Tag Archives: conferences

20 Tips For Attending SCBWI Writing Conferences

A few of us here at the Spectacle will be attending the LA SCBWI conference at the end of the month and wanted to share some tips with you on how to make the most of a writing conference. This is also posted at my website.

1. Start a “conference notebook” and use the same notebook each time so that you don’t end up with scattered information in different locations. I date each entry, so it’s easy to go back and check information. Also leave some room in the margin for notes to yourself that you can consult at a glance.

2. Don’t bring a manuscript expecting to show it to an editor — editors usually fly in and don’t want to carry more than a few business cards back home. They will often invite attendees to submit after the conference. But it doesn’t hurt to bring some of your work to share with writing friends. Impromptu critique sessions in hotel rooms after conferences can be lots of fun.

3. SCBWI conferences are casual. Most people wear comfortable clothes — nothing fancy. Keep the high heels and business suits at home (unless that’s your idea of comfy clothes.)

4. Read the books of the speakers before you go. This makes it easier to relate to the talks and gain a better understanding of their experiences. If editors are speaking, check out some of the books they publish. Not only is this a nice courtesy, but you may discover new authors you enjoy.

5. Go to have fun. The most satisfaction I get out of a conference is talking to other authors who share my hopes, worries, and dreams.

6. Take a camera to get pictures of all the new friends you’ll make.

7. Bring bookmarks, copies of books for the brag table. If you don’t have bookmarks, business cards work great and give you something to exchange with new friends.

8. Hotel beds are often hard — I bring a small pillow with me.

9. After receiving a business card or bookmark, make a note on it to remind you about the person you just met. When I get home after a conference and have a bunch of cards, it’s easier to remember clearer with helpful notes to remind me of new friends.

10. Pack some bottled water–it leaves room in your suitcase for all the (autographed) books you’ll take home later.

11. It’s often a good idea to bring snacks, like muffins, crackers or granola bars for those times when can’t get a meal. Hotel rooms often have a bar full of food goodies, but they are usually NOT complimentary and a small bag of chips can cost $5. Check the cost before you munch. Also, Gelson’s grocery store is a great place to get snacks and an easy breakfast food for the mornings if there isn’t anything quick/cheap at the hotel.

12. Use a prepaid phone card to avoid extra hotel phone expenses — and verify any additional room charges ahead of check-out time such as meals, toiletries, coffee, and phone charges. Often the room phone may add extra charges, so use a lobby phone or bring along a cell phone (check roaming charges first). Save yourself the nasty shock of a $50 charge for five minutes of conversation.

13. Bring an extra zippered bag to pack new purchases for the flight home.

14. Make up a purse-sized photo book ahead of time with assorted pictures to share of our pets, kids, books, etc. You know your puppy is cute and your friends may enjoy seeing the picture, too.

15. Save meal, travel, and other expense receipts for tax records. Professional education such as conferences, travel and books are tax deductible for working writers. What a great job!

16. Keep expectations reasonable. Don’t expect to snag a huge publishing contract or a top agent. What you can expect is to learn what editors and agent want and how to target your submissions to the right person. You’ll also gain new ideas about writing, rewriting, characterization, etc. Listen, take notes, and soak in the knowledge offered. Then when you get home, polish your work and send it off.

17. Pick compatible roommates for fun conversations AFTER the workshops are over and to help cut room expenses.

18. If you don’t have anyone to hang out with, go down to the lobby and talk! I’ve met lots of new friends that way. And meeting other writers is the most fun of attending a SCBWI conference.

19. Think about your characters and current writing project when listening to advice. Instead of taking the information in a general way, mentally applying the information to specific characters/plots can be helpful.

20. When it’s all over plan at least one day for a “crash day” at home because you’ll be tired and need to slowly recover. You’ve had a GREAT time…not relax! Then get back to writing.

Hope to see some of you in LA!

Linda Joy Singleton will write about the conference when she returns…


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Notes from SCBWI

Our Linda Joy Singleton attended a regional SCBWI (Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators) conference near Monterey recently. Here are some notes from her experience.

