NESCBWI 2016: Springtime in Springfield!

I just returned from the crazy, fun, and inspirational 2016 NESCBWI conference in Springfield, Mass. After missing it for a few years, it was fantastic to get back, reconnect with tons of friends, learn new some new stuff, meets tons of new people, and generally celebrate the kids book kingdom. It’s intense to be around that much creativity- and totally worth it. Here is a little phone-camera retrospective:


I was SO PSYCHED to get my new postcards and business cards literally delivered as I was heading out the door. JUST in time!


Who better than Jane Yolen to get the program rolling? She gave us some straight talk on the things we need to stay on top of in this industry.


Fortune cookies were distributed, and I have to say, I got the best one. A sign? This one is spot on.


I don’t have any pictures, but the Pitchpalooza event was fun to watch (I had never seen this in action before). Brave folks!

Here’s Laurie Murphy, Janet Bates, me, and Sue Perotta…a photo stolen from Kristin Russo. 😉


Wendy Mass was the first keynote on Saturday. She reminded us about the upside of this sometimes difficult business…actually connecting with kids.


She gave everyone at the conference these nifty notebooks, for capturing ideas as they hit (even if in the shower)!


Here’s Tara Lazar, giving us insight into beginnings, middles and ends in picture books. I tend to think I have heard it all before when it comes to these things, but I founds new things to connect with here. Plus, she’s just a blast to listen to!


Viking Sr. Editor Kendra Levin, author/illustrator Deborah Freedman, and Viking AD Jim Hoover participated in a great session revolving around the birth process of Deborah’s upcoming book, Shy. It was surprisingly comforting to see how many revisions and incarnations a “simple” book takes to become it’s best.


Ohhh, Patrick Carman. Citing everything from the scary German children’s book Der Struwwelpeter to Evel Knievel, he showed us how those early influences stuck and manifested into stories. He reminded us that every writer is an entrepreneur, building their own audience.


These are sketches of Patrick Carman, by the talented Vita Lane. So appealing!


Here is a second look at the First Look panel…that’s Jim Hoover commenting on what works and could be improved in each art piece. Gutters, people. Watch the gutters!


The bookstore was FULL of not only mentor books, but attendees books, too. It was a vast and awesome selection!


If you ever get the chance to write alongside Jo Knowles, take it. She’s just a great source of inspiration and hands-on info. She gave us tips on making “characters” real and believable people by delving deeper into what drives them.


There *might* have been some after-hours fun and celebrating occurring. Congratulations to Jeanne Zulick!!


Sunday morning with Jarrett Krosoczka. I first met Jarrett just before his first book came out. And now, 15 years later- he has 30! I loved getting to hear how it all unfolded and how he stays pertinent and motivated.


He is also just a heckuva nice guy. And nice is important, as many have said.


On Sunday morning, Donalyn Miller reminded us of how we are the caretakers of children’s reading life- a vitally important job. Keeping on top of educational community trends through trusted social media, blogs and podcasts is key.

It was fun to see Colby Sharp in real life. It is not surprising that he is a great, well-loved teacher. His enthusiasm for reading is utterly infectious, and he gave us plenty of ideas on how to make that enthusiasm catch on in kids.


Awards! Here’s Salley Riley giving Melissa Stewart a Crystal Kite award for Feathers- Not Just for Flying.

Crystal Kite winner for the illustrations: Sarah Brannen. She was very moved to receive this award. 🙂


Our lineup of trusty conference organizers!


Here is the Working with Educators and Booksellers: What You Need to Know panel. Melissa Stewart, Elizabeth Bluemle, Donalyn Miller, Colby Sharp, and Susannah Richards had a wealth of knowledge to share on topics we creators don’t always think about.


Dan Moynahan led a session on drawing your way into a story. It was fun and a little grueling. 😉


Herre are some of my quickie sketches from Dan’s session. The idea is that you can let your hand keep moving and see what crops up. You end up with unexpected ideas, and those can be springboards to new stories.


Here’s Paul Czajak during his session on PB revision. Wise words: If you are afraid to revise, then you’re afraid to write. Don’t be afraid!



And so ends a remarkable weekend! It was exhausting and exhilarating at the same time. It was great to see so many friends and meet lots of new ones, and come away reinvigorated. Full steam ahead!!


Some of my new book loot!




7 comments on “NESCBWI 2016: Springtime in Springfield!

  • on Monday, May 2, 2016 at 12:43 pm, Cheryl said:

    Great write up, Liz. Thanks for sharing. I went to an interesting intensive on Saturday with Calef Brown. His workshop was about generating new ideas, and he had us do free writing, then expand from that with drawing and more writing. I felt inspired.
    I did the Antagonist is the star of his own story workshop, by A.C. Gaughen. She reminded us that antagonists are not necessarily villains. They are what gets in the way of the protagonist. Not the same thing.
    Of coarse, having two of my former students, Sarita Rich and Milanka Reardon, win awards, made the weekend even better.
    Great to see you, if only for a moment here and there.

  • on Tuesday, May 3, 2016 at 9:04 am, Eileen Washburn said:

    Loved your kitty postcard! I grabbed it for my collection of “awesome kidlit art to look at” which I stash all around the house.

  • on Tuesday, May 3, 2016 at 9:07 am, Liz said:

    Thank you so much, Eileen!

  • on Tuesday, May 3, 2016 at 9:09 am, Liz said:

    Thanks, Cheryl- sounds like you caught some good sessions, too- it’s a shame we get to them all, even if we have 3 days! Congrats to your students- there was definitely some great art on display!

  • on Friday, May 6, 2016 at 1:10 pm, Jo Knowles said:

    Great write-up! I missed you, darn it! 🙂 LOVE LOVE LOVE your art!

  • on Friday, May 6, 2016 at 8:06 pm, Liz said:

    Jo- that is so nice of you to say, thanks!

  • on Saturday, May 7, 2016 at 12:03 pm, Janet Costa Bates said:

    Great write up on a great week-end. So good to see you, Liz!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *