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By Natasha Khan Kazi

October 22, 2022, marked the return of Writers Day at the Skirball Cultural Center, hosted by SCBWI Los Angeles and CenCal. I was thrilled to be back in person with the SoCal kid lit community. With smiles, under our masks, we welcomed a day of craft, community, and book-ish costumes.

The unusually cool temperature blew in all the fall feels. Attendees were invited to dress in costume or decorate their Covid safety masks to celebrate the season. I seized the opportunity to channel Elphaba from Wicked. Celebrity sightings included Piggie from Elephant and Piggie, Reading Rainbow Butterfly, and a man riding a dinosaur.

After registration, writers of different genres and career phases enjoyed a warm cup of coffee and talked shop in the courtyard. The kid lit community never fails to be friendly, passionate, and generous with advice. I met a transplant from a small farm town in Wisconsin and an L.A. native who watched the city change over a half century.

The programming began with two keynote speakers, agent Alex Slater and Scholastic editor Orlando Dos Reis, demystifying the publishing industry. They were followed by a panel, “Gremlins, Goblins, and Trolls – Facing Down your Demons,” featuring authors Toni Gallagher, Rebecca Langston-George, Andrea J. Loney, Sue Ganz-Schmitt, and Joseph Taylor. They shared advice about a topic everyone can relate to: overcoming the fears that hold us back in the author’s journey.

During lunch, attendees had the opportunity to sit with the Writers Day faculty. Andrea J. Loney sat at my table and left me inspired by her writing and her commitment to literacy. She works closely with Reading to Kids, an L.A.-based nonprofit. Side note, the Skirball chocolate chip cookies (gluten-free and gluten-full) were decadent and delicious!

Before the post-lunch food coma could set in, attendees picked two of four breakout sessions, which included topics on querying, craft, and marketing. For my breakout sessions, I had the pleasure of discussing “vile villains” with Orlando Dos Reis and “weaving a magic carpet of place” with author Mitali Perkins.

The day concluded with SCBWI awards, prizes, and a keynote speech from Mitali Perkins, who brought the house down with her witty, insightful, and inspiring talk. As a Bengali immigrant, I never imagined seeing the Bengali partition referenced in an SCBWI keynote. I felt so seen!

Natasha Khan Kazi (left) and Mitali Perkins (right).
Natasha Kazi (left) and Mitali Perkins (right).

Thank you to Nutschell Windsor, Sally Jones Rogan, and all the team members for bringing this unique experience to L.A. and creating a positive and productive space for kid lit writers.

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Natasha Khan Kazi was born in Bangladesh, raised in Texas and Pennsylvania, and now lives in California. She writes and illustrates books for young readers, including her debut picture book, Moon’s Ramadan. Her creative work is rooted in empathy, diversity, and childhood joy. She is a 2022 Highlights Foundation Muslim Storyteller Fellow. Natasha’s second picture book will be released in 2024 with Versify/HarperCollins. Learn more about Natasha and her books at www.natashakhankazi.com and on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram.

Images provided by Natasha Khan Kazi.