SCBWI: From New York to London

February 14, 2008

Hi there, y’all, from a cold and bleak London, where the sky today hung heavy as white lead. It’s been a crazy few days – two cities, two flights, but one common thread: SCBWI (for anyone who doesn’t know, this stands for the Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators). New York was a hectic weekend and my first taste of the SCBWI US Winter Conference. The size, impact and diversity of SCBWI US is quite inspiring, and it was great to meet so many old and new friends, from SCBWI organisers to publishers to authors and illustrators. There’s no doubt that if you’re an American would-be writer, there’s no shortage of support and guidance available – all fabulous, so long as it doesn’t stand in the way of actually writing! Highlights of the conference had to be author Carolyn Mackler’s funny and touching speech about her journey as a writer, and Susan Patron’s disarming story of her life-changing year as a Newbery winner for THE HIGHER POWER OF LUCKY. Then it was a flight home (delayed,and returning to a power failure!), a quick unpack and repack of suitcases, and back to the airport the next morning for my flight to London – my first trip back for four months (thanks to US immigration) and a reunion with much-missed family as well as business meetings. But the highlight of the trip must surely be last night’s reception at Foyles in Charing X Road (London’s most famous bookstore) for the twelve winners of SCBWI UK’s very first ‘Undiscovered Voices’ writing competition (sponsored by my parent company) for which I was one of the judges last Fall. Wonderful David Almond (author of SKELLIG, among many other award-winning novels) spoke about his own at times bumpy journey along the road to publication, and I really believe he had a word for every aspiring author in the room who has started to face that unpredictable rollercoaster ride. It was lovely to see twelve newly recognized writers finding their feet and published for the very first time in the special anthology that has been put together to showcase their work. Good luck to you all!
So here’s to the wonderful SCBWI, all branches thereof, and huge thanks to an organization that does so much to promote writing for children and teens around the world. And I’ll see you all again soon – back at my desk in the Commonwealth of Virginia!