February 12, 2013

SCBWI ♥ NYC

There is far too much to say about our little jaunt to New York, so this post will just focus on the SCBWI conference portion of that trip. (I'll be back with all the fun touristy stuff we did another day.) This was my first ever writing conference and I was surprised by what I loved and by what I was only meh about. Fortunately the stuff I loved outweighed the other stuff.

The Fantastic
My name is Mo and I am funny as heck.
(Image source)
Keynote Speakers
There were some phenomenal speakers at the conference. My favourites had to be Shaun Tan and Mo Willems. The former was fascinating and insightful, while the latter was So. Darn. Funny. (And also insightful.) The one story Mo Willems told involving a car and poop was so hilarious that I think the entire room had cramps from laughing so hard. I won't elaborate. I'll just let you wonder because I'm cruel like that. Meg Rosoff was also extraordinarily funny.

Breakout Session #2
My breakout session with Molly O'Neill of Katherine Tegan Books was really, really good. Not only is she a great speaker, she just seems like the kind of person you'd love to hang out with and talk books and all manner of other fun stuff. As a perk of attending the conference and this session in particular, I have until September to submit my work directly to her which is AWESOME.

Signing Party
I got to meet Julie Andrews. {I'll just let that sink in for a bit.} I'm fairly certain I said nothing intelligent to her, but it's still kind of one of those really cool moments in life exchanging pleasantries with Mary Poppins and Maria von Trapp. Also, getting to speak briefly with Margaret Peterson Haddix, Jane Yolen (!!!), Shaun Tan, and Mo Willems was pretty darn great. I'm still a bit starstruck.

Writer Friends
As I mentioned in my post the other day, one of the best parts about this whole experience was getting to meet up with other writer friends. And even better? They're exactly like how I expected they would be→ awesome and really, really nice.

The Parts I Wish Were a Smidge Better
Sessions
More breakout sessions would have been cool. It's nice to know what editors are looking for and to hear them talk about their work. The sessions I did attend felt a bit rushed, which was a bummer. There wasn't even really time for questions.

Potty & Food Breaks
Slightly longer breaks in between sessions/keynote addresses would have been greatly appreciated, especially on the last day of the conference. There really wasn't any time for bathroom breaks or to grab something to eat. I ended up waiting until 3pm on Sunday to have lunch. Then again, I probably should have been better prepared, right? Live and learn.

Agents???
I don't think there were any agents in attendance at this conference (with the exception of one or two breakout session speakers). I wasn't planning on cornering agents and pitching the heck out of them or anything, but it still would have been nice to rub shoulders with some of them and even just meet one or two. Are SCBWI conferences usually agentless? Not sure.

Relevance to My Writing Journey
The booksellers panel was interesting, but I would have liked to hear from publishers—what they're looking for versus what bookstores are selling. And finally, while I love the heck out of picture books, the conference had a decided picture book slant to it. I write YA, so this wasn't overly relevant to me. Not to say that it wasn't interesting, though. The best keynote speakers were authors/illustrators of picture books and the artwork they shared was phenomenal. I just would have liked a bit more about YA and even some MG. Most of the people I spoke with write YA, so I feel like this category was underrepresented.

Shaun Tan—one of the most fascinating people I've ever had the
privilege to listen to. Also, his artwork is just incredibly beautiful.
(Image source)


Overall Impressions
Attending writing conferences is just so valuable on so many levels. I took away a lot from my own experience, and it was well worth the time and money spent. If you have the opportunity to go to a writing conference, I'd definitely recommend it.

29 comments:

  1. You should have told Julie Andrews that The Sound of Music was one of the only movies we were ever allowed to watch late on a school night. I think maybe we owe her one for that. Oh, and just so you know, I now have the Lonely Goatherd song in my head. Thanks a lot. ;)

    Seriously, I'm glad you had such a great time and I've enjoyed hearing the details of your trip!

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    1. I'm pretty sure I thanked her for coming.(What? O_o) And I told her that I grew up watching and loving her movies. I think I mentioned that I was down from Canada or some ridiculous thing like I was some creature from outer space or something. (We come in peace. Always.) I hadn't even thought about "The Lonely Goatherd", so thanks for that. :P

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  2. You had me at Julie Andrews...

    I probably would have just stood there, giggling.

    Glad you had a great time at the conference!

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    1. I was basically only one step up from giggling. I wish I could have thought up something intelligent to say, but I just didn't know what to say to this woman I've admired for so many years. Yikes. :)

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  3. Now you're making me wish that I'd been to the actual conference part of it! Julie Andrews, Jane Yolen . . . next year, maybe!

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    1. Yeah, I'm kind of tempted to make this an annual thing or something. Hmmm. I could handle a yearly trip to New York. :)

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  4. This all sounds so exciting! I mean Julie Andrews! How awesome is that!

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    1. Pretty darn awesome! :) The whole trip/conference thing was awesome.

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  5. Julie Andrews! I'm so very envious! Thanks for sharing your experiences with the conference, Jaime. I've yet to attend a big conference so it was really interesting to hear about your highs and lows. I'm going to have to start shopping around for a conference in my area. :-)

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    1. I'm starting to think that the summer SCBWI conference in L.A. is a bit better??? Not sure about that, but from what I've heard, it sounds like it has a bit more going on. Not that this one wasn't good, though. I guess I just sort of expected more publishing types there considering it was in publishing central. All that aside, it was a great experience and I'd definitely consider going again. :)

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  6. Mo Willems! I LOVE his books. I think I enjoy reading them more than the children enjoy hearing them :P Don't Let The Pigeon Drive The Bus is perfection!

