Katia Raina

The Magic Mirror

Back from the New Jersey SCBWI Summer Comference 2011: we’re all in this together!

Just back from Princeton, New Jersey, and let me tell you — wow, what a conference!

A group of super-talented writers, fun, approachable published authors, passionate agents and savvy editors  took over a Wyndham resort for the weekend, for yet another massive exchange of ideas, knowledge and creativity, all in the name of writing for young people.

The best thing about the whole endeavor was the right energy, I think. At some conferences I’ve been to, I saw fear and annoyance flashing in editors’ eyes at an approach of a desperate, needy, waaah-when-am-I-gonna-be-published attendee.  But what I got here this past weekend was the beautiful, we’re-all-in-this-together vibe that felt incredibly refreshing — and right. Because, hey, we ARE all in this together.

The field of writing for young people (and I would imagine, writing in general) is a place where, at least I like to think, we are not really competing with each other. Yes, editors hope to woo the beautiful manuscripts with the right idea to THEIR houses, and yes, writers want the agents to fall in love with THEIR queries, and yes,  YA authors target the same teen audiences.

But underneath it all, we aren’t the pharmaceutical industry. We cheer each other on. We brainstorm each other’s stories and give up precious writing hours to critique our friend’s book-to-be. Published authors speak to the unpublished ones from the place of remembering that hey, this is where they were, a few years ago. Agents tirelessly champion the books they believe in. Editors are trying to keep books alive.

I had such a great time at the New Jersey SCBWI conference, because it was laced with that spirit.

Okay, so maybe not everyone who attended this weekend’s conference will become a published author one day. But, to me, that isn’t the point. The point is: anyone who attended this conference, or another conference like it — or anyone who stayed home to work on their craft behind closed doors, CAN get published. The opportunities are there, along with a whole industry of people who, underneath all the fears and the trends and the worries, want us to write good stories, who love books and want young people reading them, and who, ultimately, want your story to be heard.


June 5, 2011 - Posted by | Writing Mirror | , , ,


  1. It sounds like a wonderful conference! I’ve been waiting on somebody to post an update. Thanks.

    Comment by Shannon Hitchcock | June 6, 2011 | Reply

    • Anytime Shannon! Oh and just fyi you and everyone else, next week I just might post a little more — about Grace Lin’s amazing speech – – – with a giveway of her book — “Where the Mountained Meets the Moon,” SIGNED!

      Comment by Katia Raina | June 6, 2011 | Reply

  2. Glad you feel so inspired! It’s always great to feel refreshed meeting old friends, making new ones and soaking up the creative energy! And thanks for putting up such nice pics (We all look good!)

    Comment by Charlotte Bennardo | June 6, 2011 | Reply

    • Charlotte,

      Told you you had nothing to worry about 😉
      And thank YOU for your amazing energy! Your and Natalie’s super-cool “Sirenz” is one of the other treasures I’ll be giving away in the weeks to come.

      Comment by Katia Raina | June 6, 2011 | Reply

  3. Are you TRYING to make me jealous?! Oh no, wait, we are in this together. Love this post – you say it so well. We aren’t the pharmeceutical industry.

    Comment by Joyce Hostetter | June 6, 2011 | Reply

    • Ha-ha, yes, Joyce, I AM. That way I might get to meet you next year, at the next conference. 😉

      Comment by Katia Raina | June 6, 2011 | Reply

  4. Fun time! Thoroughly enjoyed myself!

    Comment by Nancy | June 6, 2011 | Reply

    • It was good to see so many people I haven’t actually talked with face to face in years — like you, Nancy!!

      Comment by Katia Raina | June 6, 2011 | Reply

  5. I wish I had been there! I’ve only been to my regional SCBWI conferences, but I am attending the mid-year in LA this August. I love the energy of conferences. I’ve only run into a few desperate types, but they weren’t bad enough to ruin the experience.

    I’ll be buying Natalie and Charlotte’s book soon! I can’t wait to read it.

    Comment by Medeia Sharif | June 6, 2011 | Reply

    • I think people are desperate when they don’t realize how much power they have — that in the end it’s their talent and their work that just might make a difference. But I think having the right atmosphere helps too!! Have you heard of Sirenz? I cannot wait to read my signed copy before I give it away.

      Comment by Katia Raina | June 6, 2011 | Reply

  6. Well said Katia. Thanks for summing it up so well. May we all feel the energy and enthusiasm throughout our writing in the weeks and months to come. See you next year!

    Darlene Jacobson

    Comment by Darlene Beck Jacobson | June 7, 2011 | Reply

    • Thanks Darlene — if you do see me at next year’s conference, don’t forget to say hi — and I’ll do the same!!

      Comment by Katia Raina | June 7, 2011 | Reply

  7. Katia, a bunch of us were having this same “We’re all in this together” conversation Friday night. Actors compete directly for the same role but writers don’t. I submit my best work. You submit your best work. And each is totally different–so we never really do compete or threaten each other. That’s probably a big reason why we have such mutual support. That, plus writers are just plain nice.

    Yes, it was a fantastic conference.

    Comment by Susan Heyboer O'Keefe | June 7, 2011 | Reply

    • Susan, what a great point, about the actors. I never thought of it that way. And still, even the actors have that special friendship. I think it comes from understanding each other. Maybe it’s an artist thing? 🙂
      Thanks so much for your comment — I am so honored to have you drop by.

      Comment by Katia Raina | June 8, 2011 | Reply

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