Holly Thompson and the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators

In this Interview, Holly shares some of her roles and responsibilities being the Regional Advisor of the Tokyo Chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (www.scbwi.jp).

Click on the image to be taken to the website of SCBWI Tokyo

Holly, what does it mean to be a Regional Advisor for the SCBWI? What are some of the tasks that you are expected to do as Regional Advisor?

A Regional Advisor (RA) oversees an SCBWI regional chapter and is ultimately responsible for all that the chapter does. SCBWI has over 70 regional chapters throughout the world, including ten in Asia. Of course, in larger chapters with hundreds of members there are more volunteers available and even committees to help run conferences, produce newsletters, take care of membership matters and so forth, but in smaller regions such as those in Asia, the RA ends up taking on many different tasks. My current responsibilities for SCBWI Tokyo include planning and running events, supervising website content, editing the newsletter, communicating with members, overseeing critique groups, and plenty more. Now that we have over 60 members I hope to begin delegating more of these tasks!

What are some of the challenges and the joys of being Regional Advisor?

The joys are the extraordinary connections we make being a part of this incredibly supportive family of authors and illustrators that is SCBWI. Running events is certainly demanding of my time, but I have had such incredible opportunities to meet and learn from top authors, illustrators, agents and editors who present at our events. I learn from every SCBWI event I attend, whether in Japan or elsewhere in the world. Here in Japan we run monthly events throughout most of the year, so since I’ve only missed three or four events in my six years as regional advisor of SCBWI Tokyo, I’ve had many valuable learning opportunities.

How would you describe the community of English-language writers in Tokyo? Do you get to meet regularly?

Tokyo has long had an active community of English-language writers. With email and the Internet, the number of writing groups has grown and there is plenty happening, including an annual Japan Writers Conference (the next one will likely be in October 2012 in Kyoto). SCBWI Tokyo formed in 2003 and began holding events in 2004; I became Co-Regional Advisor in 2005, then Regional Advisor. Members live all over Japan, in Kyushu, Shikoku, Honshu and Hokkaido. There is a separate chapter for Okinawa. Members come from quite a distance for our conferences, and we now have a Translation Group that focuses on Japanese to English translation of children’s and young adult literature.

For authors/illustrators who may be a little wary about joining organizations such as SCBWI, what would you say to be one of the advantages of being part of such a Society of writers and illustrators?

It is vital for authors and illustrators, whether pre-published or published, to connect withothers who are writing and illustrating, to be part of a community of like-minded souls striving to improve their craft. It is so important to attend conferences, push yourself to try new genres and styles, and learn from others. SCBWI offers so many opportunities to develop as an author or illustrator, from feedback on manuscripts and illustrations, to getting tips on technique from professionals, to joining in discussion boards on everything from manuscript structure and portfolio content to contracts and public appearances.

What are some of the major activities that SCBWI Tokyo has been involved in for 2011? What are some of your plans for 2012?

Image taken from the SCBWI Tokyo Chapter website - click on image to be taken to websource.

In 2011 we had a cut paper illustration event, creative exchanges for face-to-face feedback, a sketch and word crawl at a natural history museum, a colored pencil workshop, a writers’ night, agent day with literary agent Mary Kole of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency, and an event focusing on the revision and translation of the middle-grade book J-Boys. In 2012 we’ve already planned more creative exchanges, a writers’ night, and other events are still in the works. Visit our website www.scbwi.jp for updates!

Thank you so much Holly for your time.


  1. Joanna

    Yay! Lots of great things happening in SCBWI Japan. I love hearing what is up in other regions!

  2. Annie Donwerth Chikamatsu

    Thank you, Holly, for all that you do for us!

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