SCBWI Houston Conference 2017
I LOVE writer conferences. One of my reasons for becoming a full time author was the chance to hang out with other writers without being too stalky. (Another is because I can make up words.) Now I get to attend events for writers by writers and call it work. Man, did I luck out.
SCBWI Houston Conference 2017
Two weeks ago, I experienced my first Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators conference. The Houston chapter of the SCBWI held one heck of an event. Two of my critique partners, and dare I say friends, Ann and Jenn were repeat attenders. They were generous enough to introduce me to other inspirational, award-winning authors which landed me at the popular kids table. I KNEW it would happen one day. We didn’t even have to put anyone else down to get there. (Another great thing about authors. It’s a unique career where helping each other helps you. No hierarchy necessary.)
We were quite the group, too. We had a past winner of the Joan Lowery Nixon Memorial Award at the table, Caroline Leech. She enthralled us with tales of the devastation of Hurricane Harvey to the theater district in downtown Houston. By the end of the conference, two more at our table, Danielle Metcalfe-Chenail and Laura Mitzner, were both nominated for the same award. Can’t wait to see what happens there! Ann won a raffle prize. Finally, I won a discount for next year’s conference. (Fine. Twist my arm. I guess I have to go now….Like they could keep me away.) Overall, we were a winning table. Reserve your seats! We are accepting bribes.
Note: See how I linked all those awesome people’s websites? Check them out. They’re quite a group.
I signed up for a pitch session with an agent specifically because her bio said she was looking for middle grade fantasy. Imagine my disappointment when she said in her presentation that she was full on fantasy and no longer looking for it. Dammit. A day late and a dollar short. I don’t care. I’m a dollar short because I paid for the pitch and I’m at least going to practice. When my time came and I got to sit down and read my pitch (WAY too nervous to have it memorized), she LOVED it and pointed out all the reasons she’d like to see a sample. To say I was happily surprised is putting it mildly. I was flabbergasted and thrilled.
Now, drum roll please, for my favorite story. Remember my awesome friend Ann? She is GOOD at this rubbing elbows stuff. She snagged us a dinner table with two of the acquisition editors from major publishing houses. One of the editors had given a talk about picture books and how to combine a common topic with something extraordinary in order to make your picture book more marketable. (Good advice, really, no matter what you write.)
This editor, names redacted to protect the innocent (me), had a little one waiting at home for her and it was the first time she’d been away like this. She grabbed her wallet to buy a glass of wine. I remembered the advice from Dragon Con to buy agents and editors drinks, but I’ve never had the opportunity before. I jumped up and offered to get a glass for her. She politely said I didn’t have to, but I wouldn’t take no for an answer. I assured her since she published picture books, which was not in my wheel house, the act was completely altruistic.
When I returned with a fresh glass, she asked what I write. I told her about Ella and Wink (not as smoothly since I wasn’t reading it) and she lit up. She had recently lost a middle grade girl and her dragon story at auction and would love to see mine. What? I couldn’t believe my luck.
Mind you, I’m not spending the advance money yet. It’s just incredible how things work out sometimes. And it’s my new favorite story. Though it will be a MUCH more powerful story if the editor loves Ella and Wink as much as I do.
- It really is about who you know. So, go meet as many people as you can.
- Attending events with a friend or two can make the experience more fun. (As long as you mingle as well.)
- If you believe something is not going to turn out the way you want it to, do it anyway. You might be surprised. (Plus, you’re already there…)
- Listen to the advice the experts give you. That doesn’t mean you have to OBEY all of it, but make sure to keep it in mind.
I can’t wait for the next conference, especially since I’ll have a discount. In 2018, I want to participate in the manuscript critiques. Apparently, those are the most useful elements of these SCBWI conferences.
What writing conferences have you attended? What were the benefits to your career?