Wild, Wild Midwest

IMG_7648Last weekend 500 Wild, Wild Midwest children’s authors and illustrators gathered in Chicago for the SCBWI regional conference. The faculty list was a who’s who of awesome children’s authors, featuring keynote speeches by Lisa Cron, Sarah Aronson, Linda Sue Park, and Candace Fleming.

Here’s my conference top five list:

5. I randomly sat down next to an awesome author at dinner who lives near me. My critique partner and I thought we were the only SCBWI members in the Rockford area. Now we have another writer to commute to conferences with.

4. I bravely took off my author hat to attend my first illustrator breakout sessions. Eric Rohmann presented a great session on The Language of Pictures which was extremely helpful for this hobby artist attempting to cross the bridge into illustration. His presentation discussed how illustrations are different from stand alone art pieces because they need to show movement, draw the eye to specific places on the page, and use the page turns for suspense and surprises. Then Kristi Valiant presented a session on digital illustration demonstrating how she adds texture to drawings to mimic traditional art mediums.

3. After a diversity update showcasing the many grants and internships started by We Need Diverse Books, one author in the audience shouted, “If everyone here donates $5 we could fund a writing grant.” An avalanche of people rushed forward with cash in hand to do exactly that, raising over $3,700.

2. Linda Sue Park. Need I say more? I attended her three hour intensive on revision, which was incredible. If you ever get a chance to see her speak, take it. Not only is she a great teacher, she had an inspiring story to tell in her keynote speech about her book A Long Walk to Water. This book is classified as historical fiction, but it is based on the true story of her friend Salva, a Sudanese “Lost Boy” who was air lifted to the United States in the mid 1990’s and has since established Water For South Sudan to drill wells for clean water. This book has inspired classrooms all over the country to hold fundraisers to bring clean water to children in Sudan.

1. It’s probably no surprise, book nerd as I am, that I stood in line to get many author and illustrator signatures. When I met Sarah Aronson and mentioned I would be attending her alma mater, Vermont College of Fine Arts, she squealed, leapt out of her chair, ran around the table, and gave me a big hug. Then she proceeded to give me encouragement and advice for my program, as well as the name of another local alumni. There truly is no other writing community as supportive as SCBWI!

About Jennifer Kay

Jennifer Kay is a KidLit author and Structural Engineer. She has a VCFA MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults, is an SCBWI Rockford Network Rep, edits the SCBWI IL Prairie Wind, and belongs to Mystery Writers of America. Jennifer works as a writer, freelance editor, literary agency reader, and creative writing teacher.
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