Finding Keepers at an SCBWI Conference

Last weekend, I attended Wik 2011, which is the SCBWI Southern Breeze’s fall conference in the Birmingham area.

You know what? That’s WAY too boring a beginning for the weekend I had. Let’s start again, shall we?

I will never be the same writer again after attending the SCBWI Writing and Illustrating for Kids conference! Thanks to all the speakers, I learned a heckuva lot about writing that I didn’t know before. Thanks to all the attendees, I found fun and games around coffee pots and cookies, down hallways and in elevators, sitting in high school classrooms and scrunched up in the backseat of a car. I can’t really share the fun and games (without incriminating certain friends),  but I can give you a glimpse into who (I know it should be “whom” but that sounds kinda stuffy, doesn’t it?) I met and what I learned.

From funny author, Lisa Yee, I learned to invest in my writer self. Now, honestly, I attend conferences and pay for critiques and keep up my dues in professional organizations. But every year, I lust over the Highlights Foundation workshops. I read the emails and visit the website and imagine myself hanging out with gifted writers and making small talk in the woods. But I’m done with imagining. It’s time to believe in my writing and go! (Hmmm…Lisa did not explain how I was to get over my fear of flying. )

From (also funny) SCBWI co-founder, Lin Oliver, I learned to do the work. I thought I was doing the work, but I can see now that I have more work to do. And no whining about it. She had lots of other lessons, but I think if you do the work, the other lessons will come along nicely.

From lovely agent, Linda Pratt, I learned to support my job of writing (marketing is important!), but to protect the flow of my work. Sheesh. It’s like she’d been hanging out in my office, watching me piddle around on Twitter all morning and never…quite…get…to my manuscript in progress.

From witty Chronicle editor, Melissa Manlove, I learned about using multiple hooks. I’ve put aside several picture book manuscripts, but I may give them a dust off and try, try again. Oh! And here’s something else she mentioned: Don’t put something gross in the middle of your manuscript. It seems like that would be fine, considering some of the gross titles and picture books out there, but if you’re writing a sweet bedtime story and throw in HUGE boogers, right in the middle of it all, you could pull the reader out of the story–and probably beddie-bye dreams, too.

From petite Senior Editor at Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers, Alexandra Cooper, I learned to do your homework.  Go to Amazon and see what books are out there that might be similar to yours, and visit libraries and bookstores to check out the placement of books (popular books are front and center!) I also learned that the book you’ve written (and by “you”, I really mean “me”) may never make it into the marketplace if the marketplace is saturated with the subject.

I’m sure you can see now how after attending that conference, I’ll never be the same writer again. And you know what? I’m thinking that’s probably a good thing.