Tuesday, July 17, 2007

SCBWI Conference preparation

Colorado Writer (going to the Conference thanks to the generosity of the Disco Mermaids) asked how to prepare for the four action-packed days o' the SCBWI Summer Conference. As if there's just one way! But then a few others emailed asking, and a few writer pals and I were discussing and so....

I prepare by reading a ton. I like to know the books of the authors and editors speaking at the Conference. I mostly do this so I can discuss intelligently should I be shoulder to shoulder with said author/editor at some point, but also because it's a great reading list. Of course I review the schedule and try and figure out which panels I'll go to, but I've also learned that that often changes spur of the moment. But when I've found a panel I'm interested in, I read everything I can about the person leading it -- search online for interviews, reviews, whatever. Sometimes I've learned that a particular person's point of view is NOT gonna be of interest to me. Other times I've realized that I simply MUUUUUSSSSSSSSTTTTTT attend cuz of some great quote/piece of writing/something I've run into. It's not a science but an art, however.

Another thing I do is remind myself that this is not a "do or die!" event in any way shape or form, nor is there any one moment that if it doesn't go right will define the Conference for me. Au contraire. In conversations, most of us agreed that it was a chance moment or surprise encounter that ultimately had the most impact on us. For me, for example, at the first Conference I attended, I befriended Chris Barton... from whom I ultimately got the inspiration to blog. Was that what I expected? Was I even aware then that four years later I'd have a book deal springing from my blog? Uh, no. But it's important to remember such kismet when your critique goes badly or the editor you thought was gonna be perfect for you clearly is NOT right for you or the author you somehow miss a panel that was a big part of your reason for coming or... or... or. (And as aside, let’s all give three cheers to Chris for his three new book sales of late. THREE!!!!!!!!!!).

Oh, yeah, my final prep tip -- sleep as much as possible in advance cuz odds say you won’t sleep nearly enough while you’re at the Conference!

Anyone else have tips or thoughts, feel free to share 'em here. And I hope to see many of you in a few short weeks (and kid-lit-blogging-drink-night is still in the offing!).

9 comments:

Kelly Fineman said...

I would add: bring along copies of the books you already own by the folks who will be there, so you can get them signed. I will be carting along John Green's books, for example, among others.

Also, don't feel that you need to go to a session every time sessions are offered. If there's nothing that really sings to you, take a break. Talk to friends or write or something instead. It's actually okay.

I am so looking forward to the Friday night drinks thing. And to meeting you one of my favorite fellow CYBILS poetry judges in person!

Lisa Yee said...

Bring a sweater.

Chris Barton said...

And I would add (in addition to "Thanks, Greg!") that first-time attendees should assume that no bigwig -- no matter how big -- would be there at the conference if they weren't both approachable and expecting to be approached by folks like you. Assume openness. Be civil and respectful and not all stalky-like, but take advantage of this opportunity to engage with them as your peers.

Gregory K. said...

Good points, all. Lisa's right on about some folks noting that it's colllllld, though I find it perfect.

And Chris -- while everyone is expecting to be approached, as you well know, they are NOT expecting to be approached by someone pitching themselves/their book! That's a key distinction that you make, but I wanna emphasize....

Chris Barton said...

Wait -- they aren't?

Geez, no wonder Arthur hasn't been responding to my text messages.

Rita said...

I read as much as I can, beforehand, too! And I like Kelly's advice of bringing those book copies from home. That's the thing I forget every year. :)

Laura Salas said...

Great advice from everyone! I'd add to update your business cards and bring them.

And then talk to lots of people (not just the big names). Don't huddle off by yourself like I did my first year. Ask the person next to you what kind of work they do. Exchange cards. Meet other writers/illustrators. Make plans to have lunch together. Have fun talking children's books in the one huge gathering where everyone's interested in them!

Some rooms are cool, and some are sweltering. Layer!

Dance at the gala. Who cares if you have no rhythm?

And try not to schedule anything on your calendar the day before you fly in, so that you can relax a little bit and start focusing on the conference.

See ya there!

Don Tate II said...

I say, don't prep. Just go, have fun. All the prep will go out the window once you get there and realize there ain't no time for all the stuff you prepped for.

Colorado Writer said...

You were so right! I'm glad I followed your directions!!!!!!!!!!!!