Posted by: jeannineatkins | May 6, 2013

NE-SCBWI Spring Conference

I’m back from the spring conference organized by the fabulous volunteers of the New England Society of Book Writers and Illustrators.  On Friday I gave a workshop called “Nests, Rooms, and Gardens: Using Setting to Structure Fiction,” and on Sunday I was part of a panel called “Sculpting Stories from Fact: Four Writers of Historical Fiction Share Strategies.” Pat Lowery Collins, Padma VenkatramanSarah Lamstein, and I talked about inspiration, ways to decide on the right details and how we let precious ones go, the role of visiting sites, how we make choices when history and demands of story seem to clash, and other issues.


Jo Knowles accepted the Crystal Kite Award for her novel, PEARL, and spoke of the ten years of writing before her first manuscript was accepted, and how important friends and colleagues were to her to keep her faith. You can read her touching acceptance speech here.


Grace Lin gave an inspiring keynote speech, talking about her childhood love of princesses, princes, and fairy tales, but how over time she came to see her family and their culture as more important, and wanted to use the color and patterns she found in Chinese art in her work. Instead of sidling away from the term multicultural as some advised her would be best to advance her career, she embraced it, and found a devoted audience that only became bigger when her novel, WHERE THE MOUNTAIN MEETS THE MOON, won a Newbury Honor. And as you can see, she is the mom of a most adorable baby.


Linda Urban gave two workshops. I was happy to get to her one on The Power of Point of View, which was packed with information about not only the subject but so much more, as changing point of view changes everything.


It was good to chat with friends including Lesléa Newman, who spoke about “The Gender Dance: Picture Books That Challenge Stereotypes” and Lisa Papademetriou,  who explained The Art of the Outline.


At the end of the conference, as I entered the room where we were to sign books, other authors had longer lines in front of their tables, but before mine bounced the only person wearing a bathing suit, as well as glittery flip-flops that matched her cap. This was a conference for working adults, but this girl, her mom, and grandmother were hotel guests who’d passed the bookstore, found and bought GET SET! SWIM! and taken some time off from an afternoon at the pool to have me sign the book I’m happy Lee and Low has kept in print for many years. Some books find their perfect reader.


Throughout the weekend I heard much good advice about theme, characterization, and structure, but here was inspiration in a beautifully chlorine-scented incarnation. Girls like this one, and curious-about-the-world babies like Grace’s, make me want to write.



  1. Great recap Jeannine. Your post made me realize I did not take any photos this year. A first. haha But I enjoyed your panel with Pat and Sarah and of course your company.

    • Thanks, Sera. I always enjoy your company, too!

  2. Like Sera, I’m wishing I’d remembered to take some photos. But I am very glad to have seen you and spent some time with you!

    • Always a treat to spend some time with you. I hope we get more of that during the coming years!

  3. Beautiful, Jeannine. What a wonderful ending to a jam-packed conference!

    • Beginning the day with you, Pat, and Padma, ending it with a happy pool-scented girl, makes for a great conference!

  4. Wish I could’ve been there, but this re-cap is the next best thing, Jeannine! And what a perfect ending to the weekend.

    • Hope you are finding time to smell some bluebells — or are they long past — during what I’m thinking is your debut week. I’m counting on dear Jama to know when to start eating celebratory cake, and waiting for the CHANTRESS I pre-ordered.

      • The bluebells are very late this year, but hearing from you is lovely at any time! Thank you so much for your support of Chantress (and its author), not only now, but in all the years that I was writing it.

  5. Thanks for the wonderful post and photos. I was noticing Grace and Rain Dragon and Anne Hutchinson carrying her daughter at the same time out of the corner of my eye. Past + present = perfect! Then to top it all off, the girl in the bathing suit there with her mother and grandmother! Yes, the best reason to write. 🙂

    • That is too funny about the mother/child pairings. Only your good eye would catch Grace as Anne Hutchinson. I’m glad I got a photo of that girl to make sure she stays imprinted in my mind. Her mom and grandmother looked almost as happy and proud, snapping pictures of their own.

  6. Oh, how I loved the story of the little girl, fresh from the pool, who found her favorite book! What a glorious smile! This sounds like a wonderful conference, Jeannine….I’ve been consumed by my teacher life, and my writing life has gone dormant. Sigh.

    • Tara, you amaze me as a teacher. I hope you find some good time to write by next month. Thank you for all you do.

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