Report Your Points! The New Jersey SCBWI Totally Unofficial Conference Challenge


To all my readers who are not children’s book writers and illustrators, I’m sorry. This post is going to be a little nerdy and weird for you.

Forgive me. Nerdy and weird is what I do best. Especially when spending the weekend at the New Jersey Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Conference for my third (and most fabulous) time. Being surrounded by “my tribe” – people passionate and excited about creating kids’ books and about developing and supporting one another in that process – it’s a great feeling.

And as some of you know, this is the second year I’ve hosted a sort of scavenger hunt at the conference. It’s called the #TUCC, or Totally Unofficial Conference Challenge. You can find all the challenges – from thanking a volunteer to starting a flash mob – in this pdf: 2016 NJ SCBWI Challenge.

For those of you who attended the conference – it’s not too late! Print out a copy and see how many points you got. You’d be amazed at the things you did that earned you points – from collecting pins to talking with agents.  Sure, there were some serious challenge warriors out there this weekend – racking up points with mime leans and multi-cardigan photos, but there are SO MANY PRIZES that you stand a great chance of winning one.

And of course, the best prize is that you came out of your comfort zone. You made a new friend, an important connection. You asked a question you were afraid might be dumb, and instead discovered it opened up a new world of information that LOTS of people wanted to know about. You laughed until you fell down. (It’s ok. It happens to the best of us.)

So, conference attendees, don’t be cheaty and don’t be greedy, but add up your points. Honor system, folks. If you feel like you captured the spirit of the challenge, give yourself the points. We’re writers and illustrators here, we respect artistic interpretation of the rules.

Here’s the important part. In the COMMENTS SECTION, leave:

  1. Your Name
  2. Your Point Total
  3. A favorite conference moment
  4. A way for us to reach you.*

Entries close on June 12th. Shortly thereafter, we will announce the winners, who will get to choose their prize in order of point total.

(*If you prefer not to leave contact info in the comments, you can email it to Katey at

The Prizes include (in no particular order)


  • Multimedia consulting session from author, filmmaker and All The Wonders co-founder Blake Hamilton (Includes review of your current multimedia content and 30 min Skype chat!)
  • One of three amazing coffee cup doodles from Mike Ciccotello! (not for beverage purposes, you guys! This is art!)
  • Manuscript critique by author and PiBoIdMo founder Tara Lazar
  • Manuscript critique by author (and Nerdy Chick) Marcie Colleen
  • Picture book manuscript critique by picture book/chapter book author Ariel Bernstein
  • Picture book or rhyming manuscript critique from author Lori Degman
  • Picture book critique from author Katey Howes (that’s me!)
  • Picture book manuscript critique from author Annie Silvestro
  • Query critique from agent Essie Whiteof Storm Literary Agency
  • Picture book AND query letter critique from author Julie Segal-Walters
  • First 10 pages critique (MG/YA) from author Jen Malone
  • First 10 pages critique (MG/YA/NF) from author Charlotte Bennardo
  • First chapter (MG/YA) critique from former editor/current author Hannah Barnaby (to be redeemed in September 2016.)
  • 10 pages critique (MG/YA) from author Marlo Berliner
  • Chicks Run Wild cake BAKED FOR YOU by author/Nerdy Chick Sudipta Bardhen-Quallen
  • Signed copy of  Mr. Particular from author/illustrator Jason Kirschner
  • Land Shark prize pack from author Beth Ferry
  • Autographed copy of Cat Napped! by author/illustrator and former NJSCBWI Regional Advisor Leeza Hernandez.
  • Signed copy of Wheels of Change by Darlene Beck Jacobsen – plus an opportunity to be featured on her blog!

HUGE thanks to everyone who donated prizes, played along, and to the FANTASTIC conference planners. You guys are worth your weight in gold. Bonus 50 points if you were on the conference staff.

We can’t wait to hear from you about your experiences at NJSCBWI 2016!

Your Challenge Co-Hosts

Katey Howes and Mike Ciccotello


46 thoughts on “Report Your Points! The New Jersey SCBWI Totally Unofficial Conference Challenge

    • I knew you’d get plenty of points! And you helped lots of other people, too, just by wearing awesome literary outfits. I seriously covet that Harry Potter dress. Thanks for participating, and thanks for being you!


  1. Thanks for such a fun way to meet others and get a conversation going. I had a fabulous FIRST conference. Woohoo! My total points = 405. My favorite moment (out of so many) = Vanessa Brantley-Newton bursting into theatre songs at the end of her workshop. 😊 ……But hey, someone’s got to tell me where the stuffed hedgehog was.


  2. Awesome conference & awesome challenge. Thank you for facilitating the networking game. Look forward to seeing you soon!

    1. Patricia Nozell
    2. 230 points
    3. Only one? The graciousness of an agent who stayed late to meet me, after I screwed up on the location. My other – Suzy Ismail’s presentation, and learning afterwards, that she & my daughter share several mutual friends

    Liked by 2 people

  3. So nice to meet you in person this weekend, Katey! Thanks to you and Mike for putting such a fun challenge together!

    1. Martin Segal
    2. 225 points
    3. So hard to choose, but I really loved the standing ovation and overall energy & enthusiasm for Laurie Wallmark’s Crystal Kite!

    Liked by 2 people

    • It was great meeting you at last, Martin! I hope you had a terrific conference. Thanks so much for playing along! (And I’m glad they tracked Laurie down to accept her award! And cry. It was pretty amazing.)

