Thursday, August 11, 2011

Conference Recap

Happy 40th Anniverary SCBWI. I'm happy I got to be there to celebrate with you.

Whew! I got back from SCBWI Los Angeles on Monday night and I'm still trying to process everything.

I had never been to a conference before. What a blast! Seriously, I can't imagine why I was so nervous to go in the first place. It was like being in college all over again; meeting new friends, going out for the socials, sucking up to the teachers, haha! Okay I didn't have the balls to do that last one, but I thought about it. As a matter of fact, I was the dummy who didn't realize she was talking about cheese with Kelly Sonnack an agent at Andrea Brown.

There's more to that story though. I signed up for a consultation and all morning they had been telling everyone that we may or may not get to meet with an agent or editor, it could be an author giving us our critiques. I didn't mind. I just wanted to chitchat with someone about my first chapter and ask some questions. So, I went into the meeting, on the first day of the conference, with an open mind and lowered expectations. And yes, I really did talk about cheese and then moved onto a conversation about mud baths at the local hot springs near my house. And when we were done chatting she gave me some great feedback and then I left. It wasn't until later that one of my new friends told me who Kelly Sonnack is. Doh!

That's not the only stupid thing I did, or that happened to me. I learned that recently published authors are quite nervous people when it comes to the day of their book signing. I picked up a book and read the inside flap which had terms like, The Beast and The Beauty. But it was crowed and chaotic around me and I couldn't focus properly. So I asked the lady, "Is this a paranormal story?"


Her response was, "No. But I can write 'vampire' next to my signature if that would make you happy."

I back peddled and stammered trying to explain that I was only wondering if she took a contemporary or paranormal approach to her "ugly duckling" story. And then I walked off and never looked back.

HOWEVER, had this woman been more understanding, I might have bought her book out of sheer guilt. All well.

On the bright side, I met the best people there, one being, Susan:

Me and my conferene besty waiting to get our books signed by Libba Bray.
You might have to go to a conference by yourself. And maybe that's because nobody in your circle of influence gets your ambitions in this field. I'm here to tell you that you NEED to go to a conference by yourself, at least once. And likely there may only be a once because as soon as you get there you will find your conference besty and a bunch of other friends who totally get you and want to keep in touch. At the end of it all it's sad to say goodbye, so you don't. You say, "Hey, do you think you might come back to this conferenc next year?" And they say, "Yes! We should meet up and share a room!"

Did I get a contract out of the conference? No. And I don't believe the woman sitting next to me waiting for her consultation did either regardless of what she says. For, why, if she got a contract last year during the consultations would she be back and eager to find another agent? Okay, I know there are several answers to that. I just have that feeling she was giving random people false expectations (watch out for that).

Going to a conference, in my opinion, is more about learning how the agents and editors are. How they work and what they're like. After you see them talk a few times you get a pretty good feeling about whether or not you would ever query them knowing what you do now. And then you find ones you want to work hard to get to know better.

And if you're lucky, you will get to go home with a new besty and a bunch of notes on how to revise and edit yourself better. For me, I came home with all of that and two critiques from an editor and an agent who had conflicting opinions on the internal monologue in my story. One stressed importance for internal monologue and didn't mark mine for that while the other one marked the crap out of it and showed a better place to start. I could see how both opinions work well. Now I need to figure out what changes to make and what to do with that internal monologue. Hmmmmm.

I'm off to figure out my stuff.

P.S. Definitely always be prepared to give your pitch. And watch out for the random people who want to hear it that AREN'T agents or editors and find it necessary to critique you or say things like, "Yeah, yeah, I know you wrote a story and it's about a girl. Start over."

And that will be interjected right after you say, "DODGING JORDAN is a story about a sixteen-year-old girl named Addie--"

Best advice for that is to finish what you were saying and then say, "Now it's your turn." Have fun!