A Look Back at 13 Years of Children’s Literature Conferences Coordinated by Neysa Jensen: Our last one as coordinators

This weekend is the 8th Annual Idaho Conference on Youth and Children’s Literature and Writing. That’s quite a mouthful. We had to think of a name that encompassed the needs of SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators), the Boise State Department of Literacy, Language and Culture, and ICIRA (Idaho Chapter of the International Reading Association) and for which we could purchase a domain name for cheap. But before we began a joint venture with Boise State in 2009, Neysa Jensen coordinated the first SCBWI event in Boise, So You Want to Write for Children, on March 1, 2003. Neysa has been an organizer and proponent of children’s literature in the Treasure Valley for over 14 years. And this will be the last annual conference that Neysa and I coordinate together. We have both decided that after the conference this Saturday, other capable and enthusiastic writers and organizers can continue the tradition.


I had attended several conferences in Utah and wanted to bring conferences to our area. Neysa let me help out in small ways at first and then I suggested we team with┬áStan Steiner, the head of the┬áBSU Department of Literacy in 2009 and it’s grown every year. Since then we’ve seen several of our local writers become published authors: Angela Ruth Strong, Laura Bingham, Sarah Tregay, Amy Allgeyer, Lana Krumwiede, Miriam Forster, Craig Lew. Let me know if I forgot someone.


Thank you Neysa and Rediscovered Bookshop for making these conferences possible. I’ve learned much about writing, publishing, friendship, communicating, and organizing. And thank you to Monelle Smith and other committee members and Stan Steiner and Maggie Smith from the Department of Literacy, Language and Culture.


As I do with most changes in my life, I write about them. Here’s a look back at the past 13 years.


So You Want to Write for Children: March 1, 2003, Log Cabin Literacy Center

Speaker: Kathleen Duey, author

“It’s not our job to teach children something. Tell good stories with what you want to teach well hidden in the manuscript.”

“SCBWI will teach you to market, but you need to know how to write first. Craft first. Business second.”


Celebration of Children’s Literature: February 21, 2005, Boise High School

Speaker: Jane Kurtz, author

“Write what would make a parent or grandparent put down $16.”

Speaker: Gloria Skurzynski, author

“Understand technology and be creative. Apply technology and utilize emotional content.”

Four librarians who shared their book picks for 2005: Angie Bergstrom Miller, Rubie Gallegos, Marilyn J. White, Rosemary Palmer


Children’s Lit. 101–a day for children’s writers: September 23, 2006

Speaker: Miriam Hees, editor at Blooming Tree Press

“Write great what you know.”

Other speakers: Elaine Ambrose Romano, Sydney Husseman, Lana Krumwiede


Inspiration and Perspiration: September 29, 2007

Speaker: Alisha Niehaus, editor at Dial Books

“Every page needs to propel the story, move it ahead. Rejection letters are part of the industry.”

Speaker: Sydney Salter Husseman, author

“I sold the fourth manuscript, not the first.”

Speaker: Ellen Hopkins, author

“In YA, don’t underestimate readers.”

“Words have power.”

Other speakers: Judy Cox led us in writing exercises and Lana Krumwiede taught about plotting your story.


Southern Idaho Fall Writer’s Day, Journeys from idea to publication to bookstore: September 20, 2008, Boise First United Methodist Church

Speaker: Samantha McFerrin, editor at Harcourt Children’s Books

“I like luscious rhythm.”

Speaker: Carol Lynch Williams, author

“Just write. Don’t stop and self-edit.”

“If I cry, I will buy.”

Other speakers: Sharlee Glenn, Sydney Salter Husseman, Lana Krumwiede


Literature is My Utopia: September 11-12, 2009, Boise State University

This was the year I became a co-coordinator with Neysa. I didn’t have much time for taking notes.

Speaker: Lin Oliver, founder of SCBWI

“Define yourself as a professional and demand to be considered as such by friends, family, yourself.”

