SCBWI’s Who’s Who of Children’s Book Writing

Barbara Vey -- January 30th, 2012
Chris Crutcher and Mary Buckham

Chris Crutcher and Mary Buckham

Here today as cub reporters are NYT best seller Dianna Love of the Belador urban fantasy series and award winning Romantic Suspense author Mary Buckham.  Mary and Dianna originally teamed up to produce Break Into Fiction™, the book that has helped thousands of writers around the world.  Now they’re entering the young adult market, which is why they were at the Hyatt next to Grand Central Station in New York City to attend the 2012 International SCBWI Conference. 


Steven Mooser and Dianna Love

Stephen Mooser and Dianna Love



SCBWI stands for Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.  Key figures in the children’s book writing industry gathered this weekend to share insights on one of the largest divisions in publishing – children’s books, from picture books to middle grade literature to the massive young adult novel industry.  The conference sold out weeks ago, boasting 1,148 attendees from 19 countries.





Lin Oliver and Stephen Mooser founded this Los Angeles based organization in 1971.  Stephen and Lin set the tone for the conference with their fun chiding and warm welcome then got down to business quickly with an opening panel that reads like the who’s who in children’s publishing – Jean Feiwel, Senior VP and publishing director of MacMillan, Barbara Marcus, Strategic Innovating Advisor with Penguin, Nancy Paulsen, President & Publisher of Nancy Paulsen Books (Penguin) and agent Rubin Pfeffer with the East West Literary Agency.  They all have extensive experience in the industry and represent a gold list of children’s book authors.   The general consensus of this panel was that children’s publishing is robust and looking up.


Justin Jones and Dennis Jolley

Justin Jones and Dennis Jolley

Author Chris Crutcher stepped up on the stage next to talk about how you have to write the story in the correct language for the reader to believe the words. He wasn’t talking about a native tongue, but how words are what has made him the most banned author in the country, even as those same words touch teens in a way that watered down text never will.  As someone who has counseled children and families about abuse and neglect for 25 years, it’s immediately obvious that he knows what he’s talking about.  He explained how you can take a painful subject to its emotional peak if you balance it with humor, and Chris is one funny guy.  He shared a true story about a five-year-old patient that broke your heart one minute, had you laughing in the next, then ended with message of hope.  No wonder his books resonate with kids and adults, too.


Panels and keynote addresses were given to the entire conference in the ballroom all weekend. Additionally, attendees could choose three of fourteen outstanding one-hour workshops.  Each of the fourteen programs was presented three times on Saturday so you didn’t have to choose between two favorites in the same time slot.  This was not a conference for learning how to craft a query letter or synopsis that you can learn on your own.  This was a conference for professionals wanting information on a specific area of the publishing industry, which meant every minute was packed with information you can’t get anywhere else.


Henry Winkler and Lin Oliver

Henry Winkler and Lin Oliver

SURPRISE!  Lin Oliver took the stage again before we were released from the ballroom to head for our Saturday workshops.  She had teased us earlier that a special “surprise” guest was stopping by.  Not a soul moved from their seat as Lin introduced her co-writer on a new middle-school series – Henry Winkler. The room went wild as he strolled up to the stage, beaming a big grin that we all know and love so well.  Henry told us how he came to write with Lin.  Many remember him as the amazing Fonzi from Happy Days and even later as a producer, but that doesn’t tell you about the genuine and gracious man who is now a children’s book writer.   More than a celebrity author, Henry Winkler has a deep appreciation for what it takes to be a writer and a great affection for his collaborative partner, Lin Oliver, on their Hank Zipzer series.


The sessions that followed were presented by the top in the publishing field.  Executive editor, Cheryl Klein of Arthur A. Levine Books (Scholastic) spoke on revising for the children’s market. Agent Sara Davies of Greenhouse Literary Agency addressed writing for the children’s thriller market. Executive Art Director Martha Rago of Harper Collins explaining how to make your picture book stand out. Agent Ken Wright of Writer’s House shared insights on publishing nonfiction children’s literature.  Executive editor Tara Weikum of Harper Collins walked everyone through the extensive world of young adult publishing.  The distinguished list of speakers didn’t stop there.  Details of this conference are still available at


Cassandra Clare

Cassandra Clare

After lunch NYT best seller Cassandra Clare of the Mortal Instruments series gave a ballroom packed presentation on the “love triangle” and what works – or does not  – in young adult fiction.


Saturday wrapped up with cocktail party with wonderful food stations where attendees could mingle and meet up with others from their regional chapters.  When you join the national organization, you’re automatically registered with your regional chapter.  Justin Jones and Dennis Jolley are two English teachers from Georgia and pre-published authors of children fiction, attending the conference for the first time.   Christopher Cheng hails from Australia and is on the board for SCBWI, which shows you just how international this organization is.


Sunday was just as busy with an award ceremony.  The Tomie dePaola Award is given to the illustrator who shows the most promise and the recipient is chose by Tomie himself.  This year’s winner is Yvette Piette HerreraMike Curato won the prestigious Portfolio Showcase competition.  


We had more great panels on Sunday then wrapped up with a book signing where attendees could spend extra time some of the stars in this business.   This is one of the most inspirational and informative conferences in the publishing business.  They manage to put on an event that is warm and welcoming with a high level of professionalism.  Definitely worth every penny to attend.


Bottom Line:  “Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.” ~ Emilie Buchwald





128 thoughts on “SCBWI’s Who’s Who of Children’s Book Writing

  1. Mary Buckham

    This was such an amazing conference for everyone ~~ many thanks to Lin Oliver and Stephen Moser for all their dedication and hard work! Thanks Barbara for sharing the fun here! Cheers ~~ Mary B :-)

  2. Dianna Love

    A huge shout out to Lin Oliver and Stephen Mooser – and the massive support group who made this an outstanding conference. The top shelf level of workshops and speakers meant every program was packed with terrific insights into the children’s publishing business. Well worth the time and money to make this trip. Thanks for sharing this Barbara, but we all know how supportive you are of young readers.

