A Cupful of Much Needed Inspiration

Since 2001, I’ve been a member of a terrific organization for writers, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). While I’ve attended wonderful regional conferences, I’ve never attended the international conference.

Not this year. Unable to hold their usual in-person summer conference in Los Angeles, SCBWI decided to hold an on-line conference. Instead of their usual 1200 attendees, a whopping 4000 + folks, including myself, signed up.

In the first three days, I’ve listened to several incredible presentations and heard so many inspiring words. Here’s just a sampling:

“If you’re able to be yourself, then you have no competition. All you have to do is get closer and closer to that essence,”

  • Barbara Cooke, quoted by Jolie Stekly

“You are your best thing.”

  • Toni Morrison, quoted by Jolie Stekly

“There are three things that determine a writer’s success: talent, persistence, and luck. The only one of those that you can control is persistence.”

  • Iconic fantasy writer Philip Pullman

And from legendary writer Judy Blume:

“Do you know any writer who isn’t incredibly insecure?”

“You have to put yourself in third grade again. You have to have empathy, be on the side of kids no matter what story you’re telling. You’re an ally.”

“Writing was my refuge during tough times… You can do a lot in two hours.”

From renowned writer, Newbery Medal Winner Kwame Alexander:

“Face your fears and do the work because you love it.”

“Never surround yourself with people who don’t ascribe worth to you and your work.”

Final advice to writers: “Dribble, fake, shoot, miss” many times until you get to “Dribble, fake, shoot, swish.”

From Pura Belpre winner Raul the Third:

“Like Kwame, as a child of color, I also had teachers who made me feel ‘less than.’ I got a lot of inspiration from the focus and dedication of Mexican boxers… You have to choose your heroes.”

“Surround yourself with people who believe in you and your story, and be open to feedback from them…  Create your own gang.”

From renowned National Book Award winner Jacqueline Woodson:

On her attitude toward edits and rewrites: “Here’s my chance to make it better.”

On the question of portraying characters outside of a writer’s identity group: “You can write about people you know, have a relationship with, but if you don’t, don’t do it, because it won’t be authentic.”

“I love being able to create. I love the impact of my books. I can’t imagine doing anything else.”


And now this afternoon, I get to listen to a conversation with acclaimed novelist Jason Reynolds. My cup of inspiration truly does runneth over!




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