Friday, January 21, 2011

The 2011 SCBWI Winter Conference - The Top 7 Things You Need To Know

Okay, I'm excited. The conference starts one week from today on Friday January 28, 2011, and YES, you can even register as a walk-in!!!

You can be inspired and learn from some of the luminaries of our world of children's literature - people like two time Newbery Medal winning author Lois Lowry, multi-award winning author/illlustrator Mo Willems, publisher and editor Jennifer Besser, art directors Lucy Ruth Cummins and Denise Cronin, Agent Jim McCarthy, the unbelievably brilliant (and Newbery Medal winning) author Linda Sue Park, National Book Award Finalist Sara Zarr, and many, many more!

And while the writers intensive on Friday is sold out, there's still space in the illustrator's intensive, which sounds so amazing that even though I'm not an illustrator, I have to admit I was tempted...

Assuming you've already made your arrangements to be part of the awesomeness in New York, here are my top 7 things that you need to know to get the most out of the 2011 Winter Conference!

#1. The Twitter hashtag for the conference is #NY11SCBWI

And the Official SCBWI Conference blog, put together by the amazing SCBWI Team Blog ( Jaime Temairik, Jolie Stekley, Martha Brockenbrough, Suzanne Young and me, and we're led by Alice Pope, who writes the indispensible Alice Pope's SCBWI Children's Market Blog!) is here at:

#2. There's going to be a special LGBTQ&A Chat during the conference that I once again have the honor of moderating and co-hosting with SCBWI's Director of Communications and Creative Director, Aaron Hartzler. Our special guests will be Executive Editor Arianne Lewin and Agent Jim McCarthy! Here's the details:

Find the LGBTQ in SCBWI!
6:30 – 7:30 PM | Saturday, January 29, 2011 | Alvin/Carnegie Room - Conference Level

At SCBWI’s 2008 Summer Conference in Los Angeles, a group of LGBT editors, agents, and authors met informally to discuss LGBT publishing, specifically chatting about the submission process, who is interested and what types of stories they are interested in. We’ve continued this conversation at each conference since.

Maybe you’ve written a book about or for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered or questioning youth; maybe you’re interested in doing so, and you’re just not sure where to begin; maybe you are just curious to learn more about this vital corner of the market for young readers. Whatever your interest in the subject matter, all are welcome. Bring a friend and any questions you may have.

Hosted by SCBWI's Aaron Hartzler and SCBWI Team Blog's Lee Wind, our special guests for this event will be executive editor Arianne Lewin and agent Jim McCarthy.

Arianne Lewin is an executive editor at Putnam Books for Young Readers. Most recently she was senior editor at Hyperion, where she edited Cinda Williams Chima, Whoopi Goldberg, Julie Anne Peters, Laura Numeroff, and Amy Krouse Rosenthal, among others. Although she has a special affinity for young adult fiction, Arianne does acquire books in all genres.

Jim McCarthy is an agent at Dystel & Goderich Literary Management. His interests encompass both literary and commercial works. He is particularly interested in urban fantasy, paranormal romance, horror, gay and lesbian fiction, and absolutely anything that can make him laugh out loud.

#3. Friday night SLJ's Fuse #8 Blogger and New York City Children's Librarian Extraordinaire Betsy Bird is hosting her famous Kid Lit Drink Night: SCBWI Edition! Come rub elbows and toast to Community with your fellow authors, illustrators, editors, art directors, agents and well, nerdy cool people. Or is that cool nerdy people? Both. It's going to be at The Wheeltapper Pub, 141 East 44th street (near Lexington Ave.) in the backroom (how cool does THAT sound?) Friday, Jan 28, 9pm-ish.

#4. Be ready to answer this question: "So, what are you working on?" Practice your answer - think elevator pitch. 30 seconds. A couple of sentences, tops. Here's mine:

It's a middle grade novel called "OVER GOD." A week before his thirteenth birthday and his Bar Mitzvah - the day in Jewish tradition when you are no longer a child but a man, Adam's freaking out. Why? He's an Atheist, and can't tell anyone his secret... But the day before spring break he plagiarizes a bar mitzvah speech off the internet, gets caught not saying "Under God" during the Pledge of Allegiance at school, and comes up with a partial truth - saying that he's not sure he believes in God. It's his parents' turn to freak out, and his Dad flies him to Israel to "find God" in four days or less. Threatened with expulsion and terrified of losing his parents' love, Adam has to figure out what he's going to do - and what does it means to become a man?