Friday night, editor Arianne Lewin from Hyperion spoke. Some of her quotes on marketing and promoting books:

* Publishers tend to do more online advertising than print nowadays.
* Always looking for connections to people who will talk about books.
* Authors should establish themselves online like Facebook and Twitter.
* Authors should think of all their contacts and give the publisher a list.
* Reviews and awards help but don’t guarantee a (library) buy.

More cautionary notes from Ari:
*Don’t ever complain about your house online in a way it can be traced back to you.
*Remember we publicize books not authors.
*As an editor you are both jockey and the person outside betting.

On Saturday morning, Scholastic editor AnnMarie Anderson spoke. She edits the new Poison Pen series, Geronima Stilten and Nate Banks; mostly books for 7-10 age and 8-12. She spoke on giving a pitch for a series and said it needed to include:

* Hook
* Synopsis of first book
* Sample chapters
* Character descriptions

She said that “Editors are looking for fresh new angles.” Also that she likes boy-friendly content, animal characters, girly books and multi-cultural.

Afterwords, I went to SOCIAL MEDIA talk by Greg Pincus which I found very interesting. A math poem he put online went viral and led to 2 book deal with Harry Potter’s editor. Advice he gave about blogging:

*Be visible and efficient-it’s better to do one thing well.
*Prepare: Know audience and books. Ask yourself why you are blogging? Have a plan.
*Commit to spending time.
*He says you probably won’t reach teens; they’re networking with other teens.
*Add value to your blog; create content and opportunities.
*Make people welcome (answer replies!)

Read more of Linda’s conference notes at her livejournal.

Linda Joy Singleton

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The Magic of SCBWI

I had the awesome opportunity to attend SCBWI’s annual national conference in L.A. a week ago, and you’ll be pleased to know that the spec fic world was well represented.  I saw the likes of:

Holly Black (Valiant)
Kathleen Duey (Skin Hunger)
R.L. LaFevers (Theodosia Throckmorton and the Staff of Osiris)
Ingrid Law (Savvy)
Marlene Perez (Dead is the New Black)
Cindy Pon (Silver Phoenix)
Michael Reisman (Simon Bloom: The Octopus Effect)
Joni Sensei (The Farwalker’s Quest)
Linda Joy Singleton (Dead Girl in Love)

And these are only the people (off the top of my head) that I ran into with spec fic books out! It boggles the mind who else was there.
BUT this post isn’t about name-dropping (too much). It’s about Holly Black’s talk, Examining the Strange: The Basics of
Fantasy Writing.

Some key points:
-As fantasy writers, we need to read broadly and widely. Some of the best fantasy is melding ideas from so many genres. We are in a genreless genre.
-Fantasy gets labeled as escapist, but it’s no more so than any other kind of literature
-In fantasy, we can sometimes learn things that are much harder to learn in realism; fantasy gives us distance
-You have to watch your metaphors and be aware of what stories you’re telling
-Fantasy is like historical fiction. In both, you’re introducing readers to a place they’ve never been and can never visit, but you must convince them that they HAVE been there. And like historical fiction, there’s a lot of research
-Magic rules can be divided into day logic (the same action gets the same result every time) and night logic (rules are seldom spelled out; must work intuitively…it contains the numinous).
-In fantasy, there have to be two stories, the fantastical and the human. The interaction between these two plots is what makes the story.

Well done, Holly!


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Feed Your Brain

Because I am in luuurve with SCBWI (they helped me get my first book published) and because we can always learn, no matter what our phase in life, I recommend to our avid spec fic writers (and writers in general) a wonderful learning opportunity:
The 38th Annual SCBWI Summer Conference, August 7-10
Holly Black, Kathleen Duey,  and Ingrid Law are on faculty, ladies and gents!
Some of the workshops include:
Examining the Strange: The Basics of Fantasy Writing (Holly Black)
Writing Magic: From the Head to the Heart (Ingrid Law)
Transmutation: Books That Matter (Kathleen Duey)

Registration opened May 5, and the hotel rooms fill up fast, so if you’re interested, get cracking!

joiconJo Whittemore


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