30 June 2010

Writing Conference Recap

So last month I was all excited to be going to the NJSCBWI Annual conference. I'd never been, never been able to afford it. This year was the first year it was at the Hyatt Regency Hotel (which is really nice, if you ever get the chance to go). I had no idea what to expect.

I wish I had gone sooner.

I came back refreshed and newly excited about writing. Not only that, but I met a ton of industry professionals. They are totally real people. Sometimes I think those of us without agents or books at big NYC houses view agents and editors as unapproachable, mean people who want nothing more than to reject our work. But everyone I met was so very nice - I mean, they come to the conference because they WANT to meet writers, right?

The workshops were awesome as well. I went to a Master Class with Catharine Gilbert Murdock, author of Princess Ben. If you don't follow YA lit, then you might know her sister, Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love. Catharine was totally adorbable and gave a terrific class on using scriptwriting techniques for book plotting. Which I actually had started doing before, but she gave more in-depth advice, like writing out the subtext (what your characters are really saying) for difficult scenes, to make sure what your actual text is doing what it's supposed to.

I also went to two presentations with Kristin Clark Venuti, author of Leaving the Bellweathers. Which is a really adorable book, sort of like modern day Roald Dahl. She and her editor from Egmont USA, and her agent, all did a panel on the process of getting an agent and publishing. Then Kristin did a bit on author promotions, most of which I pretty much knew, but she was so funny it was worth listening.

At the end of it all, I left with new friends (yay!), editors' cards in my pocket, and a head full of ideas and inspiration. Probably one of the biggest advantages to this conference was that you got a bunch of stickers that said you attended the conference, suitable for slapping onto your submission envelopes. Those babies get you moved to the top of the slush pile. But as most places take email subs now, putting that you were at the conference in your subject line was the alternate way to go.

I've submitted my latest book, the historical fantasy/fairy-tale adaptation, to two editors that otherwise would have been closed to me. One instantly (after reading the query letter) requested the full manuscript. From her iPhone. While she was at ALA this week. LOL. I also got up the courage to submit to an agent, not from the conference, but she also requested the full. (This is the book that I workshopped at the NJSCBWI Mentoring Workshop, where an NYC editor went over the first 30 pages and critiqued it. ) For the first time ever, I have full manuscripts with agents and editors. I've been writing for nine years.

I feel like I've stepped into a brave new world. And I wonder why I never did this before. Well, before I couldn't afford it and there is no way my old car would have made it. If you have a genre writing organization, and they have conferences like this, GO. Don't wait. They are so worth the money.

And I am SO going back to the conference next year!
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