At this time last week I was looking at the conference schedule and anticipating the heartfelt and honest keynote of Lisa Williams Kline, the final presentation of the 25th anniversary. It is always both a joy and a sadness to come to the end. We start the weekend on Thursday with pick ups of the intensive faculty, dinner and the short sweet time to savor all the work that has gone into making this weekend happen. Not forgotten, but put aside, are the mistakes in scheduling, the long hours, the continual communication, the problems with registration…the meal is cooked, it is time to sit and eat.

With a sold out crowd and many on the wait list, there is a certain amount of satisfaction in opening the conference officially Saturday morning and this year, with the extraordinary voice of Gary Schmidt leading the charge for us to remember always the children, to cherish, to tell the truth, that there is not one truth but many because there is not one child in one situation but many children in different situations and we as writers and illustrators are there to serve their stories.

When we ask our presenters, especially the editors, agents, art directors, we ask for a craft presentation. How do you describe voice? What is pacing and how does it add suspense? What is the structure of a story? Our PAL authors have proposed and based on what we have in space, and track we choose. It is difficult and yet not.

I get that we disappoint some. There’s not enough for illustrators. There should be more on chapter books. Why do you do mainly categories and not genres? Like anyone else developing and delivering a conference for individuals in the children’s lit field, we are limited by what is presented to us and what time we have to schedule. Sometimes I think, if we could eliminate first pages and first impressions, then….but I think there would be a boycott of the conference.

It is definitely not~bye, farewell, all done! Now it is one week later. The conference paraphernalia is accounted for and put on the shelves. The finances are tallied and the long report required by the main office is almost complete. An event report is required on the regional team list and that is done. Certificates of those who won contests, but did not attend, have been mailed out, as well as checks for contracts met.  A email blast on the conference wrap up has been completed and sent and, yes, there are still questions and emails have, too, been answered. My house is cleaned after being neglected for some days and the laundry is done!  Still to come is the tallying of the evaluations and sending to the faculty.

While a part in the back of my brain rails against the time spent in followup, I do remind myself that this is a time to reflect on what we can do better. To look at all the successes that have come from these conferences this team has delivered for this region- nine now for me.

This was the 25th conference for SCBWI Carolinas, the first conference in 1972 run by Fran Davis and we value the traditions set by Fran and Earl when he joined her in jointly running SCBWI Carolinas.  And, we are not done. We have three webinars upcoming and 2018 to initiate.

Not a bad 25th celebratory year!