In Creative Life
Jane Yolen

And I got to meet Jane Yolen, whose work has been an inspiration to me for many years!

The two day event in New York City was my first Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators conference. My overall impression is that SCBWI is an incredibly nurturing organization – from the warmth of all the presenters, the truly varied and useful topics of every keynote address, and the organized opportunities to meet and connect with other members. I see why folks go year after year, and I intend to get more involved with the smaller, regional SCBWI events!

Here are just a few favorite quotes from the notes I took.

Jack Gantos:

1. “Each day, have a specific goal.” – for him, number of words to write.

For me, number illustrations to work on, blog posts to write to get a bit ahead, lesson plans written to share, contracts for puppet theater performances sent out, …..and yes, much more.

2. “You must read good books to write good books”.

Thinking of adding a favorite book page on my blog…

3. “Great characters will carry a weak plot, but not vice versa.” Push the visual element as far as possible for the illustrations I’m working on – so the characters are magnetically unforgettable.

• The Future of Authorship panel:

“In order to create the crucial author platform, you must be non-reclusive.”

Julie Hedlund’s 12 Picture Books in 12 Months project is awesome. So much potential for learning through making connections. It takes some time, but is focused and absolutely worth it, illuminating for me so many options I was not aware of, as well as opportunity for critique. But, in my writing/illustration time, I turn it off and focus on the work.

• Quoted: “I am a former child and I haven’t forgotten a thing.” Ursula Nordstrum

The more writing I do, the more I realize how true this is – and important to remember!

Kate Messner keynote: The Spectacular Power of Failure

“Fear of failure happens when we are pushing limits. It is a healthy fear that gives us the opportunity to grow…

If you hesitate out of fear of “messing up”, you will not break new ground…

Athletes, engineers, expect repeated failure before success. But, we tend to have an idea in our heads of what our work should be, make it, then feel failure if it does not measure up…

Our vision exceeds our grasp, so we keep working. We need to be OK with imperfection – not all will be masterpieces. The function of most work is to learn how to make a small portion soar….

You learn how to make your work by making your work…

Many of life’s failures did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up (Thomas Edison)…

1. Failure is a good indicator of the work you are doing – lets you know you are going in the right direction if you are struggling.

2. Failure teaches us to ask for help: We help ourselves when we give others the opportunity to help – it is easier to solve someone else’s problems.

3. Failure brings us together as a community.

4. Failure teaches us to celebrate the dance – to appreciate good days when you accomplish something.

5. Failure lets us be role models: When we are not afraid to fail, that gives others permission to fail, too. (Related here: in New York, 40% of school time is on testing. High stakes tests discourage divergent thinking, in other words, “Don’t try anything new. There is only one right answer”)

We live our creative lives bravely and be role models.


Failure is simply part of the dance.

“A ship in harbor is safe. But that’s not what ships are built for.” John A. Shedd

Your goal is not to please the world, you must work for yourself.

This presentation was so powerful! These notes I’ll be reading over and over.

Nikki Grimes keynote

Impatience and perfectionism do not play well together. You must keep a reign on them both.

Central Park

Central Park

You won’t always know where your story is going, and that’s OK. Learn to trust the process. You must just keep writing. Value patience.

Patience is needed to avoid settling for less than your best work.

Patience, and balance – accepting that I can’t do it all at once, and that’s OK.



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