Maybe it's not the perfect pitch, and I'll work on it, but at least I can coherently explain what I'm writing without a sea of "ummmms." Being able to talk about your own current work in progress is really important - even just in talking to other writers and illustrators! So do this bit of homework. I promise, you'll be glad you did.

Oh, and if you're in a situation where there's an agent or editor standing next to you and you're bursting to say something but worried about whether you should bother them or not, read this great blog post by agent Michael Bourret of Dystel & Goderich, who assures us all that
"...if you’re going to get your money’s worth, you should be talking to the faculty!"
The agents and editors attending are there, in part, to meet and talk with writers and illustrators like you (and me!) so we should feel empowered to politely engage them in conversation. No bathroom stalking, but when it's appropriate, go for it - and now, when you talk with them, you'll be able to discuss your work in progress!

#5. A career in the world of children's literature as a writer and/or illustrator is a balancing of INSPIRATION, CRAFT and BUSINESS.
Allow yourself to be fed in all three areas. Be open to being inspired, and give yourself time to write and sketch and brainstorm. Be willing to learn something to improve your craft. Take notes. Bring along your current WIP, or an outline, or your sketchbook - not so much to share, but for you. Be excited about each step you take towards mastering the business aspects of this - your career. And yes, attending the conference is a giant step towards claiming this journey as your career!

#6. Be professional. This is not the place to get rip-roaring drunk and streak through the hotel lobby on a dare. (It's New York in January. Two words: frost bite!) Consider that, outside of the words or images on the page or screen, you want to be the kind of person editors and agents and art directors and publishers will want to work with: So be that kind, professional, creative soul.

#7. Recognize that you are part of a tribe - those of us who are passionate about creating Children's Literature. As isolating as writing or drawing at your desk may be, there are these glorious moments twice a year where we come together, we, the members of the Society of Children's Books Writers and Illustrators, hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of us - and last year more than a thousand of us - from all over this country and the world, to learn and grow and network and be inspired... and be a community.

And as you attend the conference, allow yourself to feel like you belong and are part of the community. Because you are.

Okay, those are my tips.

Have more advice for conference goers? Add them here in comments!

Thanks, and hope to see you in New York City!!!



Pam Harris said...

I'm devastated that I can't go to this! And I just recently found out that I might not be able to go to the LA one due to a family member's wedding. :( I hope everyone has fun. Great tips, btw!

Laurie L Young said...

I love your elevator pitch—can't wait to read the book!
This was a great reminder to me to work on my own. Even though I am not going to the conference, I will need it at some point. Thanks!

Tina Burke said...

Thanks for this post! I'm so excited for the conference, and the kid lit drink night sounds fantastic too! Yay!

Jaye Robin Brown said...

I'm really enjoying your blog and so wish I could attend the NY conference. Hopefully LA this summer will be within reach, will there be a LBGT forum there do you think? My current MG WIP (close to finished) has a gay family theme, though the MC is not gay. I'm just wondering, when I read that agents are looking for gay novels, if this would fall into that category? Anyway, have a great time and thanks for all the posting, makes me feel like I might be there in some small way.

Diane Browning said...

Great pitch, Lee. The book really sounds like a winner! Have fun at the conference and tell us all about it, please!

Ishta Mercurio said...

I love this post. Your tips are fabulous, and your book sounds great!

And can I add that if you can get past the pre-conference adrenaline rush, it's a good idea to get lots of rest beforehand?

Candy Gourlay said...

Hey Lee - I'm an ardent SCBWIite from the British chapter attending my first NY conference - thanks for the tips - love the one about being a community! Our British conferences feel very much like family and I'm a bit nervous to be outside the fold. Hope I run into you!

Kamy Wakim said...

Thanks, Lee. This entry really put me at ease. You're right--it is all about being a community.

PS: Awesome pitch. :) See you there!

Mimi Cross said...

Namaste Lee, thanks for the great post!
Hope I get to meet you.