggers. SCBWI members get a discounted rate. Check out the info here.

2. SCBWI has an amazing list of directories to help members navigate the children’s book industry: freelance editors, agents, reviewers, art councils, classes… The list goes on. The current Agent Directory is being revised as I type. If you are an agent, or an agented writer/illustrator, take a look at the Directory to check the listings. If you have new information, help SCBWI update the publication by sending corrections to with the subject line “Agent Directory Update.”

3. We all need a little pick me up from time to time. Specifically, at that time when you are slogging through the same manuscript… okay, chapter… okay, sentence for the millionth time. That is exactly the time when reading about someone else, who was right where you are now, and rose above it to achieve success– makes all the difference. SCBWI is gathering success stories and they’d like to hear yours. Send your story to

4. If you are planning to attend the SCBWI International Summer Conference in Los Angeles, the registration date is right around the corner. Yes– Registration opens on April, 18th 2012 at 10 am PDT The link on the website is NOT LIVE yet (3 weeks to go) but I know that those at HQ are planning some amazing things for the August 3-6 conference. I went last year and have to say that the LA conference is so much fun: the dancing, the friends, the speakers and the workshops. Take a look if you missed my posts from the conference.

Okay. That’s it for now folks. Stop by next Monday for an interview with NESCBWI Conference Co-Director, Joyce Johnson!

NY12SCBWI Roundup. Yee-Haw!

If for some reason you missed the tumblg,tagging and tweeting from the SCBWI Winter Conference in New York City, pull on your riding boots for the conference round up.

In this corral over here we’ve got we’ve got the VIP cocktail party Friday night. Agents, editors, and art directors schmoozed and enjoyed “Artisian Cheese Displays,” after their hard day at work. I spoke to some of those but also rubbed elbow with the assistants who told me that things had been pretty quiet. That must mean that they’ve recovered after the December lull, and it is prime time to start subbing again. 

Over here, we’ve lassoed some industry professionals. This group: Jean Feiwel, Barbara Marcus, Nancy Paulsen, and Rubin Pfeffer, is chock full of historical knowledge about the publishing industry having built Scholastic to what it is today. Now they are at MacMillan, Penguin, and East West Literary. They discussed their impressions on the present and future children’s book industry and brought us some new vocabulary. “E-tailers” are purveyors of e-books, “Discoverability” is the chance the consumer had to find your book in the millions that are out there. This used to happen through indie bookstores when the awesome retailer hand sold your book. This panel mentioned that with the demise of Borders, indies have actually had their best season in years and that the support of all of us is really helping. (Shop local.) “Transmedia” is the addition or transportability of your content into other media formats. 

Throughout the weekend, speakers agreed that publishers are moving towards more commercial, hard-cover best sellers, and that these best sellers allow them to publish the midlist. High concept is definitely on their mind. This idea was repeated by the agent panel on Sunday with the caveat that you have to have a “hook.” This doesn’t mean that you need a paranormal YA to get published. Agents Regina Brooks, of Seredipity, and Ken Wright, of Writer’s House, explained that publishers are always thinking: “Where is this book going to go? How are we going to get it there? How is the author going to get it there?” Certainly this is marketing and Regina Brooks has even added a Social Media strategist to help her authors develop their online presence. Ginger Knowlton spoke about the many web related links that she checks in on each day so that she can be in the loop about publishing developments. Note: you do not have to read all of these and if you do- you will never write/draw again. Here they are:

PW Marketplace
PW Lunch

Media Bistro

Read Roger

The Passive Voice

The Shatzkin Files


When we weren’t in the Ballroom, we were moseying into the breakout sessions. My favorite was the revision workshop with Cheryl Klein. If you went to that session, she posted the links that she mentioned at her own roundup. Yee-Haw!

At the Saturday night hoedown aka the Gala Dinner, the tables were arranged by region and I was thrilled to meet some of the Northern New Englanders who showed up. We ambled away from our tables to join the larger group from Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut. It was great to see everyone and we hope you’ll come to our New England spring conference April 20-22nd in Springfield, Mass. If you think you want to come, do it quickly. Joyce Johnson (one of the co-directors) kept us up-to-date all weekend with the registration numbers. (300, 350, 400, 450) A speedy sell out seems inevitable. 

The big news from the conference is a new grant for midlist authors, funded by New England’s own Jane Yolen. The rules for the grant are not on quite yet, but if you are interested, keep checking the grant tab at I’ll announce when it is up as well and post a link on my twitter feed @annawritedraw. The money, as much as $2,000, is award to a nominee who had published at least two PAL books but has not been published in a year or more. You must be nominated and the money is intended to help you reinvent and reinvigorate your career. 

