Friday, March 23, 2018

The 2018 SCBWI Winter Conference in New York - Takeaways From First-Time Attendees

In early February, a small group of SCBWI-MI members traveled to New York for the SCBWI Annual Winter Conference. Attending this large, two-day conference is a special opportunity, and we asked a few of our members to share their experience with us. Read on for brief takeaways from Meline Scheidel, Emily Vander Ark, and Heather Shumaker - all first-time NY conference attendees.

Meline Scheidel:
The Golden Kite Awards
I dressed in a flashy gold sequined sweater and cherished the fact I was able to attend. The ballroom buzzed with excitement and anticipation. The ceiling glowed gold along with the celebrities and the guests of the evening. Being in the company of talented award winners, along with hundreds of like-minded peers is the epitome of pure elation. Life doesn’t get much better for a writer.

My Three Master Class Experiences
1. Showmanship for Introverts
  • Present with confidence
  • Hold attention of your audience
  • Creative ideas - props, skits, and advertising
2. How Voice Makes the Character
  • Book examples of powerful voice
  • Why soft voice works too
  • Interactive prompts
3. All You Need to Know about a Picture Book 
  • When an award winning author of over 350 books, talks – we listened and took notes.
  • When the presenter’s successful daughter spoke about how to fix a manuscript that isn’t working – writers listened and took notes.

I recognized the winning of the Shutta Crum scholarship, along with SCBWI-MI’s generosity, to be a personal sign. I was meant to be in NY for a reason. There were more signs. The caterpillar and butterfly mosaics in the subway brought an immediate thought. That’s a perfect icon for the SCBWI. A reminder of how far we’ve all come and that there is magnificence about to emerge in our future. The dragonfly mural touched my soul. The manuscript I brought in hopes of some attention is about a dragonfly nymph - metamorphosis.

I’m forever grateful for this inspiring incredible experience. I will one day pay it forward.

Meline Scheidel is from the Metro Detroit area, holds three diplomas from the Institute of Children’s Literature and is an active member of SCBWI attending conferences annually. She is the Vice President of the Shiawassee Area Writers group and is the author of two blogs. She writes for a variety of magazines and has one book published, THIS SIGN WAS MINE, a YA/Adult novel under the pen name of Patti Rae Fletcher. Follow her blog at

Emily Vander Ark:
I wasn’t sure what to expect going into SCBWI’s annual winter conference in New York. Would it feel like a close-knit community full of camaraderie, like the Michigan conference I attended last fall? Would it be craft focused and inspiring like my MFA program’s low-residency weeks? Or would it be something new entirely? I looked forward to a closer look at the publishing side of the industry.

When my flight from Chicago was canceled just a few hours before takeoff, my weekend of travel woes had just begun. But every person I interacted with at the conference was friendly and engaging, making the adventure more than worth it. While there were craft-focused sessions due to a new format for the conference (I was so excited to attend a session led by Gail Carson Levine!), there was also a sense of writing as the business that it is. Agent and editor panels were full of helpful information and submission tips, but the highlight for me was a 5-page group critique with Arthur A. Levine! Feedback from that level, even on just 5 pages, proved insightful and illuminating.  I’m quite pleased that I took the opportunity to attend, and looking forward to how I might make use of new tools and ideas in future writing endeavors.

Emily Vander Ark lives in Southwest Michigan where she teaches writing at a community college. She is seeking representation for a middle-grade novel, and this was her first trip to SCBWI New York. 

Heather Shumaker:
Being at a big conference like NY is like being in a huge roomful of kindred spirits. Everyone’s friendly. Besides the regular sessions, which included some on-fire, outstanding ones, there’s the moments you don’t expect. These unexpected moments are what attending a conference is all about. There’s an energy in the air that makes good things happen. For me, that was meeting a new critique partner who I can tell is going to be a new writing friend for life. And hearing Jane Yolen speak and inspire. Getting insights from panels of agents and editors. And smiling in surprise when a fellow author offered to blurb my next book. I even learned a new way to say S-C-B-W-I. The Australians pronounce it “Swihbie” and the British members call it “Scoobie.” Now that rolls off the tongue!

Heather Shumaker, first time NY conference attendee and author of the upcoming MG book THE GRIFFINS OF CASTLE CARY (Simon & Schuster, spring 2019). Heather is also the author of three adult titles: IT'S OK NOT TO SHARE, IT'S OKAY TO GO UP THE SLIDE, and SAVING ARCADIA. Learn more at

Thanks for sharing your experiences with us Meline, Emily, and Heather! More NY conference fun:
This year, SCBWI-MI expanded on Shutta Crum's generosity, and two scholarship winners were selected. Congrats again to Meline Scheidel and Betsy McKee! Here they are with our Regional Advisors, Leslie Helakoski and Carrie Pearson. Photo bombing by Lisa Rose! šŸ˜œ

More Michigan congrats: Jack Cheng's novel, SEE YOU IN THE COSMOS, was the 2018 Golden Kite Award winner for Middle-Grade Fiction. Jack was presented with the award at the Golden Kite Gala at the NY conference.
Cheers, Jack!

Registration is now open for our SCBWI-MI spring conference in Detroit. Many of our past conferences have sold out - don't delay! Learn more and register here.


  1. Great article all around! Happy for everyone that got to go to NY and congratulations Jack!

  2. Glad everyone had such a good time at the conference. I've always worried about being too overwhelmed, but it sounds like a great experience.