Tag Archives: SCBWI L.A. Conference

SCBWI LA Conference Tips!

This has to be one of the biggest gatherings of children’s writers, authors, illustrators, editors, art directors, interested friends and more.

Given it’s size, here are a few tips from my frequent attendance:

Bring your water and coffee mug – save on trash.

Pick your sessions carefully based on topic for your work needs, or who is a likely that you will want to submit to afterwards.

Have business cards, ready to exchange. No one really uses them but it refreshes your memory on who you met. Make notes on the back of the card if you need follow-up or make notes on your phone with date and time.

Bring snacks. You might get caught up chatting with a new friend, old friend, or industry luminary, and miss a meal or break.

Bring battery backup for your phone in case your phone chews up a lot of juice or you don’t get back to your room or an outlet all day.

Put a star by the most important points you hear during the sessions. At the end, make a list of the stars and speakers.

Prioritize your stars and to-do’s at the end of the conference or THE FIRST DAY you get back.

Make subject files when you get home and slot your notes/computer print outs into subject files, i.e. queries, writing a series, plot, bookstore signing, school visits, reference books. When you need to have reference material to perk up your brain and writing on a key issue, you will have it ready to go, verses rifling through the folder tonnage from conferences, trying to remember where you saw some crucial bit of advice.

Keep a smile and an open, positive attitude. Don’t talk about how depressed you are about how long you’ve been writing on a draft or how many rejections. Stay upbeat. No one wants to be with a downer. Don’t be depressed by the writer who wrote one draft and was picked up by an agent through a chat. Or by the writer who submitted to five agents over one month and had four offers. It happens rarely.

Regional Writer Conferences Verses National Conferences

When examining the needs to improve your craft, the investment in conferences, intensives, retreats, and local workshops become important tools in career development. What stage are you in your work? Beginner (know nothing about the industry) Pre-published (been writing and need to deepen your knowledge of craft in characters, plot, dialogue, querying, submitting, etc.) Advanced Pre-published (had professional critiques, attended seminars and conferences, and are submitting manuscripts to agents and editors) or Published. Each stage requires different support and direction. A writer’s budget only has so much for education and you need to be very clear about your goals and writing education objectives.

Regional Conferences
These are typically smaller conferences (200 people and under) within a commute distance of where you live, perhaps put on by a nonprofit such as a university or SCBWI and done by volunteers, or another writing organization or group, or perhaps a for profit entity of professional writers, or literary agency. Pay close attention to the speakers, the topics, the ability to get a personal critique on your work, and the accessibility of speakers in casual events. Often at regional events, you have the ability to interact more closely with the conference organizers, the speakers, your colleagues and others that can provide guidance. Being one writer among two hundred writers for community and conversation can be better than one writer among twelve hundred writers.

National Conferences
These conferences are large, over a few days, and can be overwhelming, but the selection of speakers and topics are far greater than a regional conference. National conferences are also 5 – 15 times more costly as you may incur travel, food, hotel, and other expenses. At these conferences you have the opportunity to participate in focused topic sessions with a smaller group (25-50) for an additional fee, which provides you with an in-depth study of a specific craft topic for a half day or full day. Additionally, a critique at these conferences potentially exposes you to a broader range of editors, agents, published authors, and publishers. It’s best to come with a community such as members of your critique group or your local SCBWI chapter colleagues or associate with a community event held at the conference so you don’t walk the conference halls alone (unless you prefer that). Associating with others gives you the chance to share notes from workshops you were unable to attend (as no workshop recordings are sold or shared). Large conferences provide you with an overall market and trends update, plus you can observe the writing and author styles that appeal to you to follow.

Both types of conferences are helpful in your growth as a writer. Remember to plan your conference objectives, stick to them, and be sure to identify at least three take-aways from the conference that you will act on immediately in your work. Otherwise you’ll just end up with a stack of conference folders and an empty wallet.

SCBWI L.A. Conference – Wow!

The Los Angeles SCBWI (Society of Children’s Writers and Illustrators) Conference was packed with over 1200 people. SCBWI Los Angeles 13 Like a conference in any industry, you need to have a plan to tackle getting the information you need. I introduced Melissa Manlove, editor with Chronicle Books, as one of my regional advisor  (RA) duties. She was terrific. Check out Chronicle’s site for submission guidelines. They take un-agented work, although 80% of their publications are agented.

