Posted by: Katie B | November 13, 2018

NJ-SCBWI Annual Conference Rallies the Kidlit Community


The New Jersey regional chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) held its annual conference on June 2nd – 3rd, 2018 in New Brunswick. As always, it was a robust event with authors, illustrators, editors and agents coming together in conversation and community. The New York City and Los Angeles SCBWI conferences are more well known and heavily attended. That being said, the New Jersey regional event is so close to New York City that it pulls an equally qualified faculty and a strong body of writers.

Because the New Jersey conference is more intimate, it is easier to mingle with faculty and other writers and to have meaningful interaction. The event registration also allows you to pick exactly who you want to hear speak, meet with, dine with, and receive critiques from. For this reasons, I prefer it to the larger, more social and less personal annual conference in New York City.

If you are considering where to spend your money next year (and these things can get pricey!), I’d strongly suggest looking into the less expensive but just as worthy NJSCBWI annual conference. To give you an idea of the value, here is everyone that I met over the two days:

Anna Roberto. This year I had the pleasure of reading the first two pages of my middle grade novel to the hysterically funny Anna Roberto, Editor from Feiwel and Friends, as part of a scheduled round table discussion with five (or was it six?) other authors.

John Cusick. I practiced pitching my young adult novel to John Cusick, an Agent with Folio Literary Management, in a voluntary (and free!) pitch-fest. All I have to say is that he was very kind, even when my voice cracked. Phew.

Karen Boss. Karen Boss, Associate Editor with Charlesbridge Publishing, critiqued my picture book in a fifteen minute one-on-one meeting that included comments and notes. If anyone has ever received a critique from her, I have one word. Alas.

Catherine Laudone and Charlie Olson. For the first page session, the first page of before-mentioned young adult novel was read to Catherine Laudone, Assistant Editor of Simon & Schuster, and Charlie Olson, an agent with Inkwell Management.

Samantha Gentry. Dinner was spent with the energetic Samantha Gentry, an Assistant Editor at Crown Books, and a table of eight other authors. If you ever have the opportunity to work with her, take it.

Annie Berger. Lunch the next day included time with Annie Berger, an Editor with Sourcebooks, at an intimate table for eight. The crowd was surprisingly energetic considering it was towards the end of the event, and the lunch was over too soon.

For the “academic” portion of the event, I was able to attend several workshops, most of which were in smaller breakout rooms. This gave the opportunity to really connect with the presenter (as opposed to a huge lecture hall), and there was the opportunity for Q&A after. The workshops I attended were as follows:

Rachel Orr, agent at Prospect Agency, gave a workshop on crafting picture books.

Krista Marino, Senior Executive Editor at Penguin Random House, gave a workshop on thinking like an editor.

John Rudolph, agent at Dystel, Goderich & Bourret, presented on how to hook a children’s book agent.

Linda Camacho, agent at Gallt & Zacker Literary Agency, spoke on world building.

Cari Lamba, agent at Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency, presented on how to pitch and query.


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