SCBWI LA Conference Highlights: Timelessness and The Inner Child

1,234 people were on hand for the SCBWI Summer Conference in LA August 3-6th. The biggest children’s book writers and illustrators conference of the year kicked off with some hilarious opening remarks by Lin Oliver and Stephen Mooser.

Stephen regaled the audience each morning with a story of how he broke his wrist.

Inspired by the Summer Olympics, Lin lit the SCBWI “torch” and began our “opening ceremonies.”

She had each of the panelists/faculty for the event introduce him/her self and then say one word. Literally one word.


Jay Asher’s word was “Hysteria” from Def Leppard. Let me pause here to catch my breath. Jay *freaking* Asher. This man’s books are some of the best I’ve read in years. I <3 Jay Asher.

I forgot this speaker’s name, but I absolutely loved her enthusiasm at 9 ish am.

The first keynote of the day was Arthur Levine who spoke about timelessness in books.

He defined timelessness as a story capturing the moment of intimacy between the author and the reader.

This point would reverberate through other speeches at the conference that stressed that an author tell their truth to the reader.

One common thread in timeless book is the perceptiveness of the author about what makes people tick.

He gave a few examples of books that had timelessness: The Once and Future King and The Golden Compass.

The next keynote speaker was Tony Diterlizzi. Wow. Just wow.

By far the most entertaining and engaging speaker of the day, more akin to a late night talk show host.

He talked about never abandoning imagination. One of his main points was that he writes books that 10-year-old Tony would want to read.

The trick is staying in touch with the 10-year-old version of himself as he progresses further and further from that age.

He stressed the importance of writing books you’d love to read at the age you are writing for.

He was such an engaging speaker, I bought both books that he had for sale and got them signed.


I’m going to pause here, but I’ll be covering snippets from the conference for a few weeks.

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20 Responses to SCBWI LA Conference Highlights: Timelessness and The Inner Child

  1. Samir says:

    You must be totally charged up?!

    • Writing wise, I’m completely invigorated. But the conference was a break neck pace with panels, keynotes, and workshops, and social events. I didn’t catch my breath until I got home. :0

  2. Carrie Rubin says:

    Thanks for the highlights. It’s always a treat to experience these conferences through you. I look forward to attending a writer’s conference some day, though I doubt I’ll feel like I belong there. ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. sounds wonderful. and I know you enjoyed.

    • It was a terrific conference. Top notch panels and some of my favorite writers and soon to be favorite writers were there! I got to room with my writing buddy and connect with a couple writing friends.

  4. Elliot says:

    The Golden compass (aka Nothern lights in the UK) is a great book, in fact the whole trilogy is. I just read Neil Gaiman’s “The Graveyard book” which I also think will fit into the timeless category.

    Anyhoo, conference sounded fun.

    • Haven’t read The Golden Compass or The Graveyard Book–both are on my to read list. ๐Ÿ™‚ Conference was really great. I learned so much, met so many cool people, and had a good manuscript consultation. ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. jmmcdowell says:

    Thanks for the conference summary! One of these days I’d like to hit the Writer’s Digest conference in New York…. Although maybe I”ll start with a smaller one closer to home. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Glad to pass along my favorite tidbits! WDC is amazing! They are doing one in LA this October too. It’s good to get your feet wet at a regional one if you can. It makes the big ones a tad less intimidating. ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. Debra Kristi says:

    I’m so jealous that you got to go! Nah, not really. I think it’s great. But I would have loved to be there as well. Maybe next time. Thanks so much for sharing.

    • They do the international ones in NY in the winter and LA in the summer. Regional ones are supposed to be great too! I might check out the New England regional next spring. Happy to share, sorry I can’t give lots of detailed notes, but SCBWI requires that we keep blog posts to a taste of what we heard to protect the speaker’s materials. ๐Ÿ™‚

      • Debra Kristi says:

        I know. I read that on their blog. I am considering NY if I can afford it.

        • The LA and NY conferences are pretty comparable in terms of number of attendees. The biggest difference is that LA has an extra day of keynotes and panels, manuscript consultations, and a rocking outdoor party by the pool. It’s definitely worth thinking about if the finance work out. I’ve heard terrific things about the AZ and Mid-South regional conferences from people at the LA conference so I’m thinking the regionals should be great too.

  7. Looks like an exciting group of speakers – (I went to some regional ones a few years ago – always fun and inspiring)
    I liked that advice of writing books you’d like to read at that age.

    • It was a terrific line up of nonstop workshops! It’s such a simple idea but so important to write the book you would have liked at that age. He illustrated the point with his new book, The Search for Wondla, where 10-year-old Tony insisted on a full page illustration at the beginning of each chapter. ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. 4amWriter says:

    I’m so happy that you go to these conferences. This way I can live vicariously through you. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Thanks Kathryn! ๐Ÿ™‚ I learn so much there. My writing buddy and I are discussing the panels and workshops during our Monday Skype and I’m going to put the highlights up on Wednesday’s blog. ๐Ÿ™‚ This was the first conference that required airfare and a hotel. It was terribly expensive. I think I’ll stick with the ones in NY where I can stay with friends and take a commuter train in. It makes conferences way more affordable. ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. So lovely of you to let us relive bits of the conference through your recap, Kourtney. Sounds like you had an awesome, inspiring time. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Glad to share the highlights. It was a terrific conference! I left with my head filled with new knowledge. I’m still going through my notes and processing what I learned. It was lovely to meet you too! Sorry I was sick, but so glad we got to chat in person. ๐Ÿ™‚

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