My other  RA duty was to be the official PAL (Published and Listed) reception schmooze. This was a great job. I visited all the authors and chatted with them when they didn’t have someone around them ready to buy their book. I definitely stopped in to chat with member Corina Vacco, as she sold out her debut book, My Chemical Mountain.photo

I also attended Steve Sheinkin‘s (wrote the The Bomb) workshop on Research Techniques for Writers. Outstanding. Then on to Peter Lerangis about writing a series. He had super tips on how to approach publishers and get your thinking straight!

Brodi Ashton, the delightful YA author of Everneath, held a workshop on World Building. Her 10 questions to ask yourself were great to help you build a world for a young reader or a teenage reader. The amazing woman, speaker, best-selling author and Scholastic editor, Andrea Pinkney, stole the show. She could laser in on how to improve your writing and find your “twinkle”.

Now to get writing!!!!

Doing Queries for Children’s Magazines

At the SCBWI national conference in Los Angeles 4 years ago, I attended a wonderful workshop by SCBWI regional advisor Sue Ford. (She writes under Sue Uhlig. She was RA in Kansas at the time and is now RA in Oregon!) While I’m published in other industries like health care, I did not have published work in children’s literature. (And it looked like it would be awhile with my chapter books.) Sue taught the basics and how to get started. (She has hundreds of articles published!)  Then when I attended a Writer’s Retreat three years ago, I roomed next to SCBWI member and author Natasha Carter Yim.  She was working on a magazine query and reminded me of the magazine websites and their submission guidelines.

That got me hooked. It was those connections that helped me get started. I’ve done many queries and have had 3 articles published to date. Magazine publishers receive hundreds of queries for a single issue. When it’s time to prepare the issue, they look at all the queries and create their focus to select the articles that fit with their direction.

My latest set of queries is for an issue on SNAKES. I was totally clueless on snakes. Like all my queries, I totally immerse in research, and am always amazed how totally ignorant I am on these topics. I love the immersion to come up with compelling topics for children. My latest was discovering Twinkie,

Twinkie, World's Largest Albino Python

Twinkie, World’s Largest Albino Python

the largest Albino python in the world! My next query drew me into the horrifying python slaughterhouses and the black market for snake skins supplying the billion dollar skin industry for European fashions.

Hope the queries are selected. But whether they are or not, it was an enjoyable writer’s journey!


SCBWI Los Angeles Conference Kicks Your Rear

The Conference held in Los Angeles is nearly  a week long series of meetings, speeches, networking, workshops, parties, eating and possibly chatting with 1,200 great people. You have to enter this conference with a plan, like I posted earlier. Otherwise you can get caught in conference nervosa: the various stages of exhilaration, depression, exhaustion, frustration and giddiness that can kidnap your conference productivity. Since this is the first time I took time away from my “day” job to attend the entire conference, I made sure I was well hydrated, and stayed focused. It was like preparing for a marathon. I needed to know my route, where my stops were to get nutrition and hydrate, and pace myself for the long haul. Its like any journey, or marathon. The best part is the people you meet along the way of the training. Of course, I would have liked getting the prize – a book contract or agent. But that was not my plan – this time!

Candace Fleming signing autographs at SCBWI L.A. Conference 8/5/12

When you’re an  SCBWI regional advisor, illustrator, or assistant, you volunteer your time at the conference. It’s a wonderful way to meet ever more people and get some upfront and personal time. I had the great experience of not only attending Candice Fleming’s (Golden Kite award winning author of Amelia Lost: The Life and Disappearance of Amelia Earhart) excellent program on non-fiction writing, but also was her autograph assistant during the author signing event.

Matthew Kirby signing autographs at SCBWI Conference 8/5/12

She signed next to author Matthew Kirby, Icefall. Just couldn’t resist this wonderful photo of his adoring young fan.

The biggest takeaway from the conference, aside from 5 pounds of notes, a few more pounds of new books and a head full of new ideas, is prioritizing. That is, putting in order the top things you are going to follow up on after you have just made this investment in time and expense to improve your craft and step up your writing career. So that’s my challenge, getting the time to execute my top things. Where, oh where, is an intern when you need one?