  3. Debbie Kaufman

    OMGoodness, Henry Winkler! I’ve followed his career since Happy Days and love him both as an actor and a person. And the conference sounds fantastic. If I ever venture into YA, this is one I’ll have to go to! Thanks Mary and Dianna for bringing us this fun look into SCBWI!

    1. Dianna Love

      I’m sure the first impression is “celebrity” author, but that would be discounting what he brings to the genre. And his co-author Lin Oliver is brilliant and funny. I am so looking forward to reading their books and those of Chris Crutcher’s.

  4. Marilyn Baron

    Mary and Dianna and Barbara,

    Thanks for coverage of this conference. Dianna, I love that picture of you. I didn’t know The Fonz wrote children’s books. I’ll have to look into that.

    1. Barbara

      I had a hard time getting my girls to read when they were younger. I tried all the series like Babysitters Club, Nancy Drew, Mary Kate & Ashley Olson had a book series as did many others. The only thing that worked was Henry Winkler/Lin Oliver’s HanK Zipzer series subtitled “World’s Greatest Underachiever”. I got her through 9 of the books (there wree 3 or 4 more I think) before she felt she was too old for them. I also donated copies to our elementary school library when the school had their annual book sales or Barnes & Noble nights.

      I’m somewhat sorry I have no younger children to read their new series. I read an excerpt last week and liked it.

  5. Anne Norup

    I was excited when Mary told me she was going to this conference, but after reading this I think I should go myself next year! Sounds fun, informative and inspirational. Thanks for sharing the highlights! :)

  6. Jackie Rod

    Barbara, Thanks for keeping us posted on the great things happening in the writing industry. Dianna Love and Mary Buckham added a sparkle to the conference Lin and Stephen put together for SCBWI. Thanks to all. :)

  7. Pingback: Book Bits #132 – ‘Magic Tree House’ turns 20, children’s lit, writing tips | Malcolm's Book Bits and Notions

  8. HeatherMac

    This sounds like it was an amazing event! Hearing the name Chris Crutcher really brought back some memories for me! Starting all the way back in 7th grade up to my senior year in high school (1996-2001) I participated in the English Festival at Youngstown State University here in Ohio ( I looked forward to it EVERY year. In grade school it was easy to get into because I was in a small class. Once I hit high school, it was by pure luck that I was randomly chosen every year as a participant. You read 7 books that the festival board selects throughout the year, and then you spend a day on campus full of fun writing activities and authors.

    CHRIS CRUTCHER WAS ONE OF MY FAVORITES! As soon as his name was mentioned in this blog, my mind automatically thought “Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes!” Seven books a year, for six years, turns out to be 42 books I read for the English Festival, but that book is one of the few that stuck with me. He was one of the featured authors I saw in 1998, and has actually been featured at the festival multiple times.

    I can’t really explain why Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes made such an impact on me. It was nice to read something that was real, and not sugar coated. The language played a big part in that. From 7th-12th grade, I wasn’t looking to be treated like a little kid, and that is definitely something Chris Crutcher’s writing didn’t do, and I respected him for that. I also respected the English Festival for choosing such a controversial book.

    I’m glad the conference was such a great time! I think I’m going to go grab my copy of Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes and read it again….it’s been years! Thank you for bringing back those memories! It’s such a great event! I miss it! Maybe they need volunteers….fingers crossed :)

    1. Dianna Love

      I hadn’t read his books before, but brought home three (including Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes) and am so looking forward to reading them. Mary is from the PNW, too, and had met Chris in the past. She said I’d love the books and after reading your post I’m anxious to sit down with one. Chris is a very engaging person who we would have gladly listened to for much longer if the schedule had allowed for it (he spoke at the beginning of the conference).

  9. David Bernstein

    It was a great even in the heart of New York City one of the largest city for publishers in the world. I also atteneded and learned a lot. The article was well written but it missed the other events the conference had on Friday like the Writer’s round table, Illustrator’s intensenive and the Book marketing intensive all three of them were great events.
    The SCBWI is a national orginazation that connects people in the Children book industry around the world. I have been a proud member for almost ten years. This society has been very helpful to me and many other people if you guys are very serious about children book writing you have to become a member here. I also bloged the even as well. It was a great event and lot of fun.

    1. Dianna Love

      I’m so glad you mentioned this, David. We found out about the Friday workshop “after” we arrived (didn’t see it originally on the website) and heard a lot of great comments about the day, but since we didn’t attend it was hard to give a specific rundown on the workshops. We’ll know for next time!

      1. David Bernstein

        It very understandble, one truly has to be there
        To write an article for such a wonderful
        Magazine as PW. I was glad that I brought it up
        I guess you can still find out about Friday by interviewing people
        Who went to those workshops. Maybe doing another article based on these interviews. just an idea.

  10. Stephanie Scott

    Great write up! I read through a little of the twitter feed over the weekend and everyone was gushing about Chris Crutcher’s speech. I’ve been thinking I should join SCBWI and I think this confirms it! It sounds like even the smaller regional events are worthwhile.

    I’m jealous of that Cassandra Clare session; I just read Clockwork Angel and she definitely has a grip on love triangles. She should be the next YA author to get a movie series; Mortal Instruments or the Clockwork series.

    1. Dianna Love

      I’m glad this has encouraged you to join the SCBWI, Stephanie. I met some of the people in our region at the conference and think you will definitely benefit by getting with your local group. The great thing is that when you join SCBWI you’re automatically a member of your local group – that was such a nice surprise!

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