There’s something that’s always half-bugged me about the SCBWI annual conference in Los Angeles.
It’s the “Los Angeles” part.
I say “half-bugged” because I freely admit that I like visiting California. The California mystique — sold to us by our popular culture ever since the first covered-wagon puppet show during the Gold Rush — has always felt very real to me.
One of my favorite parts of the annual conference two years ago was swimming in the hotel pool early in the morning, gazing up at the MGM building and the clear blue sky and just enjoying the feeling of being in California. (When I got a good horizontal look at the sky as I was flying home a few days later, I realized just how wrong I’d been about “clear” and “blue.”)
But why, when SCBWI has members throughout the US, does the conference happen in the same city year after year?
I assume that the arguments for keeping the conference in Los Angeles — and in the same hotel — every year are based on habit and convenience. SCBWI is headquartered in L.A., and so it’s logistically simpler for SCBWI staff to manage the conference if it takes place in their hometown. And years of experience with the Century Plaza mean that both SCBWI and the hotel should have the conference down to a fairly predictable science.
The downside, however, is that attendance skews extremely heavily toward Southern Californians. And what’s wrong with that? Nothing — if we’re talking about a single year. That’s bound to happen in whatever city an event like this is held — a disproportionate number of locals will attend.
But while I said yesterday that attending the SCBWI annual conference is not essential to anyone’s career, it certainly can help. And there are hundreds, even thousands, of children’s writers and illustrators located in that vast expanse between the sites of the summer and winter (New York) conferences.
So, just a thought: What would happen if the conference moved each year, or rotated among a handful of more centrally located cities — say, Kansas City, Dallas, Denver, Omaha, and Memphis? Would the conference be more affordable? Would it draw a more diverse crowd? A larger crowd? Would it strengthen the industry — and SCBWI’s membership — as a whole?