The New England SCBWI Conference has passed and I often heard these questions:
- What should I expect if I go?
- Was it worth it? Would you go again?
If you are considering your conference schedule for next year and trying to decide where you want to go, I highly recommend the NESCBWI spring conference. There are a wide variety of workshops and sessions to choose from, so if you’re a seasoned pro just looking to socialize and learn some techniques, this is great. Or if you’re completely new and need to learn SCBWI 101 and how publishing really works, this is a great conference. The sessions are great, and you can really pick and choose how you spend your time. You can also plan introvert breaks and during the registration select that you won’t be attending a session time.
The size of the group is large, about 500 people. This is a great size group for meeting new people, making friends, but not feeling overwhelmed by the huge numbers that show up to the international conferences in New York and Los Angeles.
Professional opportunities were plentiful at this conference. Attendees could meet with an agent, editor or art director and get critiques for portfolios, dummies, manuscripts. There were opportunities for a career consultation, and for illustrators, a portfolio showcase and illustration challenge. One evening featured a Pitch-a-palooza, where authors were randomly selected to pitch a book for one minute, and get feedback from a panel of agents and editors. Again, there’s potential to be signed by an agent here.
You can expect to talk a lot during the weekend. Staying hydrated is essential, and taking a break now and then is good. It’s better to miss a session and recharge a bit than to power through and be exhausted. This is especially true for introverts, but even extroverts need a break! Taking care of yourself will help you put your best self forward when meeting new people!
Is it worth it? Yes. I think so. I would recommend if you are going to travel to a conference to travel to a regional one like the NESCBWI before attending the two biggies in NYC and LA, because it’s still a LOT to take in without being overwhelming. However, don’t let this deter you from diving into registering for the LA conference in August.
What are some of your favorite regional conferences?
I normally love to travel with just a backpack and my portfolio bag. I like having everything with me, traveling light, and not worrying about my stuff.
But for this conference, I ran out of room. My bags were so stuffed and heavy, and I had 3 hour layovers to lug all that stuff around. I sighed, and decided to check a bag.
What I packed:
- 3 tops. One for Friday and Saturday and one just in case. I stuck with a black and white theme.
- 2 Black slacks
- black cardigan
- Pajamas- I wear yoga pants and a tshirt. I figure if there was an emergency where we needed to evacuate, I wanted to be covered.
- Compression socks, a pair for each day. I wear compression socks when I travel on the plane, but I also like wearing them for the conference because it’s a lot of sitting and standing and not a lot of moving.
- flip-flops for the hotel room and shower
- black skechers go walks.
- medication and first aid stuff
- My portfolio
- Business cards
- Promo post cards
- pens and pencils
- sketchbooks ( I bought moleskin cashier sketchbooks, they’re small but handy!)
- my favorite tea- I know hotels have tea, but sometimes you just need your favorite with you.
- Chargers and wires
- Sudoku puzzle book
- wallet-cards cash ID
- travel documents, receipts, boarding passes, confirmation printouts
What I wore on the plane:
- yoga pants
- comfy black blouse
- black and white cardigan
- tennis shoes
- book bag
Though I didn’t use everything, I was glad I had it. Things I wish I had packed were a sewing kit, and a scarf to use as a pillow on the plane.
And I admit that checking a bag was really nice. I didn’t have to gate check my bag because I only had my backpack, and it was nice to walk around with a light load instead of lugging everything around. I think I’ll check my bag again next time I go to a conference!
This past weekend was the Western Pennsylvania SCBWI conference. It was a really nice weekend and I got to spend time with friends and make new ones!
Friday night I attended an illustrator intensive that was all about illustrating book covers. Maria Middleton led the workshop and it was a good exercise in not over thinking your drawing, and finding the joy in creating that I felt as a kid. Instead of focusing on what wasn’t working, the general attitude of the evening was “What if we did THIS?!” Exploration instead of criticism.
