Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

Kathryn O’Connor Memorial Scholarship


SCBWI-IL Networks serve as a gateway to SCBWI and its membership benefits, with a focus on craft and introducing various aspects of our industry. Network Representatives are responsible for planning and hosting these monthly Networks throughout the Region and are our first connection to our wider community.  Their work is key to SCBWI-Illinois’ outreach and maintaining community statewide.

The Kathryn O’Connor Memorial Scholarship has been established to celebrate work of these Illinois Regional volunteers with a free attendance for one Network Representative to the fall conference. This scholarship is supported by SCBWI-IL. Application Questions from SCBWI-IL Network representatives?: Email Deb Aronson

In Kathy’s honor, we are now accepting donations to the Kathryn O’Connor Memorial Scholarship Award. Please send your tax-deductible donation (payable to SCBWI-IL) to:

P.O. Box 233
Dundee, IL  60118-0233

Remembering Kathy


Heidi Roemer gathered her own memories and those of fellow writers to share this portrait of Kathy:

It was just a simple green postcard displayed on her refrigerator, but to Kathy O’Connor it was a beacon of hope. “CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE GARDENER’S SOUL,” it read, “is holding your manuscript for further consideration.”

As a dedicated children’s writer, Kathy had received similar cards before. Some turned into sales, some not. Her first sale in 1990 was a humorous anecdote to Reader’s Digest. It was six years until her next sale, but Kathy never gave up. She continued with her own writing, while reaching out in various ways to help others.

As an SCBWI NETWORKS Representative, she helped schedule programs for the South Suburbs NETWORKS. She was dedicated to her critique group and often assisted other writer-friends with their manuscripts. as well.

Amie Johnson remembers Kathy not only as a talented writer, but as someone who gave the best critiques. “Once, after reading my story,” Amie shared, “Kathy asked for some clarification. She listened intently as I gave my somewhat defensive account. ‘That makes sense,’ she nodded. ‘You obviously had the idea in your head, but it didn’t get onto the paper, right?’ Kathy taught me that if I had to explain things, then the manuscript still needed revision. “Thanks to her tactfulness, I could laugh at myself. Truly, laughter and joy were her greatest gifts.”

Joan Unterberg shared that “what touched me most about Kathy was her spirit. She loved SCBWI and writing so much. One Thursday after our Coffee Shop meeting, three of us visited her in the hospital. “At that point, Kathy was on morphine and had a feeding tube; she was extremely weak. We made conversation by telling her about the meeting and how everyone sent their best to her. “Barely able to open her lips, I’m almost certain I heard Kathy whisper, ‘I wish I could have been there.’ That was Kathy’s spirit. And it’s Kathy’s spirit that keeps me on task with my writing.”

CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE GARDENER’S SOUL was published recently, but Kathy’s story wasn’t included. If she were still with us, she probably would have been disappointed. but in her wildest dreams, Kathy never would have thought of quitting.

Ruth McGinnis, a reporter for The Regional News, once questioned Kathy about her love for writing and how she handled the numerous rejections. Kathy herself summed it up best: “I wrote what I thought was a good story and I sent it to what I thought was the right publisher. They rejected it and I didn’t write again — for six hours. I’ve learned you can never give up hope.”

Kathryn McHugh O’Connor
July 11, 1953 – January 23, 2001