Monday, May 12, 2014

NE SCBWI -- Create Bravely! by Christy Mihaly & Pam Vaughan

The main ballroom
The theme for the New England regional SCBWI conference this weekend was: Create Bravely – Make Your Mark.  About 600 writers and illustrators attended, from all over New England and beyond.  Presenters taught 70 terrific workshops, on craft (from humor to character development), pitching, queries, and marketing, and the writer’s life. Keynote speakers were Jane Yolen, Peter H. Reynolds, and Laurel Snyder.  On industry expert panels, agents and editors shared inside information about publishing, marketing, and what they look for when they sift through the slush. 

Arielle Eckstut & David Henry Sterry

One highlight of the conference was “Pitchapalooza” with The Book Doctors: David Henry Sterry and Arielle Eckstut along with a panel of judges including; Alexandra Cooper, Sara Crowe and Kendra Levin.  

Writers were invited to give their pitches – in one minute or less – to an expert panel, in front o f a ballroom full of colleagues.   Volunteers received gold stars for courage. The comments and critiques from the Pitchapalooza team provided concrete examples of the "do’s and don’ts" of pitching.  Examples:  avoid clichés [“painful secret,” “family tragedy”]; use active and dynamic verbs; show the high stakes the main character faces, and – most important – make us love the hero and make us want them to prevail.  Thank you to the Book Doctors who tactfully gave constructive criticism demonstrating that feedback and encouragement do not have to be mutually exclusive.

The Book Doctors, judges and the pitch winners
We are now better prepared when those elevator doors close!  

Attending the conference was like being a main character in a story.  We had to make choices and we had to come out of our comfort zones. We went through internal changes from what we gathered from the workshops, the messages that resonated with us from the key notes, and from hearing the myriad stories of the attendees. Like an MC, we have grown and changed for the better!

Being brave is personal. And as Laurel Snyder says, “Being brave is being the best you.”

Groggers: Pam Vaughan & Chris Mihaly
                                                     Here are some “BRAVE” things we did:

Chris -- a first-time SCBWI attendee:
  • Volunteered to help with panels, and helped organize the genre meet-up
  • Signed up for one-on-one critique
  •  Tried out the “Ask-A-Mentor” event – speed dating with  agents/editors/authors
  • Introduced myself to lots of people, gave out my (new!) business cards, and sought out people that live near me, making plans to get together for critiques or meet-ups

Pam -- a veteran SCBWI attendee:
  • Volunteered as the 1st NESCBWI photographer and took over 1000 pictures
  • Raised hand and shared spontaneous piece in workshop
  • Initiated conversation with people who were either sitting alone at a table or standing around with no one to talk to
  • Spoke with agents and editors as people in genuine conversation

Some take away quotes from key note speakers:

Jane Yolen
Jane Yolen:     “I received FIVE rejections in one day.  But the 6th was an acceptance -- and that wiped out the disappointment of all those rejections.”
“BIC – Butt in chair.”


Peter H. Reynolds

Peter H. Reynolds:   “Have an idea, then figure the rest out later.”
 “Sometimes a mistake can spark inspiration.”
  “…he still had a long journey ahead. But it was his own journey, his
                                         very own wonderful journey.” (The North Star)

Laurel Snyder

Laurel Snyder:
         “Being brave is about writing books that matter, NOT 
         about being published.”
       “Your bravest work comes from defining moments in your life.”
       “Write for yourself because writing for everyone is writing for no one.”

(Pictures by Pam Vaughan)


  1. Enjoyed being with you ladies in spirit. You captured some great quotes. Thanks for the recap!

  2. Wow, Laurel Snyder had some amazing quotations! Thank you for sharing this with those of us who live too far away!

  3. Thank you Pam & Chris for letting me be a "little fly upon the wall" at this chockablock useful & uplifting & energizing & revealing NESCBWI confab. Thank you for taking notes & sharing quotes. Love the photos. How cool that two Groggers could attend together. You will remember this always. I love the work of all the speakers & know you were with the very best of our genre. Wonderful.

  4. Sounded like a very worthwhile weekend! Good for both of you for being brave - especially talking to ALL those people! Great post!

  5. Thanks for the notes and great photos! So neat you two could meet.

  6. How brave of you both! Thanks for all of the great quotes.

  7. Chris and Pam: How exciting that you both became *brave main characters* at the NE SCBWI Conference. Thank you for sharing the experience with us.

  8. The coffee here was really good. My water was constantly refilled without asking. The staff was friendly and they definitely aim to please. Highly recommended but I doubt it comes cheap to cater there.
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  9. Love this recap!! So much fun!!