Conference day, there were four workshop sessions and attendees had several options for each session, giving the conference a “Choose Your Own Adventure” feel. We had a really nice group of guest faculty for the conference:
- Kelly Delaney , Assistant Editor at Alfred. A. Knopf Books for Young Readers
- Susan Hawk, Agent at The Bent Agency
- Deirdre Jones, Associate Editor at Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
- Maria Middleton, Associate Art Director at Abrams Kids
- Rotem Moscovich, Senior Editor at Disney-Hyperion
- Ammi-Joan Paquette, Senior Agent at Erin Murphy Literary
- Alexandra Penfold, Agent at Upstart Crow Literary
- Ariel Richardson, Associate Editor at Chronicle Books
At lunchtime, winners for the bookmark challenge were announced. Pat Lewis and I won! Here is my bookmark design. You’ve seen it 🙂 It’s also now my website header!
I can’t go into too many details about the sessions I attended because the presenters worked really hard to develop them, and I won’t steal their work and give it away. Some of the sessions I attended were about what an agent does, the process of a book dummy becoming a published book, and embracing creative ideas for a book. I can tell you that if you want to learn more about the ins and outs of children’s book publishing and getting to know some great people, attending a conference is a great idea. If you are looking for work, this isn’t that sort of event. Sometimes people can get work from conferences, but it’s very rare.
If you are thinking about attending a conference, I have some points of etiquette to share:
- Don’t try to start a lengthy conversation with someone who is walking into the restroom.
- Do introduce yourself before and after the workshop/presentations to the presenter.
- Don’t interrupt someone constantly. Everyone accidentally does this, especially when nervous, but there’s a difference between once or twice and never letting the person finish a sentence.
- Do ask questions that are relevant to the presentation.
- Don’t play games on your phone or laptop while someone is presenting. If you are that bored, then politely excuse yourself and leave the session.
- Do turn your ringer off on your cell phone while at the conference. You can leave it on vibrate if you are expecting an important call.
Thanks for reading! Next week, I’ll share some peeks at my picture book dummy in progress, and some sketches too. 🙂 Have a great week!
I attended the SCBWI Annual Winter Conference in New York City this past weekend. This was my first time attending, and my first time in New York City! The conference itself was an amazing experience, but as I sit here at home, I realized the only thing I want to talk about is the people and my experience as an introvert.
The weekend turned out to be a great opportunity for personal growth. I work best when I have some time to myself in the day. When I listen to someone, I like to have time to think about what was said before I leap in with my thoughts. I like making friends and getting to know people, however, each interaction takes a blow to my Social Hit Points.
I was completely unprepared for the incredible number of people who would be attending the conference. I knew it was a large event, and I knew there would be a lot of people but THERE WERE SO MANY PEOPLE. There is no downtime. You are constantly talking to new people, making introductions, and sharing stories. You’re standing in line to get a cup of tea, you’re sitting next to a stranger, you are walking to the next session, you’re getting lunch, you’re in the elevator, you’re at a social hour, you’re standing in line for something else. The entire day is talking and introductions and pleasantries. Then it’s time for bed and wake up and start over. “Hi how are you? What’s your name? Where are you from….”
The hectic pace caught up with me Saturday afternoon. I suddenly felt lightheaded and it felt like the room was swinging around me. That’s when realized I couldn’t remember the last time I ate or drank anything that day. I skipped the afternoon keynotes, drank 4 bottles of water, ate half a sandwich and took a short nap. I felt so much better! I returned to the conference with the goal that I wouldn’t think about how many people were there, but would try to just focus on the people directly around me. I started to have conversations that extended beyond introductions, getting to hear some amazing stories, and making friends with really great folks.
Next time, I’ll be better prepared and do the following:
- The night I arrive, take time to prepare everything for the next day, and quietly sit and get mentally prepared. Feeling rushed doesn’t help and sets a frantic tone for the day.
- Bring tea bags from home. Even though the tea at the hotel was fine, I missed my lemon tea, and having that small comfort would help me relax.
- Plan Introvert breaks. There are times when I would’ve felt a lot better if I had taken even 15 minutes to hide my room and just recharge a little.
- Keep water with me . The hotel rooms were hot and dry and crowded and constantly introductions, my voice started to crack like firewood, and I was clearly dehydrated when I felt light-headed. Drink lots of water!
- Breath deeply before saying hello and focus on learning about the person right in front of me. Everyone at the conference was friendly, and most of us are introverts and understand that even an awesome conference can be tiring. Next time I won’t worry so much about if I’m saying the right thing, and will focus more on the good company of those around me.
- Don’t have anything on my calendar the week after the conference. Down time is important!
During the next post, I’ll share more about the fun bits of the conference!