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  • Writer's pictureDawn Simon

SCBWI Winter Conference: Part II

Thank you for returning to read about the rest of the conference!

Ready, set, here we go!

Kate Messner's keynote was fabulous. She said she follows her curiosity, the "I wonder" moments, and she encouraged us to do the same, saying, "Be passionately curious." She also said curiosity and empathy "go hand-in-hand." I enjoyed her entire talk, and I encourage you to hear her speak if you ever get the chance.

She told us about her new middle-grade novel, Chirp.

Bloomsbury Children's Books

pub date: February 4, 2020

Here's the flap copy:

Sometimes courage starts out quiet...

When Mia moves to Vermont the summer after seventh grade, she's ready for the change in scenery. Her arm still aches from when she broke it falling off the balance beam, and her heart still aches from a secret she'd rather forget.

For now, there's plenty to keep Mia busy--day camp, new friends, and time with her beloved grandmother. But Gram is convinced someone is trying to destroy her cricket farm. Could it be sabotage, or is Gram's thinking impaired from the stroke she suffered months ago? Mia and her friends set out to investigate, but can they uncover the truth in time to save Gram's farm? And will that discovery empower Mia to confront the secret she's been hiding--and find courage she never knew she had? From acclaimed author Kate Messner comes a timely and uplifting story of a young girl learning to harness the power of her voice.

This novel sounds so good and so important! I imagine it not only being well-loved, but also a book that may help young readers feel empowered to speak.

I was already a Kate Messner fan. I discovered her book The Seventh Wish back when I was preparing to query agents and was looking for comps for my middle-grade novel Perfect Vision. (Side note: I still believe it made an excellent comp.) I was delighted to meet her in person. She was so nice, and I'm excited to have her autograph.

My intensive breakouts at the conference were enlightening. One sparked thoughts about the themes and plot in my WIP, and another had fascinating exercises that demonstrated ways to dig deep into our lives for meaningful story pieces. The third intensive I attended was an excellent workshop on voice. Not surprisingly, a message I heard throughout the entire weekend was the importance of voice.

Caldecott Medalist Jerry Pinkney gave our second keynote. It was the second time I had the opportunity to hear him speak. Jerry Pinkney has illustrated over 100 titles. His first book, which came out in 1964, is still in print.

I loved listening to him talk about the art in A Place to Land: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Speech That Inspired a Nation. The book is gorgeous, relevant, and powerful. It was a 2019 Booklist Editors' Choice, a Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year, a Kirkus Reviews Best Book of the Year, a School Library Journal Best Book of the Year, and it was nominated for an NAACP Image Award.

Neal Porter Books

pub date: August 27, 2019

Our final keynote was given by Derrick Barnes. Like Kate Messner in her keynote--and like most of the winners at the Golden Kite Gala--he made me cry. (I'm a crier! I admit it!) He spoke about his family, his books, and his writing journey as a person of color. His talk was moving and inspiring, and I loved the way he wove his family through everything.

Agate Bolden

October 10, 2017

Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut, written by Derrick Barnes and illustrated by Gordon C. James, won the 2018 Kirkus Prize for Young Readers. It was a Newbery Honor Book, a Caldecott Honor Book, a Coretta Scott King Author Honor Book, a Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Book, an Ezra Jack Keats New Writer Award Book, and an Ezra Jack Keats New Illustrator Award Book.

The editor and agent panel is always one of my favorite parts of an SCBWI conference. I appreciate the opportunities to hear about the current market and to get a sense of the industry pros who are featured.

Conference highlights:

*Hanging out with old friends and meeting new ones

Most of the people in this photo are from SCBWI Western Washington.

*I was one of the winners of the joke contest! Hooray!

*Being able to talk with Lin Oliver

Lin and Steve are the SCBWI's co-founders, and I am so grateful to each of them for creating, nurturing, and growing such an incredible organization. Lin is still at the helm--and she's still just as funny as she was the first time I heard her speak, years ago.

I'll close with a few more pics of New York. <3

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