Last weekend was the SCBWI-AZ writer’s conference, held in Scottsdale, Arizona. I know I’m a little biased since this is my home state, but I do believe that our regional director, Michelle Parker Rock, along with her staff of volunteers, puts on an AMAZING conference.
Case in point: The faculty are the peeps you want to meet—editors, agents, and industry insiders from all aspects of the biz. Plus there are breakout sessions on craft, chances to pitch a story idea, get a manuscript critique, show off your illustrations and get your first page read out loud and commented on.
I’ve been going for many years—always as an unpublished hopeful. It was extra special this year to attend as a member of the faculty, a published author, and even better—someone who had gotten her break at this very conference in 2006. Still, I was there for the same reason as every year before:
To learn. And as always, I came away with a brainful. Here are just a few tidbits:
From Maggie Lehrman, Senior Editor, Amulet Books and Abrams Books for Young Readers:
It comes down the craft. Trends will come and go, but good writing stands out. From this, I reminded myself that it’s not just about a great idea – it’s also execution.
From an excellent panel with Suzy Capozzi, Editor Random House, Jennifer Mattson, agent with Andrea Brown, and Tom Leveen, author of PARTY, I got to see the inner workings of one successful ‘Team.” It really brought home how many hoops a story must go through to be published traditionally. And I purposely didn’t write how many hoops an “author” goes through, because it goes beyond that. Yes, Tom had to work hard and persevere to sell his book to Jennifer, his agent. But then Jennifer had to work and persevere in order to sell that book to Suzy at Random House. And then Suzy had to work and persevere to sell it to her bosses who had to sell it to their bosses who had to sell it to the marketing team who then had to sell it to booksellers etc. etc. etc.
So no, it’s not easy, but when it works…it’s a beautiful thing!
From Tracey Daniels, Media Masters Publicity, I learned that DIY is coming to book marketing. Heck, who am I kidding – it’s already here. Authors need to run their writing careers as small businesses. Yeah, it’s important to work with the publisher who supports the efforts, but authors can’t assume it’s all being done for them. We need to step up and be proactive in a strategic way. (Which really sounds great, but I’m still not sure what that really boils down to. I think that’s partly because the industry is in the midst of this big change now.) But Tracey sees good things in the future—including tools to help authors handle social media in a more efficient way.
From the wonderful writers who attended my breakout on Creating Ideas, I learned that it’s a joy to share thoughts with people who share your dreams.
All in all, it was a wonderful day. It always is. Whether you learn a million things or only a thousand, conferences are so great for inspiration and motivation. (And networking!) If you haven’t attended one before, I strongly suggest to find one nearby and give it a try. Like me, you might end up hooked.
And, like me, you might just end up one of the success stories.