Here’s a few personal pictures from the trip. 

The bathroom in my hotel room (for Cindy Lord)

Times Square

Anna and Casey (the NESCBWI Illustrator Coordinator) at Mary Poppins

92nd Street and The Jewish Museum, 
Anna at the Jewish Museum to see the Ezra Jack Keats Exhibit

Joyce in the rain through the orchids. 

New York City dogs wearing rain coats (Maine doggies just wear their own fur coats)

If you’d like to see more pictures or post your own, visit the NY12SCBWI tumblr.

As always: Any opinions expressed here are entirely my own and not the views of the SCBWI. FMI

Member Monday: Ten Reasons to Register for NESCBWI Annual Spring Conference

As I write this, the registration for New England’s annual SCBWI conference has been open for twelve hours. This means that I registered twelve hours ago. Yes, Ladies and Gentlemen, I set my alarm for midnight, awoke from a deep sleep, and flipped open my laptop to register for this conference. You might ask, “Why?” I'm glad you asked…

Ten reasons to register for the NESCBWI Annual Spring Conference:

  1. The New England Conference gives you access to tons of industry professionals in the form of Quick Queries, Critiques, and Workshops. There are plenty of editors and agents but the authors and illustrators are amazing too! Just take a look at the faculty. This is an award winning group and they will be in Springfield, MA for one weekend to teach you. 
  2. The workshops focus on craft. Now New York is fun because that’s where the editors and agents are. It’s fun because it’s big and Headquarters can get big names for their keynote speakers. But New England is amazing because there is discussion of craft for all levels of writers and illustrators. 
  3. Look at OUR Keynoters!!! Sara Zarr, Harry Bliss (after you read the blogpost, follow Harry's link just to get a giggle) and Kate Messner. Wow!
  4. New England tries to provide something for everyone. Specialized conversations are organized into SIG’s, Special Interest Group meetings, and less formal meetings that happen all over the hotel at all hours of the day and night. So if you want to talk about hot, zombie boyfriends, there’s probably a group for that. The workshops cover an amazing range of topics too. Kathryn Hulick, Joyce Johnson and the workshop selection committee have a lovely balance of non-fiction, picturebook, YA, MG, poetry, and illustration workshops!
  5. Intensive Academies. In 2008 I launched the first illustrator academy at NESCBWI. For 2012, the roster of academies this year is mind-blowing. There is a beginner AND advanced illustration academies. An academy for non-fiction. A novel writing academy. A picture book writing academy. Need I say more?
  6. The new location is in Springfield, Massachusettes and while it means extra driving for me, it also means that I’ll get to go to the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, and see the Doctor Seuss National Memorial
  7. Community. If you haven’t read Lynda Mullaly Hunt’s recent blog A Letter of Thanks to SCBWI — do it. Then go register for the conference
  8. If you don't register for the conference today, this week, soon, you may not get to go at all. This conference gets sold out fast and the special events get filled up even faster. When it gets sold out, don't say I didn't warn you.
  9. If you register for Friday and Saturday you are able to apply for a critique. You won't be able to pay for the critique when you register. You must send in your pages, your check and the critique application.
  10. You'll get to meet the amazing team of volunteers who put together a writing and illustrating university for a weekend. They are amazing people who have taken their time to bring you the very best. If you've registered, please leave a comment below. I'll see you there. 

SCBWI Member Monday- Conference To-Do’s & the contest winner.

Last Wednesday, I posted an interview with Toni Buzzeo and reviewed her new picture book, One Cool Friend. If you commented at the blog or on Facebook, I put your name in a hat for a chance to win One Cool Friend. And the winner is…

Agy Wilson!!! Agy, message me on Facebook with your snail mail address and I’ll send you a new book. Thanks to all who participated. Please keep reading and sharing links to the blog.

If you are going to the SCBWI Winter Conference in NYC, and you have a smart phone or iPad, do yourself a favor and download the Guidebook App. Once you get Guidebook, search “SCBWI” and tap on the SCBWI “Winter Conference.” 

The Guidebook app gives you schedules of each conference day and maps of the hotel, as well as the conference evaluation form, and faculty bios with great pictures. (Just the thing for networking.) 

If you are a social networking addict you’ll love Guidebook. It has an instant twitter link to #ny12scbwi so you can follow the conversation as well as a link to the SCBWI Facebook page. I’m especially fond of the “to-do” list feature. It is a great way to keep track of meetings on the fly, and sessions you must attend. In fact, if you browse the faculty and tap on their bio it gives you an instant “to-do” link so you can remember to go to their session or send them a manuscript/illustration sample. 

