New England SCBWI 2015 Conference Gems of Wisdom

Posted by Katie L. Carroll on May 5, 2015 in Conferences, Events, Guest, Travel, Writing |

20150425_131300As promised, I have the New England SCBWI 2015 Conference gems of wisdom and terrible pictures (seriously, I think the only decent picture I took all weekend is this one with the view from my hotel room). First, though, a reminder that the handout for my “Something Borrowed, Something New: Mining Myths, Legends, and Fairy Tales to Write Fantasy” workshop is available for download as a PDF here: Something-Borrowed-Workshop-Handout.pdf.

And now for the gems of wisdom. I always note that I use italics instead of quotation marks because these are not necessarily direct quotes. Some may be close to what the speaker actually said and others are my own rewording/interpretation as I scrambled to take notes during the speeches and presentations. So here they are!

Agent/Editor Panel: Slushpile Duds to Superstar Clients with Jennifer Laughran, Jill Corcoran, Carter Hasegawa, and Alison Weiss:

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  • If I like something, I will Internet stalk you. ~Carter Hasegawa
  • Don’t be crazy on the interwebs. ~Jill Corcoran
  • Things take a long time because they take a long time. ~Jennifer Laughran
  • Often what I don’t think I’m looking for is what I fall in love with. ~Alison Weiss
  • I was led to believe that social media was key to making you great. There are things that can work, but it has to be what works for you. ~Carter Hasegawa
  • Protect yourself so that there’s room to create. ~Carter Hasegawa

Opening Ceremonies featuring Stephen Mooser and Jane Yolen:


  • Taking a chance, isn’t that what all of us do when we send out a manuscript? ~Stephen Mooser
  • You are my tribe. ~Jane Yolen
  • Books make the world a little smaller for people to reach out to each other. ~Jane Yolen

Keynote with Dan Santat:


  • Taste–the one word to leave this conference with. ~Dan Santat
  • “Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit…” Ira Glass quote referenced by Dan Santat (See the full quote on Goodreads.)
  • Don’t be biased or censor yourself in what you like and read and how you form your taste. ~Dan Santat
  • Be aware of your tastes and interests. This is your voice. Your voice is you writing on a piece of paper uncensored. ~Dan Santat
  • Trust yourself; know that you have something inside of you. Trust that what you have to say has value. ~Dan Santat
  • The hardest part of finding your style is trusting your own instincts. ~Dan Santat

Crystal Kite Award Ceremony with 2014 Winner Deborah Freedman:

  • My skin needs to be thin because I don’t want to protect myself from feeling things. ~Deborah Freedman

Special Guest Speaker Kwame Alexander 2015 Newbery Award Winner:


  • I’m just a guy who writes poetry. I’m just a dude. This is not happening (on winning the Newbery). ~Kwame Alexander
  • You never expect to win, but somewhere in the deep crevices of your mind, you’re always hopeful. ~Kwame Alexander
  • The answer is always yes! If I say yes and walk through the door, I will figure it out. ~Kwame Alexander
  • I believe we have to get the nos out of the way to get our yes. ~Kwame Alexander

Keynote with Jo Knowles – Be True:

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  • Everyone has a story. It’s the reason why everyone acts the way they do. I saw my world differently and I was different (after reading THE CHOCOLATE WAR by Robert Cormier). ~Jo Knowles
  • The more I read, the bigger my world became. ~Jo Knowles
  • Even if I was afraid to use my voice out loud that didn’t mean I didn’t have one. ~Jo Knowles
  • Kids understand love…hate and discrimination are what they learn from adults. ~Jo Knowles
  • The moment we open a book and start reading, we change. ~Jo Knowles
  • Your book does not belong in a box. Allow yourselves to find the truth and tell it. Open the box and tear down the sides. ~Jo Knowles

Diversity Panel: Authors & Illustrators Agree – We Need Diverse Books, with Mike Jung, Grace Lin, Justina Ireland, Dhonielle Clayton, Sona Charaipotra, and Cindy L. Rodriguez:

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  • People think diversity is a fad and that’s really offensive. I’ll still be brown tomorrow. ~Justina Ireland
  • Authenticity is hard. Once a book is with a reader, it may not feel authentic to them. Make something that is authentic to you and make it universal. Make things that feel real. ~Grace Lin
  • Build from an emotional core and that is what is authentic. ~Dhonielle Clayton
  • Even in a family that is entirely Hispanic, each one of them is different. You still have a lot of work to do to make it real, even if you have a diverse background. ~Cindy L. Rodriguez 
  • Every kid wants to be the hero. ~Sona Charaipotra

And here are a few from my workshops that made the Interwebs (!):

  • Be brutal with your work, but kind to yourself. ~Katie L. Carroll
  • Write with your heart and soul, but revise with your head. ~Katie L. Carroll
  • There’s no silver bullet to making your manuscript better. You have to put in the hard work. ~Katie L. Carroll
  • Go beyond the Cinderella story when searching for inspiration. Think and read outside your comfort zone, and find what resonates with you by mining your own mind and heart. ~Katie L. Carroll

That was only two days’ worth of conferencing as I wasn’t able to attend the final day on Sunday. Imagine how long that post would have been if I had gone all three days! Seriously, I can’t overstate how much I needed that weekend. I spend so much time being a mom and squeezing in the writer part of myself that it felt so amazing to be fully immersed in the writing part of my life for a couple of days.

And to have people come up to me and thank me and say they enjoyed my workshops, it really meant a lot. I came to the conference feeling like a no-name, small-press author, and I came out of it feeling like I had actually contributed something to a creative community that means so much to me. Now to finish that WIP…and count the days until next year’s conference!


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  • Meradeth says:

    Thanks so much for sharing–these are great! I really love the ones on Taste especially 🙂 I so wish I could have gone to your workshops!!

    • You’re welcome, Meradeth! I had seen that Ira Glass quote on taste before, but it’s such a good one and fit so well with the presentation…definitely some good material there. I wish you could have been there, too!

  • Mirka Breen says:

    Of all these venerable quotations (and you have amazing nuggets here, Katie) the one I like most is Deborah Freedman’s about having thin skin. Maybe I needed permission or validation for why it is an advantage for a creative person.

    • Awww, thanks, Mirka! Deborah Freedman’s was such a lightning bolt moment for me. I so often hear that you need to have thick skin to be an author, which is true when it comes to submitting and receiving rejections. It’s so important, though, to remember it’s that thin skin that allows us to take in the emotions and use them in our work.

  • Vijaya says:

    Thanks for these gems. Really loved Dan Santat.

  • Thanks for sharing these snippets! I was bummed to miss the conference this year (even though it was for a happy reason) so it was nice to get a little sampling.

  • Thanks for sharing these great comments from the conference. Makes me feel like I was there for at least a short time.

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