Friday, August 10, 2012

Oh The Places You’ll Go

When Miranda Paul, founder of Rate Your Story, asked me to write about the benefits of attending conferences and workshops, I thought I'd post it here too.  I figured it would be easy to write - after all, I’ve been to a zillion of them (a slight exaggeration)!  I love going to conferences but, until I sat down to write this post, I never really thought about why. So, I thought back to the different conferences I’d attended, from my local SCBWI monthly meeting to our statewide full-day conference to the SCBWI LA four day mega-conference, and thought about what I had gained from them.  

Below, I’ve listed the benefits of attending conferences, based on my experiences. I don’t want to rate their importance (it will vary depending on the conference), so I’ve put them in alphabetical order by title.  I've just returned from the 41st Annual SCBWI LA Conference and I can honestly say, I experienced every one of these things while there.  Read more about the conference happenings on the SCBWI Conference Blog.

Are You My Mother? 
I go to conferences to find an editor or agent who will be a perfect fit for me and my stories. Don’t be shy - introduce yourself - put yourself out there. Most editors and agents I’ve met at conferences have been very kind and open to meeting attendees - just make sure you’re not trying to strike up a conversation while they’re on the way to their session or the washroom! One perk of most conferences is, it allows you to jump over the slush pile and submit directly to the speakers! ** 

Caps For Sale
I go to conferences to learn how to market my books. In addition to gaining tips from successful marketers, at some events, you can display and/or sell your books. 

Curious George 
I go to conferences to learn more about different genres. I signed up for Sonya Sones’ Novel in Verse intensive at this year’s LA conference, even though I’d never read one before. In preparation, I read some novels in verse - both by Sonya and other authors. I loved the genre so much, I’m working on my own novel in verse now! (I really tried to find a way of writing that without so many “novel in verse” but I couldn’t - sorry!) 

50 Shades of Grey 

I’ll save that for another post :-) 

George and Martha 

I go to conferences to meet other writers, many of whom have and will become close friends. Some have also become wonderful critique partners and great resources and supports. Hopefully, they’d say the same about me :-) There’s nothing like spending extended periods of time, from several hours to several days, with people who understand your passion for writing. Writing can be very isolating, so get out there and mingle! 

The Giving Tree 

I go to conferences to learn from others and to help others. One thing I’ve learned is that children’s writers and illustrators are some of the most generous, giving people I’ve ever met! Just look at what SCBWI founders, Lin Oliver and Steve Mooser, have created for their fellow artists!

Harold and the Purple Crayon 

As a writer, I typically attend conference sessions about writing, but getting an illustrator’s side of the story can be extremely insightful and helpful! So, when choosing which sessions to attend, don’t write-off (pun intended) sessions about illustration.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas 

I go to conferences for the professional critiques. The feedback is not always positive, but I’ve found value in every critique I’ve had - good or bad. Whether it’s a written critique or a face-to-face, remember the comments are one person’s opinion - think them through thoroughly (how’s that for alliteration?) before making changes based on their comments.

The Little Engine That Could 

I go to conferences to motivate myself to keep going. Most speakers will take you down their personal road to publication. I have been inspired by their successes and encouraged by their perseverance in the face of rejection.

Not a Box 

I go to conferences to improve my craft and to remind myself to think outside the box and put my own spin on the stories I write. I can’t tell you the number of new story ideas, or twists to my works in progress I’ve come up with while listening to speakers at conferences.
So, there you have it - my reasons for attending conferences and workshops. I’m sure there are others that I didn’t think of so ask your friends why they attend them. Even if you only get a fraction of these things out of a conference, it will be well worth it! 

**  As I was in the process of putting together this post, I received an email from an editor I had met at a writing retreat.  She made an offer to publish my picture book story!  

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