Other speakers: Brian Farrey, editor at Flux, Llewellyn Worldwide; Sydney Salter, Amy Cook, Angela Meuser, Emily Wing Smith, Gloria Skurzynski, STan Steiner, Docena Holm, Maggie Chase, Judy Cox


Writing with the Stars: September 11-12, 2010, Boise State University

Speakers: Cheryl Klein, senior editor at Scholastic; Jill Corcoran, associate agent at the Herman agency; authors: Christ Crutcher, Kelly Milner Halls, Amy Allgeyer cook, Sydney Salter, Laura Bingham, Sarah Tregay


Word by Word, 2011 BSU and SCBWI-Utah Southern Idaho Regional Conference: April 15-16, 2011, Boise State University

Speaker: Jennifer Rofe, literary agent with Andrew Brown Agency

“Agents advise their clients. The best offer is not necessarily more money. Think about marketing and connection with the editor.”

Speaker: Lori Benton, Vice President and Publisher for Scholastic’s trade publishing division

“Hone your craft. Writing is a muscle. Exercise it.”

Other speakers: Dr. Maggie Chase, Angela Kerber, Judy Cox, Carol Lynch Williams, Sydney Salter


Read, wRite, Revise: April 20-21, 2012, Boise State University

Speaker: Alane Ferguson, author

“Write from your experience.”

“Be not afraid of revision.”

Speaker: Gloria Skurzynski, author

“If rejection kills you, I would have died 57 times.”

From Fun with Feathers workshop with Sherry Dismuke and Dr. Susan Martin, I wrote this poem about a feather.


Veiny, Radiant

Dipping, Flowing, Bleeding

Stiff as a quill

Ink scratcher

Other speakers: Kate Schafer Testerman, owner of kt literary; Kate Kae Myers, Matthew Kirby, Sarah Tregay

Create Writing Connections: April 26-27, 2013, Boise State University, combined with ICIRA

Speaker: Anne Osterlund, author

“When you start a new scene or chapter, set the scene. Put your character in a place.”

Speaker: Sara Megibow, agent with Nelson Literary Agency

“Avoid comparing your career path to others.”

Speaker: Karl Jones, Assistant Editor at Grosset & Dunlap/PSS!

Karl quoted Rollo May: “If you do not express your original ideas, if you do not listen to your own being, you will have betrayed yourself.”

Other speakers: Mary Ann Cahill, Scott Cook, Sherry Dismuke, Miriam Forster, Jennifer Garnder, Meliah McCulley, Sherry Meidell, Kristin Oostra, Susan Reid, Roger Stewart, Ph.D., Michael Strickland, Lee Ann Tysseling, Diane Williams

Tell Me a Story, 2014 BSU, ICIRA, and SCBWI-Utah/Southern Idaho Regional Conference: April 25-26, 2014, Boise State University

Speaker: Jennifer Nielsen, author

“Start a scene with the character in trouble.”

Speaker: Melissa Miller, editor at Katherine Tegen Books

“Perseverance + Talent =Luck.”

Other speakers: Susan Martin, Craig Lew, Dr. Meleah McCulley, Jessica Nelson, Petros Panaou, Elizabeth Swearingen, Ed.D., Gregory Taylor, Lee Ann Tysseling, Jamie Armstrong, Mary Ann Cahill, Elissa Cruz, Sherry Dismuke, Kelly Gallagher, Jennifer Gardner, M.Ed., Byron Heath, Gabriel Horn, Neysa Jensen

7th Annual Idaho Conference on Youth and Children’s Literature and Writing, 2015 BSU and SCBWI-Utah/Southern Idaho: April 24-25, 2015, Boise State University, Theme of Diversity

Speaker: Matt de la Pena

“Character driven, not issue driven.”

Other speakers: Sean McCarthy, owner of Sean McCarthy Literary Agency; Kristyn Crow, Suzanne Morgan Williams, Kate Kae Myers, Amy Cook, Gloria Skurzynski, Kristiana Gregory, Sarah Tregay

8th Annual Idaho Conference on Youth and Children’s Literature and Writing, 2016 BSU Department of Literacy, Language and Culture and SCBWI-Utah/Southern Idaho: April 15-16, 2016

Speakers will be N.D. Wilson, Harold Underdown, Valynne E. Maetani, Angela Ruth Strong, Sarah Tregay, Craig Lew, Amy Allgeyer

Check it out at IDCCLW.com









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