Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Conference Highlights

This past weekend I had the opportunity to attend the 2015 Austin SCBWI Writers and Illustrators Working Conference. It was amazing. I had a wonderful time. It was great seeing other writers I've met at previous local meetings and last year's conference, as well as meeting new authors and illustrators.

Here are my top five highlights that I learned this year. I tried to write exact quotes, but I have a tendency to miss a word here or there, or I get lost with something else the speaker has said that is amazing. So they aren't exact quotes, but close, and I've attributed them to the speaker. And other points are just things which made an impression.

  1. You need to write better than the last best thing you read. ~ Jennifer Nielsen 
  2. I learned that Tom Lichtenheld is an awesome speaker, as well as an extremely talented illustrator. I now have a ridiculously long list of picture books to read to my son, thanks to his speech. 
  3. Set your standards higher than your achievements goal. ~ Tom Lichtenheld 
  4. I found that when it comes to plot, Jennifer Nielsen is now my writing hero, or rather, heroine. She is awesome! Her speech on plotting was beyond helpful. I've used the notes she gave us to create a new worksheet to assess my manuscripts with. I'm planning to devour her books at some point in the very near future.
  5. And agent Jill Grinberg may just have given me my first real understanding of what agents are looking for when they sign authors. Her case studies regarding her own clients, which are amazing by the way, was excellent. 

And last, but not least, I signed up for a manuscript critique with Bethany Hegedus. Last year I sent in a piece that I was stuck on and needed an agent/editor's view point. Which was immensely helpful. This year, however, I submitted a piece that has been through the ringer with my old critique group and beta readers. It has garnered partial and full requests from agents, but no takers yet. And I was stunned and honored that Bethany nominated me as a finalist for the 2015 Cynthia Leitich Smith Writing Mentor Award. If I counted correctly there were eleven of us. Don't quote me on that number, though. I could be off by one or two in either direction. Last year's winner was announced about a month after the conference, so we all have a little bit of a wait. Either way, to have someone read and like my piece enough to nominate me was an honor. It rekindled that fire in me to take another look at that manuscript with fresh eyes, and all of the new information from the conference. That manuscript has taken the place as my new main focus in the world of writing. So a huge thank you to the amazingly talented Bethany Hegedus! You're awesome!!

If you have not yet gone to a SCBWI conference, I highly suggest going to your local one. I decided last year when I went for the first time that I would go every year from now on. It's an absolute must for me. And it's worth it for the amount of information you can learn from other authors, illustrators, agents, and editors. The wealth of knowledge is astounding. And we can't forget the connections you can make there. It's awesome!

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