SCBWI Conferences: Socialize! (Especially you, introverts! I believe in you!)

 

It’s such an odd thing to think that an introvert will tell you how important it is to socialize at conferences, but I would argue that it’s one of the most important things about attending a conference. Taking a deep breath and allowing yourself to meet someone new opens the door to potentially wonderful friendships.  

While you’re sitting at home in front of your computer, it’s easy to say “YES. I am going to TALK to people!” but then suddenly you’re standing in the middle of a room while people are networking and talking. You are an awkward island and you don’t know how to move (what do I do with my arms?), make eye contact (am I staring? Don’t look at anyone! AH! I JUST LOOKED AT THAT PERSON AND THEY LOOKED AT ME!) , and the panic is rising up your body until you flee to your hotel room and eat a sleeve of cookies.  

It may not be cookies. That might just be me 😉 

First, take a deep breath. I know I said this before, but taking a deep breath will let your body know that you’re not being chased by tigers or zombies, OR ZOMBIE TIGERS. That will signal to your body that it can calm down a little bit. Keep breathing. Let yourself feel your feet on the floor and repeat this in your head: 

“Everyone gets nervous. I’m worth meeting. I can do this. I got this.” 

Some great places to introduce yourself: 

  • By the water jugs. Everyone gets thirsty. People actually talk about getting thirsty.  
  • In line for food. “What’s that? Mashed potatoes? Oooh I want to eat that!” 
  • Sitting next to someone at a session or before a keynote. (I know, you can do it! Be brave!) 
  • Looking at portfolios during the show case. “Whoa, this is beautiful work! Look at this image!”  

 

If you get really stuck, you can always fall back on these subjects:

  • Music (“What kind of music do you like to listen to?”)
  • What someone is reading, at this conference, it’s safe to assume everyone has a book they really enjoy
  •  What part of the conference they are most looking forward to, or if it’s later in the weekend, what part they really enjoyed.
  • Where they are from. I love hearing about people’s hometowns and what it’s like there. But if someone looks different from you, dont’ ask “Ohio? No, where are you REALLY from?” (I’m looking at you fellow white people. Don’t be that person)

 

If you don’t have plans for lunch, be bold, find a friendly group of people and ask “May I join you?” Most people will say yes. Don’t monopolize the conversation but also be proud of who you are and don’t cower within yourself when someone asks about you.  

And if someone invites you to have dinner or drinks with a group, go for it. Yes, it’s going to be exhausting if you are an introvert , but it will also be FUN! You’ll make friends, and pretty soon, you’ll find yourself a part of a group of people who are just amazing, and you’ll be making plans to come back to the next conference so you can hang out with them again.

 

And because, what is a post without pictures? here are some cat studies I did last week.

  Surfing the Webs

 

SCBWI Conferences: Stay an extra day!

Going to conferences can be a lot of fun, but also a bit nerve wracking to plan for. With SCBWI’s annual Winter Conference in New York coming up, and some amazing local conferences like the one in Pittsburgh (November 8&9, 2019) I wanted to write a few posts about conferences and what I wish someone had told me when I started out.

When planning your trip, I really encourage you to book at least one extra day in the city. You’ve traveled all this way to go somewhere new, plan out some sights you want to see and schedule a day to enjoy being a tourist. If you can, schedule more than one day! I love doing this when I go to New York for the winter conference, and each time I get to try something new. I saw the show Wicked, got a selfie at Rockefeller Center, and tried some restaurants that were new to me! I also probably ate way too many black and white cookies. Enjoy being a tourist!

If you are coming to Pittsburgh for our annual conference this November (link here), you’ll be glad you took an extra day or two to stay. There’s a LOT of really cool stuff here that I take for granted in this city, like our amazing museums, the science center, Phipps, concerts, plays and musicals, etc. There’s something for everyone from the music lover to the sports fan. And you can finally try that Primanti’s sandwich you’ve heard so many good things about.

Below is a drawing I did in colored pencils. I really am mostly a digital artist, but there’s something about the sounds and smells of traditional media, and the response of the tools in your hands. Several times, I did try to zoom into the drawing to see what I was doing more clearly, but I’m really proud that I only hit the imaginary ctrl z once 😀 

Drawing In Pencil

The NESCBWI Conference

The New England SCBWI Conference has passed and I often heard these questions:

  1. What should I expect if I go?
  2. 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?

 

 

 

 

How was the Regional 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! bookmark-2inx8in-h-round-front

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!

The Unprepared Introvert: SCBWI Winter Conference

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!