Friday, March 3, 2017

The 2017 SCBWI Annual Winter Conference: So Many Feelings by Andrea Donahoe

If my trip to the 2017 SCBWI-NY conference was a movie, it would be “Inside Out” because it was filled to the brim with So. Many. Feelings. Here are just a few…

Frantically checking for flight updates in advance of the conference as word got around that a big storm was going to hit NYC and flights were being cancelled days in advance.

Boarding the plane and smiling out of the tiny jet window as I zoomed away from my husband, two kids, and three jobs for a weekend full of writing inspiration.

Bryan Collier delivered the opening keynote. His passionate exploration of the grief of losing a father felt by the main character in KNOCK KNOCK brought a room of twelve hundred people to silence. I was brought to tears by the power of his words and their echo of my own recent loss of my father.

-A panel on picture book types where Andrea Beaty described writing in rhyme to be like hearing music playing in another room and listening closer and closer to hear the words.

-A session on pacing in picture books with Silvie Frank that had me scribbling across the pages of my notebook as she walked through her editorial revision process.

The swirl of energy from the sessions of the day took a pause for the quietly powerful keynote address by Tahereh Mafi on the immense bravery it takes to declare yourself a writer, to keep going in the face of pain or rejection, and to remain vulnerable. She said writers must not develop a thick skin. We need a deep well of feelings in order to write, for “what good is a writer who cannot feel?”

Heidi Sheffield with her artwork
And then...

Portfolio Showcase Honor Awards

Joan Donaldson receives a hug from Jane Yolan
-The evening mixer to where I got to visit with our fabulous Co-RAs Carrie and Leslie, other Michiganders, and fun folks from all over the world.

-The Sunday morning awards ceremony where Michigan was well represented by Heidi Sheffield for a Portfolio Showcase Honor Award, and by Joan Donaldson who received a Jane Yolen Midlist Author Honor Award. Woohoo!

- A fabulous session on nonfiction picture books.

And Wonder:
The rousing final keynote was delivered by Sara Pennypacker, who reminded us to surround ourselves with people who respond to the world with positive acts of creation.

And that, truly, was the magic of attending this conference. It was wonderful to be surrounded by so many fellow creators; each one passionate about making the books that will shape the hearts, minds, and lives of children. I have followed the SCBWI conference blogs for years, enjoying the wealth of information, but being there in person was immensely inspirational and encouraging.

I’m grateful to Shutta Crum, for her generosity in providing the scholarship to the conference, and to the SCBWI-MI team, for the additional financial support. Thank you!

Andrea LeGore Donahoe lives in Petoskey, MI, with her husband, two children, a bouncy standard poodle, and far too many stacks of books. Find her at @allegore and

Shutta's scholarship to the annual NY conference is one of many SCBWI-MI opportunities. The Written Critique Program is well underway and the deadline is fast approaching. Four editors still have a handful of spots open - 
Alex Arnold
Alison S. Weiss
Kelly Barrales-Saylor
Nikki Garcia 
Don't miss this amazing opportunity to get written feedback on your manuscript, whether it be a picture book, MG or YA; fiction or non-fiction. For more information on all four editors and how to submit, click here.

But wait, there's more! Save the date for the SCBWI-MI Marketing Bootcamp in East Lansing, MI, April 29, 2017.

Coming up on the Mitten Blog: Joan Donaldson writes about winning a Jane Yolan Midlist Author Honor, we have interviews with two well-known kidlit bloggers, and we'll finish the month of March with another round of Hugs and Hurrahs! Send your good news to Patti Richards - the deadline is March 27th.

Happy creating!
Kristin Lenz


  1. Thank you for the informative, entertaining conference write-up! And a huge congratulations to Heidi Sheffield and Joan Donaldson!!

    1. You're welcome! And it was so fun to cheer for Heidi and Joan!

  2. Love this post and the format of it (all the feels!). It's as if we, the reader, is feeling them along with you as we read the post. I also love getting to see pictures of our fellow MI members who I have not yet met before. It's nice to put a face with a name Andrea!

    1. *waves*

      I realized I finally need to heed the advice to have an official photo. I looked and I had this one, a day when I actually wore lipstick, and vast numbers of photos of my smooshfacing with my kids and hubby. Hm... when is that marketing day again? :)

  3. Congrats again, Andy. Loved seeing the wonder of the big conference in your eyes!

    1. It was so great. I love kidlit people SO MUCH. :)

  4. Yay! So glad to be a small ember helping to enflame your writing. I love the emotional pics as well. Shutta

    1. It was such a gift. Thank you.

  5. A very BIG congratulations to Heidi Scheffield!!! Love it so!