Childish Nonsense

Exploring Children's Literature

Further Adventures in Conferencing

on April 18, 2014

Okay, I’ve been conspicuously absent for a few weeks. Please forgive my scattered brain. I never did quite learn what my mother tried to drill into me: “You can’t do everything.” I do try to say no and cut things from my life, but it never seems to work. And so I end up doing a few things not as well as I’d like. Something always suffers and it was Childish Nonsense in this case.

Sitting down at the Spring 2014 conference

Sitting next to Giuseppe Castellano at the Spring 2014 conference

Lest it appear that all I do is attend conferences, let me assure you that is not quite true. I do spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about conferences, but this is because, with my partner Sue Peters, I organize our regional conferences. But, face it, conferences are some of the best things about SCBWI. They are inspiring and educational, a great opportunity to meet the powers of the industry, and a really good way to get out of the house.

March 29 was the spring conference for the Maryland/Delaware/West Virginia region of the SCBWI. It’s the first one I remember being so well-attended.

The international organization changed their website ( in October 2013. Our region now has a website ( as part of that project, and one of the features is event registration. In the long run, this is going to be a blessing. In the short run, the roll out has been plagued by bugs and a steep learning curve for the users. I apologize to anyone who had problems registering. We did our best to help, though we couldn’t always work the problems through. I promise it will be better for September. Fact is, I’ve literally used computers since the beginning of the pc age (we once had a Commodore 64, which we hooked up to the television) and have always kept trying different things until I found something that works. I sometimes forget others don’t work the same way, so please bear with me.

So, with our fantastic speakers and the fact that generated a sell-out crowd, I ended up talking to my laptop and to the inimitable Josh Smith at headquarters quite a bit. And pulling my hair out. Not bald yet.

To top it off, our efforts at providing quality audio-visual presentations were less than successful. I apologize for this also.

Our speakers: Lesléa Newman, author, spoke about her book October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard. She had me in tears talking about this young man’s tragic death. Giuseppe Castellano, art director at Penguin, was well-received with his inside look for artists. Alex Arnold, editorial assistant at Katherine Tegen Books, conducted a workshop on plotting. Tara Lazar, author of Monstore, talked about the journey from concept to picture book. (Who, what, where, when, but WHY?!) Debra Hess form Highlights was great talking about nonfiction. Christa Heschke, agent at McIntosh and Otis, spoke about the query process. Social media was the first topic for Sara D’Emic, associate agent at Talcott Notch, and her client Rori Shay, author of Elected. Alyson Heller, associate editor at Aladdin, spoke about the importance of first chapters. Other afternoon sessions included one on query letters, one on characters, and one on websites.

It was a fantastic conference, but I was really exhausted afterward. Whew!

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