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    1. I'm ashamed to say that I was unfamiliar with Mo Willems before this conference. I did buy one of his pigeon books and got it signed. Seriously, the guy is hilarious. :)

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  7. I've been considering attending a big SCBWI conference, so this breakdown is really helpful! I haven't been to a conference and they sort of scare the socks off of me.

    Glad you enjoyed your time in NY though :)

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    1. It was definitely worth going to for so many reasons. I would recommend packing some snacks to bring along and not being afraid to duck out and use the restroom during a keynote speech (sitting near the back and near the aisle is a good idea). Also, I would recommend being more outgoing than I was. It's such a great opportunity to meet other writers. I'm a bit on the chicken side, though. :)

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  8. Jaime-- really fascinating. I love hearing your insight! I have not been to any conferences (except for boring science ones and no one from the Sound of Music ever comes to those). I can't say whether your experiences are typical or if all writer conferences are like this-- but still I love hearing your stories. Julie Andrews! I just imagine her as so incredibly classy and smart and talented. Now I'm gushing. Calm down, Katharine. Deep breath. Okay. Good for you-- what an incredible experience.

    Maybe the regional SCBWI events have more agents? I have certainly heard of one-on-one agent events at conferences, but not sure which ones. More experienced commenters will have to chime in.

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    1. From the sounds of it, the regional events do have more agents. I think I'll have to check one out sometime. But this conference was good too. I mean, Julia Andrews was there! :)

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  9. Sounds like you had a really interesting time, even if some parts didn't quite live up to your expectations :) I so wish I could go to something like this! I'll have to start saving because I've heard flights to New York are preeeetty expensive from here, haha :)

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    1. It was a really good time, and I did get a lot out of it even if there were things I wish were a bit better. Surprisingly, flights from here (Alberta) to New York aren't all that expensive. I might have to visit again soon! :)

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  10. I'm not sure whether you were there for this conversation or if it was while you were hanging at the Canada table, but someone at the Central NY table said they'd been to the New Jersey SCBWI conference and it had a lot more agents and small-group sessions/one-on-one time. That might be worth looking into in the future!

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    1. It's sounding like the regional events do have a lot more agents (from the comments I'm receiving so far). I might have to check one of those out in the future. Though, I did really enjoy this conference. :)

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  11. I've been to both the NYC SCBWI conference and a smaller regional conference (the New Jersey one) and I found the breakout sessions in the regional conference to be much better. Mainly because they were smaller and more focused. There were more agents at the NJ conference, plus more opportunities to pitch or mingle with them. You should pick a regional SCBWI conference for your next conference! I do love the keynotes at the NYC conference though - they are always SO inspiring. I'm so jealous you got to meet Julie Andrews! Overall, it sounds like it was a great conference, and I'm glad you got to attend!

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    1. From the sounds of it, the regional conferences have more of what I thought I was getting at this one. Not that I didn't enjoy/get a lot out of the NYC one. I though it was pretty great even if it wasn't exactly what I was expecting. :)

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  12. I totally agree that Molly O'Neill was awesome. But what else could you expect from the person who edited Divergent????

    I have to say that last year's intensives were more useful, though, with topics like "revision" and "YA"

    And YES to the YA. Last year had more YA speakers, from Chris Crutcher (OMG) to Cassie Clare (giving a GREAT speech on love triangles.) And the non-YAers apparently complained. A lot. About how advice about picture books can help YA but not vice-versa. During the intensives, they did try to give equal time to all 3 groups, but one YA intensive discussion drifted off into a NA discussion instead, which really didn't apply to most of us in the room.

    There were a lot of agents at the intensives on Friday, but they were well "guarded"... and considering how nutty some people can be, I'm not too surprised. Everyone's right about the regional conferences-- because of the smaller size, they do tend to be more focussed. NJ's/NYCs conferences and events tend to skew higher with publishing professionals and agents because most of them live in or close to NJ/NYC. I also love the Eastern PA conference because it's just plain cozy! You really get to know your fellow conference goers and faculty to the point where they become like family. We have to get you to one of our east coast regionals!!!

    Still, I love this conference for the inspiration and energy. I love walking away exhausted and dying to write something, anything. And I love seeing all of my writing friends, like you!

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    1. That's bonkers that they swung so far back toward the picture books to compensate. Why can't they find a happy medium between the two? And I have to disagree with their whole "YA authors get something out of advice about picture books but not the other way around" thing. That's just patently untrue. I guess I just figure that it should be more balanced considering people came from all over the world to attend. I enjoyed the picture book stuff, but I really could have used more about YA writing. Ah well.

      The regional conferences you mention sound great! I'll have to check one out sometime. And I have to say, one of the absolute best parts of this conference was meet writing friends like you. :)

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  13. Wow, sounds like a great trip! I'm not sure I could have contained myself around Julie Andrews -- I probably would have started singing and dancing, lol.

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  14. Sounds like you had an amazing time at the conference. I'm definitely hoping to be able to attend a big conference like this some day.

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  15. Oh my gosh, you had me at Julie Andrews. I would have probably done something really idiotic like start singing "The Hills are Alive" in front of her

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  16. It does sound AMAZING!!! :D So happy you had a great time :D I was surprised to read there wasn´t a lot of opportunities to mingle with professionals...I´d love to go to a smaller conference (or to one of the big ones) at some point...
    :D

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  17. Totally jealous of the whole Julie Andrews thing. Thanks for giving a breakdown of the conference. Hoping to attend one someday myself :)

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