      Liked by 1 person

  4. It was SO WONDERFUL to meet you in person, Katey! Thanks for this great challenge!

    1. Brittany Orrico
    2. 280
    3. There were SO MANY AMAZING MOMENTS, but the first one that came to mind was David Wiesner’s inspirational presentation in which we learned about his creative process and the influence of THE SHINING on TUESDAY. Also an amazing agent who chatted with me after a session about one of my works-in-progress and then brought it up to our table at lunch so we could all brainstorm together. **Also special shout out to Martin Segal for giving me a spare copy of the Totally Unofficial NJSCBWI Challenge when I forgot mine. We should totally give him bonus points for that. 🙂 **

    Liked by 1 person

    • Nice job, Brittany! For a conference newbie, you definitely made the most of the weekend! I’m so glad we finally met in person and that you had such a great time. (And, as ever, I’m glad Martin is such a nice guy.) Thanks for playing along!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. 1. Margaret E. Ikeda
    2. 200
    3. So many moments. I think I’d have to say in the LGBT Workshop when Karl Jones’ slide show included the slide “The First Gay Book I Remember Having An Impact On Me…” followed by a blank slide. The same is true for me; I don’t remember any gay characters in the books I read as a kid (and I read them all!). I’m so glad that’s no longer true and like Vanessa Newton-Bradley said in her diversity workshop, the goal is to have *every* child represented, because children listen to what we write and see what we draw. I hope they’ll be even more representation of people and characters with disabilities and different life experiences (e.g., kids in the foster care system) at the next SCBWI. That’d be great. I can’t wait!
    4. @Mgtei on Twitter

    Liked by 2 people

    • Darshana, it was great to finally meet you IRL. I’m glad you were able to take so much inspiration away from the conference after coming so far! Thank you for playing along, and best of luck to you!


  6. Lauri Meyers, 265 points.
    Now, I felt like I was earning more points than that, but apparently I was hugging and chatting too much!! My favorite moment was introducing a new friend to an agent and forgetting to mention the agent was an agent…yada, yada, hilarity ensues!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Lauri, that’s an awfully good total considering the amount of hugging one can get caught up in over the weekend! I’ll have to get the rest of that story someday. Thanks for playing along and for being generally marvelous!


  7. It was so nice to hang out with you Katey!!! That first night at the bar was awesome! (30 points for staying at the bar past 11… check! 😉 Great job on putting this together!

    1. Sybil Cohen
    2. 270
    3. Oh Wow… I guess that would be, being with my people! I loved that everyone at the conference shares the same love for books as I do. It was so much fun getting to know so many new awesome people! I just love this community!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • It was great to meet you, too, Sybil. I feel like we are kindred spirits! Way to go on the challenge. Thank you for playing along and for being all around awesome!


  8. 1. Julie Segal Walters
    2. 235 (which is WAY more than I was expecting!)
    3. This sounds unoriginal but I’m still mesmerized by David Wiesner’s keynote about hard work! Definitely a highlight! Right up there with meeting you IRL! 🙂
    4. julie dot segal dot walters (at) gmail (dot) com.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. This was so much fun, as was the conference! Lots of great moments and takeaways.

    1. Erica Deel
    2. 270 pts (more than I expected)
    3. So many to choose from, but I have to say being so inspired by Lori Degman’s rhyming PB workshop that, when I woke up at 3 am and couldn’t fall back to sleep, I proceeded to write the twelfth(!) draft of my rhyming manuscript. Was very tired for Conference Day 2, but it was worth it. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Erica, that sounds like a perfect “best conference moment.” I’ll bet Lori will be thrilled to know how she inspired you (and sorry that she kept you up so late!) Thanks for playing along!


  10. 1. Lynnor Bontigao
    2. 275
    3. Lying down on the carpet floor after David Wiesner blew my mnd with the little hidden gems in his book Free Fall
    4. sending contact info via email

    Thank you for the challenges! It made me less nervous meeting people and had fun doing it.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. 1) Justine Ma
    2) 330 (if we’re allowed to count each time I cried tears of joy then my actual total is 780 pts – such an emotional weekend)
    3) Meeting and listening to Vanessa Brantley Newton talk about Diversity because it helped me define my career as a writer. Close second was Lori’s Rhyme workshop with all the pun-ny jokes 😉
    4) Email:

    Thank you for hosting the #TUCC this year! Please host it every year bc it was so fun to participate and it was a great excuse to step outside of our comfort zones and talk cheese with agents and editors 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  12. 1. Carolyn Engle
    2. Question about point total since I did some things (like stand up and sing at lunch/dinner) more than once. Do I add both times or just the first one?
    3. Favorite moment — looking at David Wiesner’s face when I asked him to sign my body. Honestly, there were just too many to choose from! Each class, meal, and conversation with each person there is a highlight.
    4. My e-mail is

    Liked by 1 person

    • Carolyn, you were an amazing competitor! I’d say, add the points for the first time, but let us know how many “extra” points you would have for doing them repeatedly. Thanks for playing with such energy and enthusiasm!!


  13. My comment didn’t get posted! I’ll try again, just in case:

    1. Carolyn Engle
    2. It depends. If I can only count each item once, my score is 440. If I can count each thing I did more than once, like singing at lunch/dinner, thanking a volunteer in interpretive dance, etc., then my score is 600.
    3. Favorite moment was seeing David Wiesner’s expression when I asked him to sign my body in Sharpie. Honestly, though, each person I talked to, each workshop I attended, and each meal and moment at the bar was a highlight.
    4. My e-mail is


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