Thursday, August 9, 2012

Back from SCBWI-LA Conference: Why Attend? Guest Post with Lori Degman

Happy Wednesday!

Wait, no.  It's Thursday.  Oops.

If you've ever attended a big writing conference, perhaps you'll understand my current state of "about a day-and-a-half-behind" in everything.  I just returned from the 41st Annual Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators  (SCBWI) Annual Summer Conference and my head is spinning in so many directions (illustrators want to try your hand at depicting that?).

At the beginning of the conference, we were told to find a nugget or two of information that would be useful.  Well, I flew home with a boulder.  Thank God the airline didn't charge me extra for the baggage.

Anyway, my apologies go out to the dozens of you who have been anxiously awaiting this blog post with a recap of the SCBWI-LA conference and Lori Degman's guest post on why attending conferences is important if you want to be a published writer (and a BIG NEWS Announcement from her -- so make sure to read all the way to the end)

The wait is over. 

Here you go:

Miranda's SCBWI-LA Conference Recap

Since pretty much everyone Tweeted the whole conference live (visit Twitter hashtag #LA12SCBWI), there's not much to recap.  However, let me share the most important things I learned:

1) Most publishing (traditional) market numbers are UP.  There is hope if you write for children and teens.  Deborah Halverson said the market is "cautiously optimistic."  This is good news.

2) Read all the writing advice, then stop.  Break the rules (once you've learned them).  Be fresh.  And don't be in a hurry.

3) Writing Early Readers, Beginning Readers, Leveled Readers, etc. is much different than picture books, and quite a bit more challenging than most people think.  There are very specific guidelines and if you want to write leveled readers for young children, it's important that you take a class or attend a workshop.  You're not going to figure it out on your own.

4) Emotion, character, and voice is often the "selling point" of a book, not its plot or content.  Character-driven was probably the word/phrase I heard more than any other term during my five days in LA.

5) The publishing industry really IS small.  I've been hearing this for years.  It is true.  And other authors make the greatest of friends.  So glad to have met other RYS judges and many of you who submit your stories to us!  You are WONDERFUL and I feel privileged to know more of you now.

Now, a quick bit of RYS NEWS:

We have four new RYS judges who will be coming on board.  Watch for the announcement next week!

And here it is...the moment you've really been waiting for, Lori's guest post!

Why I Attend Writing Conferences
By Lori Degman


Oh The Places You’ll Go (Where the Wild Things Are)
When Miranda asked me to write about the benefits of attending conferences and workshops, I figured it would be easy - 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. 

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. 

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! 

SPECIAL NEWS FROM LORI ******As I was in the process of putting together this post, I received an email from an editor I had submitted to, after meeting her at a writing retreat. She made an offer to publish my story!!

Congratulations, LORI!  (Since we all really believe the reason we go to conferences is to get published, right? :)

Now...go make your own story HAPPEN! Comments (and submissions) now open!


40 comments:

  1. Great post, and CONGRATULATIONS, Lori!

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  2. Fantastic post and congratulations, Lori!!!! So awesome and exciting! :)

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    3. I'm going to blame my goof-ups on my cold! I wrote something that was incorrect, so I deleted it - but it was still there, so I wrote a post explaining my goof-up and, when I posted it, the first one had apparently deleted! So the second post didn't make any sense, so I deleted it! Does that make sense?

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    4. Thanks, Susanna!! Short and sweet!

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  3. Wonderful post and WONDERFUL NEWS! Soooo happy for you Lori! :)

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  4. Great post (love the subtitles) and fantastic news on the offer. Congratulations, Lori! :)

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    1. Thanks, Kristin! I'm always intimidated about writing for adults so I used the subtitles hoping it would make it easier - and it worked!

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  5. WOOT! WOOT! What great news, Lori! Congrats and I loved the form and content of this post!

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  6. Congrats! I wish I could have gone to LA this year.

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    1. Thanks, Rena! I wish you could have too - it was great! Luckily, when you miss a conference for writers, you know there will be written about by a ton of people!

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  7. OMG, congrats!!! I want more details!!!

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    1. Thanks, Corey! I just posted the details on FB.

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  8. Congratulations, Lori! I enjoyed meeting you, Miranda, and so many others in LA! -Jan O'Neil

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    1. Thanks, Jan! I had hoped to hang out with all the 12x12ers but I always seemed to be a little late :-(

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  9. Wonderful post, Miranda & Lori. Great tips & love how creatively you grouped them, Lori. And congratulations on the publication news! "I think I can, I think I can" and you could!

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    1. Thanks so much, Patricia! It's so true - you need to keep yourself motivated to move ahead in the face of all the rejection because, someday, it'll be an acceptance!

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  10. Congratulations Lori - what wonderful news!!

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  11. How exciting, Lori...a dream come true! And what a clever use of children's PB titles. Thanks for the insights...

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    1. Thanks, Jarm - it's definitely a dream come true!!

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  12. Yippeeee! Congratulations, Lori! Still looking forward to our cross-atlantic skype events... Fab news, Clare.

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    1. Thank Clare! I can't wait for our big skyporama!! We need to figure out when and what we're going to do!

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  13. HOOOOOORAYYYYYYYY for you, Lori! That's really exciting. Miranda, thanks for the SCBWI recap. I am still working on mine. Does that make me three days behind?

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    1. THAAAAAAAKS, Kirsten!! The conference was awesome, wasn't it?

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  14. Yea!!!!!! Lori, that's fantastic news!!!! Thanks so much for this great post. I am sooooo happy for you!!!!

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  15. Wow, congratulations, Lori! I love how you organized your tips using well-known pb's!

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    1. Thanks, Tina! Breaking it into little chunks like that made it so much easier to write!!

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  16. Thanks for the great recap, Miranda!! I was there but my memory is always like swiss cheese and my notes are even worse!!

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  17. Miranda...thank you for sharing your thoughts about the conference...and for having Lori guest post here!
    Lori...that is awesome news!!!! And thank you for the post...you had me at the first picture book title...and it just got better from there. :) I KNOW I need to get to a conference...and there is one coming up in September in Denver...not TOO far from me...just not sure I can make it happen at this point in time.

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    1. Thanks, Vivian! If you can't make it to the Sept. conference, I'm sure there will be others coming up. You should check out neighboring states, if they're not too far. I went to a great one day conference in Wisconsin, just 1 1/2 hours away!

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  18. For those of us that weren't able to attend the conference, I appreciate that you ladies shared your valuable and resourceful take-a-ways with us. Lori, I love your light sprinkle of humor through the use of pb titles. Such a signature, Lori move. I'm so glad I got to know you during Rena's poetry challenge. I'm popping the cork and pouring a glass Bubbly in your honor. Huge congrats to you, lady.

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    1. Thanks so much, Pam - the feeling is definitely mutual - it was great getting to know you too! I hope Rena hosts it again next year! I'll drink a beer at my end :-)

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  19. Awesome post ladies, and Lori, I have to thank you for telling my kids they have "1 Zany Mom" when you signed your book (which they LOVE).

    I I totally agree that "character-driven" was the phrase of the conference.

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  20. Julie, I'm so glad your kids like my book! I thought they'd like the 'zany mom' thing :-)

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