My family and colleagues sometimes refer to me as the Conference Queen. I accept this title as I nestle into my newly upholstered "throne" in my writing room. (Isn't this a fun room? I LOVE it!)
Attending conferences is a great way to learn more about strategies for writing, what kids are reading, and what publishers are looking for. I started out attending any SCBWI (Society for Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) conference I could manage to swing. I have gone to the LA conference many summers, NY for the first time this year, and countless Indiana and regional SCBWI conferences. I can't tell you how many pages of notes I have and ideas swirling around in my head from all of them! But I learned to not stop there.
The benefits from attending other conferences related to reading, writing, or education are hugely helpful too! One of my favorite things about my job as a literacy coach is that I get to attend some professional development conferences and come back and share with teachers. This is also a perk for being a member on the State Reading Council Executive Board and for being the Gifted Coordinator for my school corporation. This year I was fortunate enough to attend the Indiana State Reading Conference, the International Reading Conference, and the National Association for the Gifted Conference. It was at one of these conferences that I spoke with the Editor from Royal Fireworks Press about my manuscript for Maggot Man and he asked me to submit it to him. I ended up with a contract two weeks later. The NAGC conference is where I also met the editor from Free Spirit Publishing and ended up with a book deal for Penelope Perfect, with the option to make it into a series! You just never know who you will meet or what may spark an idea for another book.
Lots of conferences equals lots of networking. Conferences I attend help me to be able to submit to publishers and to continue to keep up with what editors and kids want to read. Attending conferences can be kicked up a notch further if you participate in a bigger way. Presenting at conferences allows you to share your expertise or passion in an area and give back to others. I have presented at many conferences and have made several contacts for author visits and other events this way.
I have recently gone even a step further by helping with the organizing end of conferences. I will be bringing an SCBWI event to Rensselaer on October 4th. The experience of putting this conference together and collaborating with other authors and speakers has been a great way to network and help other writers. (Registration for this conference will be open July 15th.) I hope to see many old and new faces at the conference!
So what is next? I will be heading to LA in August to get another dose of creative knowledge and love from the members of the SCBWI tribe and faculty. I will present at the Indiana State Reading Conference in September, I will co-host the SCBWI non-fiction conference in October, and I am attending the Gifted Conference in Baltimore in November. That will wrap up 2014 for me. (I need to save December for family time.) I hope to kick off 2015 with the ALA (American Library Association) Conference in Chicago in January. This will be a new conference for me and not far from home.
Many people ask me about how to get started in writing and publishing. A big step is to pick some conferences and squeeze all you can out of them! You don't have to try to go to a conference every month, but start with one and see if you like it. I recommend becoming an SCBWI member and seeking their conferences. You won't regret going if you are serious about writing for children. Maybe I will see you there! :)