Beary Wonderful Books
Recently I attended a SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) writing conference. There is something so energizing about them. Everyone who is attendance is somehow connected with writing or illustrating books for children, which means this is a gathering of grownups, a room full of adults whose main concern and occupation is celebrating the wonder of presenting the world so that it appeals to children.
I have attended other types of writer conferences, and learn much from them–yet, they are so much more serious in tone. Writing is a serious business, of course, of course, and I do take my writing quite seriously. But, there is something about attending a SCBWI conference that is delightfully different. There is this celebratory exuberance, this uncontainable joy that cascades over, around, and through the conference. We are all gathered together because we know how to celebrate like a child. We all take delight in the unexpected rainbow. We sing the praises of butterflies and dragonflies and kites that flit upon the summer’s breeze. We are all grown-up, but haven’t forgotten the wonder of childhood. We’re talking a fun-filled work and learn weekend. I like it.
The main reason for attending the conference is to learn all about the business end of writing for children: submitting manuscripts, understanding the trends, listening to expert advice and soaking up valuable insights. There is also the anticipation of connecting with other writers, and maybe even an author. This is how I rediscovered Jesse Bear.
On the first day, as we selected seats, made polite small talk, and exchanged introductions, I glanced around at name tags and stopping at one I thought “Hmm, that name sounds familiar.” I then realized I was conversing with the Jesse Bear author! These books are sweet, gentle reads that embrace the warm fuzzy moments of childhood. Nancy White Carlstrom, is the author of these delightful books, and each read is like receiving a hug of reassurance that the world through a child’s eyes is ever so pleasant.
During the break I took the opportunity to ask Nancy a few questions, which she graciously answered.
CM: What are the biggest changes you’ve seen in the publishing world?
NWC: Picture books are more quirky and loud. Those are getting the attention in the market place.
We then talked about how quiet stories, like Jesse Bear, (and the ones I like to write) are not in the forefront like they once were. Newer books focus on characters who tend to be naughty, loud, or even angry. Most certainly, these books are entertaining, yet Nancy and I both agreed there are times when a child needs a gentle read, a quiet time book to settle down.
CM: Why is a successful author like you attending the conference?
NWC: I have several novels I never finished. I’m going to be submitting books I want to write now and need to know what the market is doing.
In the few minutes we had between sessions we traded concerns, tidbits, and comments about the current status of the children’s book market. Sitting together the next morning and continuing our conversation we even discovered we had mutual friends. That six degrees thing kind of sneaks up on a person now and then.
Overall, I came away with quite a bit from this last conference. One big takeaway is the encouragement I received from Nancy’s example of a pro sitting with the novices. She showed me that even when the trends don’t go our way, we as writers shouldn’t get discouraged. Getting our writing published and appreciated is an important part of the creative process; however, more importantly Nancy demonstrated to me we write because writing is what we do.