In the mid-1990s, the New England Regional Team heard that RAs in other parts of the United States were having good luck with informal get togethers, so they began looking for volunteers to plan similar events in New England. In 1995, a series of “Sunday Socials” ran simultaneously in all six New England states. In addition, Jennifer Ericsson coordinated an SCBWI Schmooze at the Dinosaur Paw Bookstore in Fairfield, CT. These events were not as well attended as the RAs had hoped, so they decided to put their energy elsewhere.
In 1999, the Regional Team decided to take another stab at small, informal gatherings around the region. That year, Laurie Murphy planned an SCBWI Schmooze at the Tyler Free Library in Foster, RI; Amanda Marrone hosted an SCBWI Schmooze at Stroudwater Books in Portsmouth, NH; Diane Mayr coordinated an SCBWI Schmooze at the Nesmith Library in Windham, NH, and Marilyn Salerno organized a Critique-nic at Stoddard Park in Holliston, MA. Once again, these events were not as well attended as the RAs had hoped.
In 2011, Kristine Asselin began running her own Meet and Greet events in the Metro West Boston area. Through her dedicated promotional efforts on social media, these events built momentum over time.
By the time Kristine became PAL Coordinator in 2014, her bi-monthly events were well attended, so she suggested developing similar Meet and Greet events in other areas of New England. The Regional Team supported the idea and Kathy Quimby Johnson volunteered to help with this project.
In August 2015, Kristine and Kathy coordinated efforts to offer as many Ice Cream Socials as possible throughout the region, with people gathering at local ice cream stands and restaurants to talk shop, network, and socialize with people who understand what it means to write for children. The success of these events convinced the Regional Team that members were interested in this kind of programming, and they continued to focus on building a network of volunteers to coordinate the events.
By 2016, volunteers were regularly planning local Meet and Greet events for members in Central/Northern Vermont (Kathy Quimby Johnson), Seacoast New Hampshire (Joyce Johnson), North Metro West Boston (Kristine Asselin), Metro West South (Francine Puckly), Southern Connecticut (Michaela MacColla), Western Massachusetts (Sera Rivers), and Rhode Island (Rachel Menard). In addition, Denise Ortakales began overseeing Illustrator Meet and Greets in central New Hampshire.
When Shawn Anderson became an ARA in 2018, he agreed to take on the responsibility for coordinating our region’s thriving Meet & Greet program. Currently, as RA, he is working with a pool of 15+ organizers located across New England, and he is working to recruit even more. Each month between five and nine Meet & Greet events take place throughout the region. They are a great way for members to connect with like-minded people who live nearby. They are also a good way for non-members to learn more about SCBWI and all it has to offer both aspiring and published children’s book creators.
The Regional Team expects these events to continue to be popular in the future.