The Nerdy Chicks are members of The Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and one of the benefits of being in this organization is getting to attend great conferences on craft. Last weekend I attended Springmingle, a conference hosted by the Southern Breeze chapter of SCBWI. It is the first time I’ve been to this particular event, and it was fabulous! I think conferences are an important aspect in the life of any professional. Why? Here are my top five reasons you should consider going to conferences, whatever your profession:
1. Rejuvenation. Getting away from your obligations at home and finding time to focus on your career brings new energy to your work! I left this conference with tons of ideas I never would have come up with had I spent the weekend alone in my office. Here I am with my pal Robyn Hood Black.
2. Expert Advice. A great conference has great speakers and this one had a wonderful panel of experts. Tips from these fabulous faculty members follow.
3. Inspiration. Having people who excel in their careers share their stories is inspiring. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a more inspirational speaker than author Meg Medina, pictured left, whose marketing talk has me rethinking my forward path.
4. Connections. Making new friends among your colleagues is a consistent conference perk. Sometimes you make a connection with an industry professional that leads to a career advancement, but this should not be your sole purpose in attending an event. Usually the benefit of going to conferences is going to have a less direct impact, but a positive one nonetheless! I was thrilled to meet my Facebook freind Jen Swanson, pictured with me here, in person.
5. FUN! Nothing is more energizing than having a chance to hang out with your tribe. These people choose to do what you do. They love what you love. In my case, this means they spend their days with words, books, and the creative spirit. And hey, when you get a bunch of creative spirits together, you’re bound to have a blast. We had fun Saturday night with a literary trivia game hosted by The Middle Grade Mafia. Members Kim Zachman and Lela Bridgers are pictured here with agent Karen Grencik.
Some bits of conference wisdom:
Author Meg Medina reminded us not to edit ourselves too early, to focus on craft before marketing, and that the “most touching place you can travel is inside of you.”
Editor Neal Porter says he asks “WHERE’S THE STORY?” of all PB manuscripts.
Art Director Giuseppe Castellano said that illustrators should keep sending post cards featuring their art, but not to expect a response because he gets so many. Still, he never knows when one will really move him. He was, by the way, the most gregarious industry professional I’ve ever seen at a conference.
Agent Karen Grencik advised everyone to, “Practice your skill and get your work out there.”
Editor Elise Howard highlighted the differences between big publishing houses and small ones. She said she’d love to find a funny novel to fall in love with.
I always think it is valuable to know what these professionals do NOT want to see as well. So don’t send…
Karen Grencik a mass email query.
Giuseppe Castellano an email with a claim such as, “Your search for the perfect illustrator is over!”
Elise Howard a note telling her what moral or lesson your story holds. Also, spell her name right.
Neal Porter an email addressed to Mrs. Neal Porter! The panel agreed that incorrect spellings of names like these reveals that you don’t pay attention to detail, and are therefore not someone they would want to work with.
Springmingle was a great event with a fabulous faculty and put together by a host of talented volunteers from the Southern Breeze chapter of SCBWI. Another perk of the conference was that it was held in the Decatur Library and their wonderful staff could not have been more helpful and professional. If any of you are considering going to conferences, I advise you to take the plunge!
Hey Kami! Great post! And so nice to meet you at the conference, too. Had a blast!
Yep, it was a great conference, Kami! Kinda reminded me of my old (very old) Girl Scout Days: Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other gold. (Which also reminds me of my hair. I think I need to get it colored again…)
Cathy you are too funny! So great to meet you and Jen in person!
Meg Medina’s marketing workshop was the most inspirational conference session I’ve ever been to. I spent the drive home rethinking my life.
I know Annette! I rode home with Robyn and it was definitely a hot topic with us.
Sorry to have missed it. It looks like you all had fun!
It really was great Elizabeth, but there will be more!
Excellent reminder! I often find myself dragging my feet to spend the time and money on conferences, but writing is such a solitary sport, it’s important to get dressed and talk to real live people once in awhile. I’m always glad when I do and wonder why I don’t do it more often.
It’s always hard to justify spending the $, isn’t it! But happily, it is usually worth it! I’m also glad when I do Talia.
Kami, I LOVE that the chapter is called “Southern Breeze”! 🙂 How cool is that. And it looks like you had a blast, which is definitely what conferences can be. And when you get lucky, people like me get to meet people like you 😀 LOVE the whole kindred spirit thing. EVERYone should try to attend conferences.
I’ll be heading back to NJ again this year. Hope to catch up with you there!
Oh, Kami, I love hearing that 😀 Can’t wait to see what you’ll be teaching, too!
Um, how did I miss this post? Great wrap-up, Kami, and I’m so glad my region-of-origin and YOU got to meet each other!
Thanks Robyn for inviting me. It was so much fun and inspiring too!
It was great last March – and could be even better this coming March! Laurent Linn, Kathy Landwehr and Joe Cepeda are all set for Illustrators Day, and the line-up for Springmingle should be outstanding. Details should be on the website soon, and look for registration for SCBWI Members to open the second week of December.
I am planning on attending again. You are right Claudia, it was great!