Posted by: Kathy Temean | April 17, 2012

Conference Volunteering

The article below was written by Donna Taylor and was printed in 2011 Winter Issue of Sprouts Magazine.  I thought everyone would like to read what she wrote. 

It’s February. I receive my first email announcing registration for the annual NJ SCBWI Conference held in June. I get that familiar twinge of anticipation. Over the next months, then weeks, then days, conference emails arrive with goodies: updates on conference and faculty, forms for workshop/critique choices, and requests for raffle donations. The email addressing volunteer tasks gives only an “end flap” glimpse of the work behind organizing a conference of this magnitude.

For years I opted against volunteering due to obstacles: distant proximity to the event, health issues, financial restrictions and, like most people, an overflowing to-do list. As an attendee, each year I’d watch smiling volunteers hustling about, wistful to be one of them—to help and be involved.

This year circumstances enabled me to finally say “Yes!” Having done so, I am now a NJ SCBWI volunteer for life! Obstacles? What obstacles? I am hooked and I am not alone! Having surveyed a group of volunteers, from newbies to vets, the common threads make evident what a positive experience it can be.

An overall sense of pride in our New Jersey Chapter trumpets loudly, along with the desire to be helpful to attendees, but especially our fearless leaders, Kathy Temean and Laurie Wallmark, who work hard to benefit our members year-round.

Unlike experiences I’ve had volunteering in other venues, in which ego and power trips reign, this kindred kingdom is one of cooperation and a common sense of purpose. The result is a well-organized, successful and pleasant experience for all.

Being involved in any Chapter event throughout the year expands opportunity to know other members and industry professionals on a more personal level; more relationship “seeds” are likely to be planted. In reference to the nervousness that can accompany meeting editors and agents, Sheri Oshins pointed out becoming more comfortable speaking with them, having realized “they are people too, even though to us, they feel like rock stars!” Volunteering can sometimes get you a “backstage pass.”

As a volunteer, you leave gratified and fulfilled having participated. Kelly Calabrese stated that it “makes you a part of the conference fabric, woven into both the learning and social functions.” In agreement, Janet Hammond “felt like more a part of the conference rather than just a spectator.” Along with others, Beth Ann Bogert acknowledged that “life is much richer when you become involved, richer friendships and community.”

There’s a euphoric essence that permeates a conference which focuses on writing and illustrating for children. Perhaps because, at its heart, the very nature of the industry is to teach, guide and entertain youth. Attending the NJ SCBWI Annual Conference is like visiting Oz; lending a hand lets you behind the curtain. I came away richer, with a treasure chest of new friends, purpose and possibilities. And I second Diana Patton in professing I wouldn’t have wanted to miss the email-of-thanks from “The Appreciation Fairy” (a.k.a. Ame Dyckman)!

Volunteering for our New Jersey Chapter has become a priority on my to-do list.

If you attending the June conference, please look for an e-mail from Donna this week giving you the list of tasks where we need help.  Right now I am adding jobs to the list.  Even if you told me earlier in the year that you wanted to help this year, please make sure you respond.  This has been a crazy year for me and you could have slipped through the cracks very easily.

If you aren’t attending the conference and probably never will find yourself in the New Jersey area, you should consider helping your local SCBWI chapter.  I have made so many life-long friends through the organization and friends who have the same interest as you do are priceless.

Talk tomorrow,



  1. Actually, Kathy, I think this was from 2010, but it all still rings true for the many volunteers that make the conference what it is 🙂


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