I’m headed to one of the largest children’s book writing conferences in the world: the SCBWI Winter Conference (why our annual winter conference is in NY [where it’s supposed to be 8° this weekend] and the summer conference is in LA, I’ll never understand, but that’s another topic.) And OVER A THOUSAND fellow writers and illustrators will be there too. The event boasts many top (dare I say famous) editors, agents, art directors, authors & illustrators in the children’s publishing world. It’s going to be a fantastic few days of learning, inspiration, and friend making.
The large mix of attendees is weighted a little heavily towards the beginner, with many in the intermediate and many many in what I’d call the “seasoned professional” category. The NY conference is a little different from other SCBWI conferences in that, given the proximity to so many publishing houses, it practically rains editors and agents. You’ll see them at conference keynotes, intensives, panels, awards ceremonies, heck, even elevators. Some of them just show for the Art Show or Gala Dinner. Many of them are either new or overworked and don’t travel much, so you won’t see them elsewhere.
If you’ve never been, and have wondered if it’s worth it, I have to give it a hearty YES YES, two cramped writing thumbs up. And not just because I love my NY roots and will find any excuse to go back. But because it’s a writing experience like no other. It’s not a pore-over-your-workshop-notes-and-guarantee-yourself-an-aha-moment. It’s a wow-I’m-really-a-writer-surrounded-by-other-writers-and-this-is-where-I-want-to-be-moment. If you don’t have one of those while you’re there, well, you might not be a writer after all. And that’s OK, too. Isn’t that an important learning moment as well? No matter what you walk away with, I promise you won’t regret your decision to attend. There’s a reason a thousand people from around the world will be at this thing.
Now if you happen to be one of these thousands of fellow conference attendees this week or sometime in the future, and are fearing for your life because you’d rather be in your jammies creating in the privacy of your home and not in the middle of a grand ballroom surrounded by all these cat ladies, here are some conference tips to maximize your trip.
- You’re not going to get a contract (seriously, toss that thought right now), but you WILL make contacts. These connections might lead to a contract some day. But don’t pressure yourself, or others. Listen. Learn. Be present. Follow some new people on Twitter and Facebook (follow this blog!). It’s kind of like college-you aren’t really there to memorize the Periodic Table; you’re Continue reading
There are some sneaky things going on in the writing world that you might not find sneaky. But I do. And I’m calling it out.
Writing contests. Mostly the kinds where you send in unpublished works.
It seems everyone and their mother, literally their mother, has some sort of reader’s or writer’s choice award. All you have to do is pay a small fee, say $19 to enter your manuscript or book into the contest. WHY ARE YOU PAYING MONEY TO ENTER A WRITING CONTEST? At least at the state fair you get a free fair pass in exchange for your peach pie entry fee. If it’s for charity, of course, yes yes pony up. But otherwise NO. As in NO.
What do you win? Let’s dissect a bit.
It might be bragging rights that you won a writing contest. That’s OK. It doesn’t have to be a trip to Sweden to accept the award.
Maybe it’s simple a ribbon or actual award/plaque. Fine. Still not a reason to cough up dough. Don’t tell me they are charging you to cover the cost of the actual award. Oh please.
Why would you pay money to say someone liked your unpublished story? Will it help you move forward, professionally, in some way? Really? Don’t fork over cash just to have your ego massaged. Volunteer somewhere if you feel the need for that kind of ego boost. Or I can tell you: You are a good person. You have value. Your writing is great. I think you’ll amount to something someday. Really. I believe in you. Please don’t waste your money.
Ask yourself these questions:
Ah, so much went on at the international conference that I’m still basking in the fruitfulness. I’m pretty sure that’s not an expression, but you know what I mean. I’ve tweeted out much of the greatness. I’ve culled some more juicy tidbits to share, in random order:
1. Webinars are popular and great for those farther away from the masses. Expect to see more.
2. Webinars are NOT a replacement of in-person conferences, workshops, or gatherings. They are in addition to them. Nothing beats face to face contact.
3. Editors and agents find/book authors and illustrators at conferences, people they wouldn’t otherwise hear from. Repeatedly. Attend roundtables, submit your work for critique. The additional cost is worth it.
4. With the field so crowded, editors and agents are looking for something that “blows them away.” Really good no longer cuts it.
5. There’s no award for speed in this industry. Give your work the time it deserves.
6. Hardcovers, after a bit of a slump, are on the rise!
7. Picture books are getting shorter, funnier…”an economy of text.”
and, my favorite takeaway from the enter conference:
8. “The importance of what we’re doing will never go away”
Thoughts? Comments? Bring ’em.
Ah, the beauty of Fall. Crisp apples, hayrides, upcoming family visits, free Halloween candy (shush, it’s not stealing, it’s a mommy tax).
But also, it’s Picture Book Idea Month!
Yes, I’m a pledged participant (again)!
This is a free club challenge, if you will, where those that sign up agree to come up with one picture book idea everyday for the month of Nov. Sounds easy, right? HA. I dare you!
You don’t write a picture book every day, you “simply” create an idea for one. It’s like NaNoWriMo only it’s for the children’s book industry. There are other programs in Jan and Feb for you to hone those ideas and sculpt them into manuscripts; more on them later.
Dedication is key. Well, so is creativity, but I truly believe creativity can be cultivated. It doesn’t have be an innate skill you were born with. You can become creative if you put the effort in and learn. [Shout out to Malcolm Gladwell and his Outliers concept]
The main reason I love this challenge is because it forces daily effort and commitment to writing. Carpools, soccer games, messy kitchens…they are all gonna be there. So will writing time, if you choose to make it so.
Here’s to creativity, dedication, and overall authorship joy.