Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

Beginnings Old and New: SCBWI Japan Creative Exchange

September 24, 2017

Guest post by Cam M. Sato, Tokyo, Japan

September is a time for beginnings, or so it is with me anyway. Perhaps it’s because I was born at this time of year when summer gives way to autumn. Or maybe it’s because I’ve always loved the start of the school year. In any case, I seem to start new things this time of year, and this year is no exception. Today, on the twenty-fourth day of September, I attended my first SCBWI Creative Exchange in Tokyo, where I had the pleasure of meeting an array of people dedicated to the art of children’s literature.

A diverse and talented group convenes.

A diverse and talented group convenes.

The Creative Exchange is a place where writers, artists, and translators can share their works with peers for review. This particular gathering was a multilingual affair with picture books written in Spanish, Japanese, and English. The artwork ranged from simple lines with just the right splash of watercolors to bring the pictures to life, to pencil sketches, to artwork created on the computer in bold colors with delicate stars. There were even amazing soft-sculpture characters who, we were told, are waiting to inhabit a story.

We heard a story about socks, a story about battling constellations, a story about a mushroom solving a mystery, and a story about a girl who learns to appreciate the things she has right by her side. And we heard real-life stories about writers we had only just met. Some of the writers came from Tokyo, others from as far away as sunny California. Some had been published and others were just beginning their journeys. And one writer I met told me a story about how she had been struck by lightning earlier this year. Talk about inspiration striking!



Authors and Illustrators share the magic in what they’ve read or viewed and offer constructive ideas.


After the meeting, many of us went to lunch at Un Café where we had a delightful choice of options for a reasonable price. But the highlight of the lunch was when Holly Thompson presented the 2017 Crystal Kite Award to Annie Donwerth-Chikamatsu for her middle grade verse novel Somewhere Among, a story about how a biracial Japanese/American girl struggles with the loneliness of being caught between two worlds when the tragedy of 9/11 strikes an ocean away. The award itself was a thing of beauty but paled in comparison to the proud smile on Annie’s face.


SCBWI Japan member Annie Donwerth-Chikamatsu with her Crystal Kite Award

Annie passed her book around for all of us to look at. I wished that I could have gotten lost in it then and there, but that wouldn’t have been fair to the others who wanted a look. Annie recommended the softcover copy over the hardcover, if we wanted to buy one, since she was allowed to make a few changes to her original manuscript. Even after publication, a story is never quite finished, is it?


All in all, it was a  joyous event with positive feedback and thoughtful, constructive criticism that all those who shared could take home and use.


I, for one, can’t wait to get started!

Cam M. Sato is a poet and writer of YA fantasy. She grew up in Vermont, USA, and moved to Japan last September. You can learn more about Cam and her works by visiting