Speaking of things to do, make sure that you have your postcards (illustrators) and business cards ready to go. Pack business casual and bring layers. You never know if a workshop room is going to be hot or chilly. 

Once you get to NYC there are plenty of fun things to do. Take a look at the official SCBWI blog for three new fun social events added to the conference schedule.

Please say hello and introduce yourself at the conference. See you soon!

Disclamer: SCBWI information on their website  is accurate and true. Any opinions here are my own and not necessarily the opinions of SCBWI.

Confessions of a Conference Junkie

Okay, yes. I just attended the SCBWI Los Angeles National Conference. And yes, I’m going to the Winter Conference in New York. And well, fine I’m at the Mid-Atlantic SCBWI Conference this weekend but I am not, I repeat NOT a conference junkie.
A conference junkie would squeal when seeing writing friends from long ago and far away. I saw a bunch of friends from my time at VCFA and friends I met as far back as 2004 at the Highlights Chautauqua Writer’s Workshop. I did not squeal once. But I did hug a lot.
A conference junkie would take notes furiously filling up pages and pages in her notebook or lap top. I didn’t even bring a notebook. But I did reuse all the pages in my folder writing down crucial information such as: “Figure out what your character is most afraid of and make them face it,” (Caroline Abbey), “We are allowed three lines for a positioning statement. That’s it,” (Chelsey Eberly), and “The moments that define us are when we choose to loose something to gain another,” (Abby Ranger).
A conference junkie would sidle up beside famous people and have perfect strangers take their picture.

No. No. New England Crystal Kite winner Brian Lies and I go way back. I knew him WAY before he became an “overnight success.” (After 25 years of hard work.)
So you see, I am not a conference junkie.
(How many days until New York?)

Five on Friday

1. Don't forget that the NYC SCBWI conference registration starts on Monday, 10 am PDT. Hopefully you got your postcard in the mail. If not, click here for more information.

2. My husband came home on surprise visit. He's away with the Navy and hasn't been home for a month. The whole family is very happy and I can't believe how relaxing it is to just write, plan my next lesson, do SCBWI stuff, and exercise without having to shuttle children, take care of the dog, make dinner, do laundry, clean the car, and vacuum the stairs. (The last two I just don't do when he's not here.) We'll see him again next weekend at the Mid-Atlantic SCBWI conference in Dulles, VA.

3. My WIP is moving forward fabulously. A huge thank you and shout out to the entire community for their cheering and support as I tackle daily word count. Another huge thank you to my fellow Cheese Sandwiches who check in with me during the week to make sure we are all on track. It takes a village to write a book.

4. Speaking of a village. Another shout out goes to Lynn Conway, a librarian at Georgetown University who helped me this week by answering silly questions about Riggs Library such as: Do the stairs in the library cling or clang when you ascend? What stained glass is in the round windows? Are the book cases painted gold or do they just shine in the pictures because of the flash? Once again I'm reminded of the awesome and selfless nature of the librarian.

5. Casey Girard, NESCBWI Illustrator Coordinator has been working hard to put together an Illustrator Day Event for the region. Here's what we know. It will be on November 19th from 1 pm – 6 pm at the New Hampshire Institute of Art in Manchester, NH. (Yes. In a month.) It will include an award-winning book designer, Carol Goldenberg, and a reprise of the "Dueling Digital Painters" Workshop with Carlyn Beccia, and Jennifer Morris from the spring NESCBWI conference. Keynote speaker to be announced! Watch this space and for more information.

SCBWI NY Conference Info!

Most of us are enjoying the amazing temperatures this fall. This weekend I walked in the woods, read in the sunshine, chose pumpkins, and picked apples. (Come on, Anna. How many pies do you really think you're going to make?) It is hard to believe that registration for the SCBWI Winter Conference in New York City begins next Monday, October 17th!

You won't find the final schedule on the website yet. It will be posted in the next few days, but here are the basics. The conference starts on January 27th with optional writing and illustration intensives. The 28th and 29th are full of fabulous keynote speeches, presentations from various publishing houses, and some sort of display event for illustrators. The conference will take place at the Grand Hyatt New York and special rates are available. I suggest you get your reservations early.

If you are an illustrator, I urge you to get to work on a piece of art for the Tomie dePaola Award. This year's contest requires an illustration of text from the traditional Chicken Licken, "The Sky is Falling," story. Download the guidelines and text here. The deadline is December 15th. The winner will be announced on January 2nd and will receive a $1,000 gift certificate for art supplies, plus full tuition, transportation and accommodations to the New York Winter Conference held in Manhattan. The winning piece of art will also be featured at the annual winter conference in New York.

