Saturday, May 25, 2013

How to prepare for the NJSCBWI Conference and NOT barf in the process!

After attending the June Conference for the past 4 years, I've picked up a few tips on combating this problem. Here is a simple list to help you keep your cool at the NJSCBWI's June Conference. 

* Pack ahead of time. Don't wait until the last minute or you'll likely end up with mismatched socks, one missing earring, and no toothbrush. (and since this is a SOCIAL event, you definitely want to make sure you're squared away in that department!)

* Bring copies of whatever pieces you submitted for critiques. There is nothing worse than going to your one-on-one only to realize you don't even have a copy of the original version you sent. This happened to me two years ago. After I submitted my work, I made some changes and went to the conference with the new version of my writing. Can you say embarrassing?

* Practice your pitch!  I absolutely shudder at the thought of "pitching" my book, but this is the name of the game. The thought of pitching make my intestines crawl through my esophagus and stop midway through my trachea and tongue. My advice is to practice beforehand with anyone who will listen. Dogs, by the way, are great listeners. Hey, it's a start right?

* Bring business cards! You will be networking all weekend. You can easily order a set (at a great low price) on

* Study the faculty beforehand. Get to know their interests and what they are seeking. This will help you narrow down who will be best for you to pitch your work to. Research is the highest form of flattery with agents and editors! Take the time now so you're not wasting theirs (or yours) later!

* Last but not least, go in with only the expectation to have fun and learn something! There will be TONS of writers and illustrators there. We all want to be published. And we will all get there. Every year that I attend, I meet great people and learn so much. I know that I am one baby step closer to reaching my goal!

I can't wait to meet everyone at the conference on June 7th. Til then, happy writing!


Wednesday, May 8, 2013

My Aha Moment

This is how my love affair with writing began. In 2008, I wrote a middle grade novel. It was the year after I'd just gotten married. My husband and I traveled to 5 different countries within a year to get the "sillies" out before deciding to settle down and become parents. We visited Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Paris, Panama, and Puerto Rico. (a lot of "P" countries, I know!) What an adventure! Each country I visited gave me exactly what I needed to propel my story. From lush rainforests, to waves crashing against jagged rocky cliffs, to the mouth-watering smell of croissants baking at the cafe' on the corner. All of these excursions gave me hands-on life lessons about setting and for that I am grateful.

But every story needs characters. I could have traveled to every country in the world that year back in 2008, but none of those countries had the depth and heart of the types of characters that I truly sought. Those characters could only be found in one classroom!

I've been teaching 5th grade since 2003 and boy has it been a journey! There have been times when I've laughed, cried, and just plain wanted to quit! I figured, "Hey I wrote a book! I'm going to get a book deal! I can quit my job now and become the next NY Times Bestseller!"

Five years have passed since then. And like many aspiring writers, I've shelved my first novel and have moved on to new projects. And I'm STILL a teacher. Why? Because my "aha" moment helped me realize that as much as my students need me, I need them as well. I need to hear their stories of the kid who farted in the back of the room and blamed it on the class guinea pig. I have to witness them awkwardly dancing to the Cupid Shuffle next to their "crush" at the Valentine's Day Dance. These are the stories that guide me through my writing journey. And while I will continue to travel around the world (on a teacher's budget, of course), the classroom is the heart of where my writing journey will always begin.

And on that note, I wish a Happy Teacher's Appreciation Week to all my teacher friends!