Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

Dear SCBWI: Epistolary Stories Sketch and Word Crawl

Event Write-Up 

Post by Mari Boyle, Tokyo, Japan


On January 28, 2019, SCBWI Japan members and friends gathered at the Book House Café in Jinbocho, Tokyo, for the first meeting of the New Year. Our Sketch and Word Crawl event focused on epistolary stories—telling stories through letter writing. In keeping with the theme, the rest of this event round up is in the style of a letter.


Dear SCBWI Japan Friends,

I hope you’re well. I just wanted to let you know about the January meeting we had. The weather was lovely, a bit cold but wonderful winter blue skies. The Book House Café where we met up is fabulous. You really must check it out if you’re ever in Tokyo.


Anyway, after everyone grabbed a drink, we made our introductions and settled into groups of writers and illustrators. I sat with the writers and we started by discussing what we want to achieve in 2019. To be honest, it’s a little scary saying your goals out loud, but it’s helpful, and hopefully everyone will keep pushing me to finish my book this year! One of the issues that came up though was how difficult it is to set aside time for writing. The eternal dilemma – do you write for a short time every day, or set aside big chunks of time when you get the chance? Tough choice.


Then we talked about the books that were featured on the reading list here.The variety of books that use letter writing to tell stories is fascinating. This got us thinking about the challenges of using this style, especially as most people, and children in particular, don’t really write letters anymore. Could you write a picture book based on emails or text messages? Not sure.


We looked through other books that people brought, had a bit of lunch, chatted about ways we’ve included, or want to include, letters or messages in our writing, and a few of us shared some work we’d brought with us based on the prompt words we were given beforehand. Always love the sharing part. You wouldn’t believe the talent in this group.


The illustrator group also looked at the books on the reading list, and discussed what they liked about them. Then they did a quick three-minute sketch exercise using the prompt words before sharing drawings they had brought with them. Apparently one of the illustrators said that although she likes to write letters, she found it hard creating illustrations based on the letter writing theme, but after seeing other illustrators’ approaches she began to develop a few ideas. Yoko and Kazumi both said the exercise triggered new story ideas and, with their permission, I’ve included their sketches. Aren’t they amazing?


Illustration © Yoko Yoshizawa (website)


Illustration © Kazumi Wilds (website)


Sadly, all too soon it was time to go, so we got together for our group photo. Doesn’t everyone look great?

2019 SCBWI Japan Sketch and Word Crawl Participants

Remember we usually have meetings every month, and if you want to join just check out the calendar for what’s on. We’d love to see you there.

All the best,