Spring brings showers — for me, showers of new information and new friends and contacts. It’s conference season, the time of year I like to put on actual clothes (as opposed to the pajamas I work in most days) and emerge from my cave. In years past, I attended teacher’s and textbook writer’s conferences; now, on a hiatus from teaching, I try to attend more events for creative writers. Earlier this month I attended Grub Street’s Muse and the Marketplace, and this weekend I went to the NESCBWI conference for the first time.
I’m relatively new to SCBWI (the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) and completely new to NESCBWI (the New England chapter). Why did I wait so long to join this amazing organization? I don’t know. Maybe I just found the acronym intimidating, or had trouble typing and saying it. Now, after this weekend, it rolls off my tongue. I cannot say enough wonderful things about this group. It was exciting to spend the weekend in the company of 500+ attendees who are all passionate about children’s fiction.
I could only attend two out of three days, due to a schedule conflict with a taiko drumming performance I was in (more on that later this week) and a desire to not completely abandon my child all weekend. Not staying on site also meant an hour’s commute to Fitchburg each way. But my long hours on the road were completely worth it. Highlights included:
- A workshop with Janet Fox on “Elusive Elision” — deciding when to hold back and when to reveal — a craft issue I thought about a lot during my last novel revision. Extremely useful.
- A workshop with Susan Raab on promotion strategies and finding your marketing voice.
- A panel discussion with Tony Abbott, Elise Broach, and Nora Baskin on sustaining a long-term career as a children’s author.
- A sparkling discussion on multicultural fiction, with authors and illustrators of picture books, MG books, and YA books.
I also met up with four fellow Apocalypsies (2012 kidlit debut authors) for lots of shop-talk, and greatly enjoyed getting to know them in person. Email’s great and all, but there’s no substitute for a good old-fashioned face-to-face conversation. And it’s always so great to meet other writers and hear about where they are on this journey.
There are lots of good people working hard to write and sell top-notch books for children. The seriousness of attendees struck me the most. Yes, we’re all writing for children, and maybe (I thought, on occasion) we could lighten up at times. But I think we all have this great hunger for information on craft and promotion. When we get to a conference like this, we’re greedy. We don’t want to waste a minute. We want to write great books. We want to get them into the hands of readers. It’s a fun job, and a serious business.
I’ll be back next year at this gem of a conference, hopefully presenting with some colleagues!