Monday, December 9, 2013

Make Time to Read & Other Tips From the Denver SCBWI Conference

Agent Sara Megibow asked and Letters and Lines Fall Conference participants delivered singing Happy Birthday to her husband. It's a little fuzzy as I was singing and taking picture with my cell phone at the same time. 

By Stacy S. Jensen

"I don't have time to read."

That's a statement that doesn't cut it with Author Linda Sue Park. She was a keynote speaker at the Letter and Lines Fall Conference in September for the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.
She encouraged the children's writers present — from picture book to young adult — to spend time reading. "Saying you don't have time to read," Park said, "is the equivalent of an Olympic Athlete saying she doesn't have time to train."
"Don't let screen time take away from reading time," Park said.

She was one of many great writers at the conference. SCBWI has a strict blogging and recording policy, but allows attendees to share impressions and quotes. So here are a few snippets. I don't want to be banned from future conferences.

I spent most of my time in picture book workshops. Colorado Springs Author Dian Curtis Regan shared tips on picture book structure. She had writers thinking about page turns and whether a child would want to read their stories again and again? AND would a parent or grandparent want to spend $17 on their books?

While exploring her website post-conference, I found this fun link to Write a Young Adult Novel in Five Minutes!

During an industry panel, industry professionals from agents to editors said, "Don't write to a trend."

Sara Megibow of Nelson Literary Agency suggested writing something from your heart, your voice, and your passion.

For children's writers, whether to write to the educational Common Core State Standards seems to always be a hot topic. Kelly Barrales-Saylor of publisher Albert Whitman & Company said the standards don't affect acquisitions, but do affect sales, as it becomes a marketing tool.

Editors and agents mentioned they are acquiring new titles. They all encouraged writers to sift through their feedback and keep working. "The only way to fail is to quit," Megibow said.

This fall conference always gives me a boost to make it through the end of the year. The greatest piece of advice from the conference? I return to Linda Sue Park, who said that writers can find free writing lessons in books! True. So, grab a book or your Kindle and read.

About the Author: Stacy S.Jensen worked as a newspaper reporter and editor for two decades. Today, she writes picture books and revises a memoir manuscript. She lives in Colorado Springs with her husband and toddler.


  1. Thanks for the notes, Stacy. Sounds like a great conference. Wish I could've made it again this year.

  2. Wise words, Stacy. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Thanks for stopping by and thanks for the fab link! I have a friend (Fine Arts grad) who wants to illustrate a children's story I wrote when hub and I lived in Kenya. Yes, Churchill is where the polar bears hang out. Each year hub and I gut out the chill for two weeks before turning on the heat to do our part to help the environment.

    1. I just read a fun picture book about the bears in Churchill. It's really cute: Winston of Churchill: One Bear's Battle Against Global Warming by Jean Davies Okimoto. A story about your time in Kenya sounds wonderful.

  4. Hi Kittie, ah, I thought that sounded like the town. Very cool!


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