Tuesday, August 16, 2011

40 Years of SCBWI

Fatigue has faded. Euphoria has not. Last week I was among the 1,342 lucky writers, illustrators, and other publishing professionals who journeyed to Los Angeles to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. The founders, Lin Oliver and Stephen Mooser, are still young. Writing for children creates one’s own private Fountain of Youth. Most of us are the age of the main character in our WIP (work in progress.)

Judy Blume, Gary Paulsen, Ben Small, Bruce Coville, Henry Winker (“The Fonz”), Ellen Hopkins, Jerry Pinkney, and Richard Peck were just a few of the many mesmerizing speakers. I will focus on three: Jo S. Kittinger, Rukhsana Kahn, and Laurie Halse Anderson.

Jo S. Kittinger, author of 22 books, led a workshop titled, “Digging for Gold: Nuggets That Make Your Nonfiction Books Shine.” Shine is something Jo knows about. Her most recent nonfiction book, Rosa’s Bus, blogged here, won a Crystal Kite, an SCBWI peer award given for the first time this year. Jo is also the Co-Regional Advisor of Southern Breeze,a region of SCBWI composed of Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi. In October Lin Oliver will travel to Birmingham to present the Crystal Kite award to Jo at the Southern Breeze Writing and Illustrating for Kids annual conference.

Rukhsana Kahn won a Golden Kite for her book The Big Red Lollipop blogged here. Her acceptance speech showcased her storytelling talents. A flutter of hands, a sly gleam, and a mischievous smile transported us to those moments in her life that inspired this award winning tale about sisters. Sibling rivalry is universal. Rukhsana admitted the real life ending and the ending in her book are different. Wouldn’t we all like to relive a part of our lives and write a different ending?

Laurie Halse Anderson was the final speaker. She spoke as though she had been perched on the front row, listening to each speaker, soaking up every word. Her summary, quoting speakers, emphasizing concepts and challenges, reminded us of the extraordinary task we have as creators of materials for children. For her body of work which includes the well known novels Speak, Chains, and Forge, blogged here. Laurie received the 2009 Margaret A. Edwards Award given by YALSA, a division of the American Library Association for “significant and lasting contribution to young adult literature.“

While Laurie quoted others in her stirring summary, I raced to take notes in order to share her her quotes:
“The job of the artist is to disturb the universe.”
“We are dreamers who dare to create.”
“To write is to terrorize yourself.”
“Our children need us to tell the truth.”
“In children’s literature, we are not competitors, we are co-conspirators.”

And, finally, “Go forth and disturb the universe.”


  1. I knew this would be a spectacular conference - thanks for sharing your notes, the next-best-thing to being there for those of us who couldn't make it! See you in October? :0)

  2. Thanks for this, Joan! I was there and am sorry I didn't see you. Seems so long ago we connected in person...


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