Monday, October 15, 2012

In Which I Conferenced

Saturday I hit the MN SCBWI annual conference. It was my first one, since I've only been a member for a year now (which, I mean, you can attend if you're not a member. I just didn't know about it until I became a member)

There's something to be said for a conference that only lasts a day. At the very least, it means you still get some of your weekend to do your normal weekend stuff (for me, that's errands and cooking club. And writing blog posts, natch)

So anyway, here's a rundown of the conference:

The keynote speakers were David Small and Sarah Stewart. David is an award winning illustrator and Sarah, his wife, is a Picture Book writer. The first panel was David talking about his graphic novel memoir, Stitches.

David Small was just an amazing speaker. Seriously. Everything that came out of his mouth was entertaining and profound and funny. He was one of those speakers you could have listened to the entire conference.

He and Sarah gave another presentation on her book The Quiet Place, which he had illustrated.

And they were both adorbs. Like, you know those couples that love each other so much that you can't help but love them too? Not one of those couples that fills facebook with "I love you" and "I'm on my way home!" and "I can't wait till you get home!" Those couples drive me crazy. Listen, I know you love each other, but you don't have rub everyone's face in it. David and Sarah were not like that at all. I think everyone just absolutely loved them together.

There were only like 5 copies of Stitches for sale at the conference. I got the second to last one. BAM!

The conference was then split up into Workshops. Two at a time, one for illustrators and one for writers, so naturally I hit the writer ones.

The first one was "A Whole New World: How Dreams and Desire Can Improve World-Building" put on by Sara Sargent, Assistant Editor at Balzer + Bray, a HarperCollins imprint.

Her presentations was great. The best part was, though, a writing exercise we did. She had brought with a box of books and she said anyone who volunteered to read theirs could pick out a book.

Later, someone would tell me that she thought I was super brave to volunteer and I told her the truth, that I will pretty much do anything for a free book. I got Everneath by Brodi Ashton

Honestly I wanted to be first, but one girl had a critique to go to in the middle of the workshop and managed to raise her hand faster. But I went second.

The exercise was to just list out your MCs tangible want, emotional want, barriers to their success, tools to combat the barriers and wish fulfillment. Most of these are things I actually write down before I write my rough draft, so it was easy to participate for me.

The second workshop was "Cracking the Nut: One Agent's Advice on Craft and Career for Writer's of All Levels" by Linda Pratt from Wernick & Pratt Agency.

Her presentation was good, but I was familiar with a lot of what she said, so there really wasn't much that I found surprising.

There were critiques going on as well. If you paid an additional $35 you could've had your first 5 pages read by an agent or editor or creative director. I didn't participate, mostly because I thought $35 seemed pretty expensive for only 5 pages (or at least, it did to me, since it seems like there's always blog contests or auctions where you can get 50 pages or more read by agents). But in hindsight I kind of wish I had done it, just because everyone else was and I felt a bit left out. Of course, that's a known flaw I've talked about here.

There was, however, a first pages event. And that was free to enter. How it worked was, if you wanted, you emailed your first page before the conference. Then the last event of the day was the two agents and one editor would listen to randomly selected first pages and comment on them.
It was all anonymous and random, so there wasn't a huge chance you'd get picked, but it was fun to hear what the agents and editor had to say. And I totally learned a LOT on how to write Picture Books

BUT!! I was totally picked! They only had time to go through 4 of them and mine was the 3rd one!

I have to say, it was utterly terrifying hearing someone read my first page (also, kind of a bummer, she flubbed my best line on that page, which gave it a different meaning. Le sigh).

I think I got pretty nice feedback. Or at least, they all said something good about it (they liked my opening line, my tension and the dialogue) where as it seemed all the others had mostly criticisms. But still, it took me an hour or so to calm the eff down so I could accept the critiques with a critical eye.

So there you have it! I tried to keep this post short, but clearly, I didn't.  Sorry, and high five if you stuck through the whole thing!


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Glad your piece was selected!
Do anything for a free book - that made me chuckle.
Sounds like it was worth it. And it didn't suck up all of your weekend.

Maria Zannini said...

That's fantastic! It sounds like my kind of con. Big enough to showcase notable speakers, but small enough that it didn't take all weekend.

And good for you for not paying someone to critique your pages. You're right. There are too many opportunities where professionals will do it for free.

Was this your first ever con or have you gone to others?

Teebore said...

Good times, good times. Sounds like you had fun. Where was the con?

Kristin Rae said...

Sounds like you had a great time! I would have been freaking out if they read my pages out loud too OMG!!

Are you on that major writing high now? :)

Rena said...

Holy Krakatoa, I would have practically peed my pseudonyms. That's awesome that you got feedback, but I totally understand how it could take forever to calm down from that shock.

Michael Offutt, Tebow Cult Initiate said...

I didn't know that you loved free books so much. That's funny. I get free books all the time and they leave me underwhelmed. At times I wish people would stop offering free books to me that are boring.

Johanna Garth said...

Sounds like you had a blast!

LD Masterson said...

I hate to admit it, but I had to Google MN SCBWI to see what it stood for. Sounds like an excellent conference. I'm glad it went so well for you.

Anne Gallagher said...

Good on you for being picked, not once but twice! High five to you. BAM! Glad you had such a great time.

E. Arroyo said...

I haven't gone to a conference. I will. I will. You are brave. But that is how we learn. =) Thanks for sharing.

Ninja Girl said...

I'm with you: Anything for a book ;) But that took some serious lady balls! And how awesome is it that they chose your sample out of the pile? I seriously need to find some great conferences to attend. Sounds like a blast!
Ninja Girl

Talli Roland said...

Oh, wow! How wonderful that you got picked!

Sounds like a very worthwhile conference.

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