Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

Sketch and Word Crawl: Winter Stories

Post by Mari Boyle, Tokyo, Japan

A new year brings new opportunities and new projects, which is exactly what we discovered at our first SCBWI Japan meeting of 2020. On January 19, we gathered at one of our favorite children’s bookstores, the Book House Café in Jimbocho, Tokyo. We welcomed a few new participants, eager to find out a little more about the kidlit scene in Japan, and after wishing each other happy new year, we shared news and goals. It seems 2020 bodes well for a number of our members, with newly released publications already on the shelves, and other releases scheduled for later in the year. Stay tuned for a member news post! Many of us were also preparing to submit work to the upcoming SCBWI Japan KidLit Create Day, which will be a great opportunity to get work seen by agents and editors, and also the chance to get top tips and advice from a range of industry experts.


We then considered the theme of the sketch and word crawl—winter. In addition to discussing some of the stories that were suggested to us as background reading prep, a few people brought copies of winter themed picture books for us to see.  We went on to reminisce about our favorite winter stories, including classics such as Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Matchgirl, and Ezra Jack Keats’s A Snowy Day. Winter stories sparked a nostalgic feel, transporting us back to childhoods, the joy and excitement of snow and the stories we read.


Together with the reading list, there were ten prompt words to spark ideas around the theme of winter. Some of us shared snippets of writing, story ideas and sketches that had been prompted by the words. I found this exercise very useful as it got me back into story writing mode. There are a wealth of reasons not to write, especially over the holidays, but the mentor texts and the word prompts seemed to nudge me out of my writing hibernation. Exercises like this can help creators to develop a basic story idea, a scene as part of a bigger piece of work, a tentative sketch or series of illustrations. They may or may not lead anywhere, but perhaps just the exercise in and of itself can be useful in honing those creative skills. There are many websites that provide writing prompts, and you can access the SCBWI Japan list of books and word prompts we used in this session here.


A little tip: if you’re having difficulties finding English-language mentor texts in Japan, search on YouTube; there are many videos covering picture books and middle grade and YA novels.


SCBWI Japan members at the Book House Café


Here’s to a very happy and productive new year!

Mari Boyle is a writer and teacher.