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Conferences, Festivals, Bookfairs and Other Opportunities for Writers to Eat

Emma Walton Hamilton / Blog  / Conferences, Festivals, Bookfairs and Other Opportunities for Writers to Eat

Conferences, Festivals, Bookfairs and Other Opportunities for Writers to Eat

Our MFA in Writing and Literature team spent the week in Denver at the annual AWP (Association of Writers and Writing Programs) conference. This got me thinking about the value of conferences to writers, and – a blog post is born!

There are essentially two different types of conferences that children’s book authors should be aware of:

1)    the Sales and Marketing kind, at which booksellers, librarians, educators and publishers gather to confer, and most importantly, shop

2)    the Professional Deveopment/Educational kind, at which authors and illustrators gather to learn from one another and to network.

The first category encompasses the following essential book fairs, expos and festivals:

BEA/Book Expo America – Once a year, every May. Primarily for the trade –  for bookseller’s and publishers to do their “shopping” and promoting to one another. Librarians and educators also frequent BEA.  Authors should be sure their books are being represented there.

SCBWI/Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators – 2 major fairs a year, one in the spring and one in the fall. The fairs are usually in New York, but there are local chapters which send out newsletters and host events that authors should be sure to take advantage of. You can find out more at

ALA/American Library Association – One enormously important annual fair, attended by librarians, educators and authors from all over the country. Bear in mind that ALA is also in charge of some of the most influential children’s book awards, such as the Caldecott and Newberry.

Bologna Book Fair – Primarily about selling rights to the international market.

Other major national events in the industry include the LA Times Festival of Books in April ( ), TLA (the Texas Library Association) ( and the San Francisco Book Festival ( – and of course, on a very local basis, there are always annual author events at local schools, bookstores and libraries, plus writers workshops, book fairs, presentations, and signings that may be worthwhile to pursue in your own district.

The second category is all about professional development and your own learning curve. These conferences are strictly for writers to learn from one another, and from editors, agents and publishers in their genre. Many of these offer credit, and afford opportunities to network and build connections that might otherwise be elusive. Some examples:

AWP – The Association of Writers and Writing Programs, which celebrates authors, teachers, writing programs, literary centers, and small press publishers. One of the biggest and liveliest literary gatherings in North America.

The Southampton Children’s Literature Conference – Sponsored by Stony Brook Southampton’s MFA in Writing and Literature. Part of the acclaimed Southampton Writers Conferences (which also include fiction, memoir, poetry, playwriting and screenwriting), and rapidly becoming one of the best writers conferences in the industry. Full disclosure: I’m the director of, and teach for, this Children’s Literature Conference.

There are also a number of other statewide children’s literature and writing conferences that can be found by Googling “children’s literature conferences” or “writing conferences.”

Writing can be a lonely business, so wherever you are drawn to, confer, confer, confer!

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