Leave a comment if you are planning to be there!

Member Monday: New England RA Meeting

Hello New England Writers and Illustrators!
Yesterday, all of the RA's and ARA's from the New England came together with the Conference Co-Directors to review all the fabulous events and programs that are in the works and to discuss how to best serve the membership. These meetings tend to happy every six months or so. One big one a couple months before the big annual NESCBWI conference, and one a few months after.

The conference plans are cruising along under the enthusiastic and well-organized eyes of Kathryn Hulik and Joyce Johnson. They are working closely with volunteer coordinators, editor/agent recruiters, critique and quick query coordinators, and the registrar to plan a fabulous conference. Remember that all of us who work for SCBWI are volunteers. If you'd like to get involved, follow this link to get more information. The deadline for conference workshop proposals is this Friday, September 16th and the committee reported that they already have over 100 proposals for conference workshops. (Click here if you'd like to know more.) The competition to present will be tight this year but our new venue won't. This year's conference, "Keeping it Real: Reality and World-building in Fiction, Nonfiction, and Illustration" will take place April 20-22, 2012 at the Sheraton Springfield Monarch Place Hotel, Springfield, MA.

The competition to present will be tight this year but our new venue won't. This year's conference, "Keeping it Real: Reality and World-building in Fiction, Nonfiction, and Illustration" will take place April 20-22, 2012 at the Sheraton Springfield Monarch Place Hotel, Springfield, MA. The ballroom is so big that the directors are planning a sit-down lunch. There are also plenty of break-out rooms for great workshops!
I’d love for all of you to take a moment to go to the SCBWI site and look at the top menu. You’ll see a pull down tab labeled “Regions.” Click on “Regional Chapters” and find your state in red text in the “United States of America” box. When you click there, you’ll see five tabs. The first is “Basic Information.” This shows a basic blurb about us and our website. Next you’ll see that I’ve uploaded a current copy of the NESCBWI Newsletter. That means that you don’t have to go through a variety of hoops to get it. (It’s also available under the “Regional News” tab.) I’ve also uploaded some of the bigger NESCBWI events that are in the works. (More details on these are on the “Upcoming Events” tab.) Finally, information and links about the annual conference, including volunteering info is located under the “Regional Conference” tab. When the registration link comes out in January, I’ll post that too.
The meeting was very productive. Newsletter Features Editor, Francine Puckly is working on a way that you all can share news and events through a Google Form that will get published in the newsletter. We are all working on how to share information from SCBWI national with all of you. And here is some BIG news.

New England SCBWI welcomes Casey Girard as our new Illustrator Coordinator. Casey will work with all three New England RA's to better serve the needs of our illustrator members. Casey and I will be working on establishing an Northern New England ENCORE! program of the best illustrator workshops from our annual conference. We are hoping she can revive our "Illustrator Day" with speakers and demonstrations, and plan sketch crawls and retreats.  Congratulations, Casey and thank you for all the work you've already done to coordinate the conference Illustrator's Academy for the last two years!
Keep writing and drawing!

LASCBWI Conference Wrap-up: Quotes Aplenty!


Saturday, August 6th:

Morning Keynote Trifecta- This was my absolute favorite part of the conference. It was heart-wrenching, and honest and hopeful. It was about leaving the emotional truth on the page and getting the author out of the way. Just wonderful.


Donna Jo Napoli-

“Any civilization is built on empathy and the safest way to build empathy is through a book.”

“If you need to write it, chances are, there are children out there…many children, who need to read it.”


David Small-

“Life is a shit storm and the only umbrella we have is art.”


Judy Blume-

“The stuff that’s going to matter is going to come from deep, deep inside.”

“A quest involves questioning.”



Richard Jesse Watson-

“There’s a child inside of each of us. Or an inner Godzilla for some children.”


Norton Juster-

“It’s our mistake that we’ve practically banished boredom.”

“One kid dreaming in an hour probably has more ideas than we do in a lifetime.”


Sunday, August 7th:


Gary Paulsen-

“Read like the wolf eats.”

“Get ourselves off the page and off the stage.”

“Every book [we write] begins in the library in the hopes that it will end there.”

“Unless you find yourself on the page [as a reader], very early in life, you will go looking in all the wrong places.”


Laurie Halse Anderson-

“Art disturbs the universe.”

“Commit art.”

“You’re gonna’ die.”