Contributor: Shari Schwarz

After arriving in beautiful Golden, Colorado for the Rocky Mountain SCBWI Letters and Lines Conference, I first attended The Changing Landscape of Illustrations presented by the warm and inspiring Roberta Collier-Morales. She shared how illustrations create vision for the future and sow seeds of hope. We are in a meaningful industry we are in!

Newberry Award winner, Avi, delivered the opening keynote address and left me in awe of his humble, witty and inspiring nature. Although he’s written over seventy books, he still revises each book seventy to eighty times and works at his writing for ten hours a day. He doesn’t mince words when he talks about writing being a difficult profession. But the fact that he overcame dysgraphia to become one of Children’s Literature’s heroes spoke to us about how passion, hard work, and drive are no respecter of disability—a powerful message to children and adults the world over who have read his books and heard him speak.


Donna Cooner shared from her heart about the Buzz-Worthy Novel and the surprises, good and bad, that have come along with her success. In her book, Skinny, a demeaning voice speaks to the main character about her weight issues. For other people, it could be a different insecurity. Donna’s theme is universal and touches a sensitive place in people which easily creates an avenue for discussion and, often, controversy.

This was my first writing conference. I was nervous going in, but I met so many kind, and approachable writers, illustrators, agents, and editors. They kept us busy attending one session after another, and I came away with eight typed pages of notes, plus many handouts. A couple of sessions I attended included quick workshops or brainstorming activities that were eye-opening for me in regards to my manuscripts. For anyone considering going to an SCBWI conference, it is well worth the investment of time, money, and networking. I’ve come away with a renewed sense of motivation and inspiration.


  Industry Panel with Tricia Lawrence of EMLA, Sarah Miller of Sleeping Bear Press, Terrie Wolf of AKA Literary, Carter Hasegawa of Candlewick Press, & Lanie Davis of Alloy Entertainment

I can’t wait for the next one!

If you’re interested to see a list of all the classes and faculty, please visit the Rocky Mountain SCBWI website.

Thanks, Middle Grade Mafia, for asking me to guest post!

The Middle Grade Mafia would like to thank Shari for sharing her experience at the Rocky Mountain Conference. To keep up with her, you can visit her website and follow her on Twitter.

If you are heading to a conference, let us know. Keep writing and keep learning.