Our region’s 25th anniversary conference was a huge success. Including faculty, 590 people packed into the Courtyard Marriott in Fitchburg, Massachusetts, for three days of education, networking, and inspiration. Not only was it the New England region’s largest event to date, but one of the largest SCBWI conferences ever held outside of the enormous international meetings in Los Angeles and New York. Registration for the conference was half full just 12 hours after the registration web page went live and the entire conference sold out after 12 days.
Me and the two other co-directors, Kathryn Hulick and Marilyn Salerno, did everything we could to make sure our conference, for all its size, still had plenty of opportunities for people to get to know each other. On Friday we brought back peer reviews, a conference orientation session, two meet & greet mixer rooms (loud and quiet), and special interest group meetings from years past, but also added our first ever open mic night, a New England SCBWI history celebration, and a marketing workshop. Also, cake for everyone and a cabaret show put on by Charlesbridge editor Yolanda Scott and Author/Illustrators David Costello and Anne Sibley O’Brien! Friday also marked the first time we’ve offered “popular request” sessions for workshops by Sarah Aronson and Anita Nolan that filled up so quickly that many folks would not have otherwise been able to fit into the room.
On Friday and Saturday, our critique staff performed more manuscript critiques, portfolio critiques, agent quick queries, and marketing consultations than ever before. In addition to the usual Saturday breakout workshops, we had Saturday evening programming for the first time: a celebration of member books and milestones followed by a screening of the children’s book documentary, Library of the Early Mind, and a Q&A panel that consisted of the movie’s producer, Steve Withrow, along with three of the film’s subjects: Jane Yolen, Richard Michelson, and Nancy Garden.
Sunday featured our double-length intensive workshops and two all-day illustrator academies: for beginner and advanced levels. Between Saturday and Sunday we had five keynote addresses by Jane Yolen, Lin Oliver, Tomie dePaola, Steve Mooser, and Harold Underdown.
Our poster showcase this year had nearly 50 entries that reinterpreted covers from milestone books including Charlotte’s Web, The Wizard of Oz, Tuck Everlasting, The Secret Garden, and more. There were prizes in published and unpublished categories, a people’s choice award, and two “best in show” winners that will be displayed this fall at the R. Michelson Gallery in Northhampton, Massachusetts.
We also had a bookstore, two opportunities for book signings, a conference podcast, a bunch of door prize giveaways, and a book donation drive for needy libraries in Kenya. The weekend was exhausting but a whole lot of fun.