Sunday, June 9, 2013

NJSCBWI Conference Days 2 & 3

The fun continued at the New Jersey SCBWI Conference! Day 2 began with a keynote speech from the funny, most talented author-illustrator I've ever met....wait for it.... PETER BROWN! Does he even need an introduction? Probably not, but allow me to do so any way. Peter Brown is an award-winning author. Some of his books include "The Curious Garden," "Creepy Carrots," and my favorite "Children Make Terrible Pets." Hearing the journey of his career starting from childhood to where he is now was completely inspiring. The nuggets of wisdom he offered was pure gold.

Day 2 continued with workshops: "Nonfiction for Beginners" with Carolyn Yoder, "Writing for Magazines" with Connie Colon, "Growing an Evergreen" with Ame Dyckman, and finally "Channel Your Inner Nonfiction Nerd" with....wait for it....ME! All of the workshops went extremely well and I learned a TON. I have to say for my first time presenting to adults, I didn't do so bad! Yay me!

Later on that night, I was invited to the Faculty Dinner. I have to admit that being invited to this event really made lil ole' me feel super special. Kind of like the nerdy girl in the lunch room who finally gets invited to sit at the "cool" table. I had a great time getting to know YA/MG agent Erin Harris of Folio Literary Management. She is super sweet, super funny, and super pretty. I couldn't help but whip out the pageant girl in me and try to convince her to do a pageant. Lo and behold, she's a teeny hair older than the age cut off for my pageant, Miss New Jersey American Coed. Darn!

Day 3 rounded out the end of the conference weekend. The morning speech given by Tara Lazar was UH-MAZING!!! The title of her speech was "The Myth of the Great  Divide: Overcoming Obstacles in the Path to Publication." I laughed! I cried! But most of all I was INSPIRED! Thank you Tara for letting us "pre-published" authors know that the great divide doesn't really exist. If you haven't picked up her picture book, THE MONSTORE, be sure to order it now! Let's support out fellow writer friends! Sidebar: "pre-published" has a nice ring to it, right? I'll take it...for now!

After the speech, I attended "Writing Across Cultures" with Suzy Ismail, "Amazing First Lines" with John Cusick, and "Picture Book Revision" with Simone Kaplan. In between workshops, I had a pitch session with Stephen Barbara of Foundry. On a side note, I should mention the anxiety-inducing, speed-pitching fest that is the infamous "Pitch Session" at the SCBWI Conference. Seriously, it's like the reaping of the Hunger Games meets the "on-stage question" at the Miss Universe pageant! You walk in a room and have four minutes to explain your book. (and hopefully pique the agent's interest) My piece of advice is to know your work before pitching it and most of all, drink water before going in the room. Dry mouth attacks like a thief in the night ten seconds before it's time to walk into the room. And there is nothing worse than talking to an agent when your lips aren't visible because they're glued to the top layer of your gums! Anyone remember "Fire Marshall Bill" from In Living Color? Ok, maybe I'm dating myself.

Not a good look for an Agent Pitch Session

The day ended with a closing keynote from Lauren Oliver, author of "Requiem", "Pandemonium", and "Delerium." Again, another superbly delivered speech. The best part was she read an excerpt from her next book. (Insert the recognizable childhood tease...nah nah boo boo!)

This year's conference was the best one I've ever attended. I can't wait to attend again next year!


Saturday, June 8, 2013

2013 SCBWI Conference Day 1

It's my fourth year attending the NJSCBWI. Here's a run down of how my first three years went. Me hiding in a corner afraid to socialize. My writing should speak for itself, right? Not quite. My #1 goal this year, above continuing to work on my craft, was to network. It's the name of the game!

Conferences like these are an open door to make connections with all levels of folks in the industry; unpublished writers, published writers, agents, editors, illustrators, librarians and the list goes on and on.

Day one of the conference has come and gone. I had a one-on-one with Janine Hauber of the Sheldon Fogelman Agency. She gave me a full TYPED page of notes on my picture book, THAT'S IT, I QUIT! Any writer knows that a full page from an agent is like a goldmine! So I was very thankful for that and all of her constructive feedback.

Later on in the evening was the Mix & Mingle--also known as an excuse for the writing community to get together share an appetizer, a drink and a laugh! And boy did I have a great time at that event! I sat with a group of wonderful ladies from a critique group from Connecticut. We were then joined by Tricia Lawrence from the Erin Murphy Literary Agency. I have to admit that when she first showed up to our chat circle, I thought she was another writer. By this point, I had already let my guard down. When she said she was an agent, the (shy) writer in me tensed up. But that only lasted for a second. Tricia turned out to be the most welcoming, down to earth agents I've ever come across. By the end of the night, I almost didn't want to leave.

So here it is. Year four of my attendance at this conference and I think I'm finally finding my mojo...finally. I'm learning that this writing thing is so much more than what you put on the paper. It's about the connections that you establish while in the process.

So hats off to day one and onward to day two! More to come!