Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

Staying Connected with a Remote Creative Exchange

Post by Mari Boyle, Tokyo, Japan

Over the past few months, we have all made adjustments to our lives. For many of us, working, learning, and socializing have become digitized. SCBWI Japan also moved to an online platform for our first creative exchange of the year on Saturday, May 30th.

Participants in the remote Creative Exchange


After one or two minor connection glitches, adjustments of volume and cameras, we began our meeting as always by introducing ourselves. It was wonderful to see familiar and new faces attending this virtual meeting. In all we had nine members join, from around Japan, and other parts of the world. This was certainly an advantage of the online format for those who can’t routinely make it to Tokyo. In fact, it was one of the few times our entire SCBWI Japan Regional Team was able to attend, with Mariko Nagai and Naomi Kojima (Illustrator Co-ordinator) from Tokyo, Holly Thompson (Co-Regional Advisor) from the U.S., and Avery Fischer Udagawa (Translator Coordinator) from Thailand.

Having completed our round up of greetings we got down to business, sharing and critiquing our current works in progress (WIP). Usually, during these critique sessions, the author remains silent, encouraged to listen and consider what is being said before responding. On this occasion Mariko Nagai, our chair and Co-Regional Advisor, suggested we use this session more as a workshopping exercise. So, before others commented on our work, we were asked to specify what help we wanted regarding our WIP. Some points were general: “How is this as an opening chapter?” “How do the characters feel to you?” “Is it too young or too old for the target group?” Other questions were specific–”How did this scene work?” “Should I take out/ add extra details here?” “Is this section clear?”

We had a full range of manuscripts to discuss, including picture book, middle grade, YA, and translations. Creative Exchanges are always a great opportunity to read beyond your own category or genre. They offer a chance to learn from writers with skills and knowledge in categories you may soon consider trying.

There was also discussion about wider publishing issues, such as how open publishers are to addressing so-called sensitive topics in picture books or biographies of lesser-known individuals. Some were specific to our group regarding how far writers should go to make translations or stories that are set in Japan more relatable to Western readers. (See Andrew Wong’s post on the SCBWI Japan Translation Group blog for more on this theme from the meeting).

The online format of the meeting did not limit the group’s ability to share ideas, opinions and know-how. We hope, of course, that the current pandemic, which has resulted in widespread policies of physical distancing, will soon come to an end, but should the next meeting of SCBWI Japan be an online format, hopefully you will be able to join in from the comfort of wherever you are best able to access a decent Wi-Fi signal.

In the meantime, visit the SCBWI homepage for #BlackLivesMatter resources, more digital workshops and events, and check out the SCBWI YouTube Vault, which has video clips from key speakers of past SCBWI conferences.


Mari Boyle is a writer and a teacher.