Thrills and Spills at SCBWI Conference New York 1st to 3rd February 2013

Report from RA Susanne Gervay

New York, New York. There was a little snow, the original Pooh Bear and friends on display at the New York Public Library, restaurants, shops, museums and …. Well, it’s New York after all.

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The Conference Hotel is the grand Hyatt New York and it looks like a contemporary art museum. Very swish. It is the place to stay to get the most out of the conference. It’s good to share a room, as it not only cuts costs, but it means you meet another author or illustrator and have a friend to navigate this conference.  It is a huge one with around 1000 delegates and faculty with a warm welcome from Lin Oliver and Steve Mooser.  I had a great time sharing with Mary Cronk Farrell, the regional advisor from Inland Northwest Region USA.  She’s a fantastic non fiction author.

Part of the conference experience is meeting other writers and illustrators from across the USA and the world. The head of the Internationals, Kathleen Ahrens based in Hong Kong was there to welcome regions outside the USA from areas as diverse as Netherlands, Switzerland, France, Israel … and of course Australia.

Master classes and critiques were on Friday 1st February for published authors and illustrators. There were professional talks, then critique groups led by commissioning editors from the major publishing houses. It was a first in basis and was booked quickly.

The full conference was Saturday and Sunday and it was informative, exciting, exhausting, fun and more. You begin the day with complimentary coffee and bagels. The blueberry bagels were my favourites. Highlights included keynotes by outstanding multi award winning best selling authors/illustrators including Mo Williams, Meg Rosoff, Julie Andrews – yes from Sounds of Music (she is a picture book author too) – and our very own brilliant Shaun Tan. Frane Lessac the RA for Australia West and I were proud to acknowledge Shaun as our own.

There were major sessions on publishing by booksellers, literary agents, editors and art directors giving insights into the USA and to a lesser extent the international marketplace.  The smaller breakout sessions were with  publishers, editorial directors, editors, agents, executive art directors of the major USA publishing houses and agencies. I was in the session with Francoise Bui the Executive Editor of Delacorte Press an imprint of Random House USA. She is a very serious editor who is looking for strong voice and emotional content in the books she publishes in young adult books.  She also publishes humorous children’s books. She is interested in realistic fiction and not fantasy.  I also went to the session by Jennifer Besser publisher of G.P. Putnam’s Sons, an imprint of Penguin. Jennifer is the editor of the amazingly successfully Rick Riordan’s No. 1 New York Times bestselling Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. She is publishing the full range of books from picture books to Young Adult.

One of the special opportunities is that for a 3 months window after the SCBWI Conference, the speakers (publishers, agents, art directors) from the two sessions you attended, will accept SCBWI unsolicited manuscripts

The cocktail party had plenty of food and drinks. It’s where the internationals greet and meet and connect across the world. There were optional socials afterwards for new members or first time attendees, illustrators and the LGBTQ (Gay & Lesbian writers/illustrators).

Authors and illustrators who dropped in and I chatted with included – Bruce Coville, Jane Yolen, Ellen Hopkins, Linda Sue Park, Lin Oliver, David Diaz,  and more.

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You’ll swap and accept cards from delegates, network, make friends and go inside the industry.  For more details long onto the SCBWI Conference blog and enjoy:-

Susanne Gervay

RA Australia East & New Zealand