Wednesday, September 26, 2012

2012 NOSCBWI Conference Recap

I'm home from the Northern Ohio SCBWI conference, and all I can say is: Boy do they know how to put on a good event!  This was my fifth year attending, and their special tenth year anniversary conference.  Each year I've attended has been chock-full of pearls of wisdom and interesting publishing tidbits, and I'm pleased to say this year was no exception!

If you couldn't attend, shame on you!  But, I'm still happy to share my favorite pieces of advice from each keynote and breakout session.  :)

Keynote #1: Tina Wexler, "Navigating the Author/Agent Relationship"
Agent Tina Wexler got the conference started on Friday night with a fun--and informative--speech on the relationship between agents and their author/illustrator clients.  For all writers and illustrators still searching for an agent (like me!), she said to think about the qualities you like in your friends and business associates.  (Honesty?  Professionalism?  Encouragement?)  That list of attributes should help you find an agent you'd like to work AND who would work well with you.

Best Advice: Don't just find the agent who can sell your book.  Find the one who LOVES what you write.   

Keynote #2: Michelle Poploff, "Nuts & Bolts of the Acquisition & Revision Process"
Editor Michelle Poploff gave the first keynote address on Saturday morning.  She explained the acquisition and editorial processes, from the first time she reads the manuscript through when it's bound and ready for purchase.  It's a long process, but very rewarding in the end! 

Best Advice: At the end of the day, remember it's the STORY that's important!  (So write the best one you can!)

Breakout Session #1: Tina Wexler, "How To Know When It's Time to Query"
Agent Tina Wexler led the first breakout session I attended.  It's hard for writers to know when it's time to take the leap and send their manuscripts out into the world.  Tina gave us some tips and checklists to help determine if our work is ready.  She recommends stepping away from the manuscript for a while, getting opinions from trusted readers, and reading lots of published books.  She also told us to make sure the manuscript is as polished as possible in order to give it the best chance for success. 

Best Advice: Your manuscript is ready when YOU are ready and believe in your work. 

Breakout #2: Cinda Williams Chima, "Spellcasting: Building Believable Magical Worlds"
Cinda Williams Chima is one of my favorite Fantasy authors, and I never pass up the chance to hear her speak.  She led our group in a discussion on world-building.  Cinda recommends that writers really think about the aspects of the world they're creating--including medicines, animals, government systems, cultures, food, rules of magic, etc.  Don't overwhelm the reader with these details, but integrate them with your story so the reader becomes immersed in the world.

Best Advice: Writers must make the incredible credible.

Keynote #3: Chuck Sambuchino, "The State of Children's Publishing Today"
Editor/Author Chuck Sambuchino gave a keynote during lunch about the children's publishing industry.  He gave us some good tips for improving our chances of publishing success, including working on multiple projects (aka, "don't have all your eggs in one basket") and building your online platform.  He advised that while having a great manuscript is the most important thing, it certainly can't hurt to start building a following with your online presence, too!

Best Advice:  Know what you're getting into with traditional and self-publishing.  There are pros and cons to each, so do your research!

Keynote #4: Quinlan Lee, "Words & Numbers: An Agent's Role in the Publishing Process"
Agent Quinlan Lee gave the second lunch keynote.  She went over all the many tasks she does for her clients, and how it's her most important job to match the author with the editor who is most passionate about the manuscript.  She also gave some tips about how to snag an agent, including attending SCBWI conferences (check that one off the list!), doing careful research, and citing referrals if possible.  (So if J.K. Rowling critiqued your book and loved it, let agents know!)

Best Advice: Make your readers think, laugh, and want to keep turning that page!

Breakouts #3 & #4: Mara Purnhagen, "Crafting Your Query"
Author Mara Purnhagen led a special double-session presentation on writing query letters during the afternoon.  She went over the do's and don'ts of crafting a query, including formatting guidelines and common mistakes writers make.  She said to be succinct, but also to entice the agent/editor with your mini-synopsis so they'll want to read more.  Something interesting she noted is that many agents read queries on their iPhones and Blackberries during their commutes, therefore they might only see part of your query on their tiny screens.  As such, she recommended writers get straight to the point in their letters, so they don't waste precious space (or an agent's time!)

Best advice: Don't give up!  You may have to send dozens--or hundreds--of queries in order to find that "YES."  (But that one "YES" is worth every rejection!)  

Keynote #5: Whitney Leader-Picone: "Designing in the Digital Age"
Designer Whitney Leader-Picone gave the final keynote of the day.  She went over the many different types of electronic media used in children's publishing.  I'm not exactly "with it" when it comes to technology, so I really enjoyed hearing about the various formats and devices.  Whitney also showed us several apps that publishers are using to get kids reading, as well as enhancing some of their favorite books into new, interactive experiences.  Best of all, she told us that e-books aren't going to dethrone traditionally published books at all--they just give kids another way to enjoy stories!

Best Advice: Digital is fun, but print is NOT dead!

And that summarizes my experience at this year's Northern Ohio SCBWI Conference!  A big thanks to the organizers for putting on another fantastic event.  I can't wait to attend my sixth year in 2013!  :)

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