Unfortunately, I didn’t take an photos at the sessions last week. Probably because I was too busy taking notes or flapping my gums. I think these photos sum up the weekend nicely though. New York… wow. I get it now.
For the past week, I have been literally CHEWING on all the wonderful information that was thrown at me during the SCBWI conference in New York City. I was expecting a great event, but I had no idea how inspiring it would truly be.
Towards the end of the conference the common question among attendees was “What was your favorite part?” I would have to say that it is difficult to put into words. Mainly, I was amazed by how many of my peers were having lightbulb moments of inspiration. They happened during sessions, over dinner conversation, while taking breaks and late at night in the hotel bar. You could always tell when it happened… the person would stop, grab their pencil and feverishly begin taking notes or sketching. I personally worked through a problem I was having with a manuscript during one session. I came up with two new picture book ideas. Another friend wrote an entire picture book draft in the midst of a keynote.
I think one of the greatest gifts when attending an SCBWI conference is allowing yourself to forget your daily life and immerse yourself in your passion. The second gift is that you are able to do so surrounded by like-minded people. These people don’t bat an eyelash when you begin discussing treasure ships, talking chickens and “Robo-vampires set on destroying the earth” (Yes… for those who didn’t attend, this was an actual topic of discussion on one of the panels). They share in your enthusiasm when you talk about your new Wacom tablet, your trials and tribulations with XYZ printing company, and your frustrations about working while a toddler hangs off your arm begging for more apple juice. It’s just nice to know that we aren’t alone.
Overall, I feel envigorated, renewed and full of direction. MUCH more so than when I packed my bags and headed to the airport a week ago.
Obviously you can’t discount the experience of rubbing elbows and absorbing the advice of “the greats” in the business either. It amazed me how willingly people like Jane Yolen, Peter Brown, John Rocco, Cassandra Clare, Sophie Blackall, etc. were to share their knowledge and experience with those just getting started. They had a certain way of making you feel “invited to the party”… and party we did! The gala’s and socials were incredible and I met several people who I believe will be lifelong friends. Building a network is so important in this business (as many of the speakers agreed) and I feel great knowing that my own group of peers is growing with each new event.
Many of you are probably wondering about all the “secrets and insider tips” we learned at the conference. Those that will help us to soar above the rest and land those coveted contracts. Most of all I learned that even the “professionals” are still stumbling along trying to find their way with each change in the market. It’s reassuring to know that they don’t have all the answers either.
Despite this, many of them did have a lot of great advice. Many of their words of advice were simply reminders to keep pushing forward. Here are some of the thoughts that stood out to me:
Be visible. Blog once a week. Comment on other people’s blogs… generally they will return the favor. Join Facebook and try to be interesting. Show the publishing industry that you are relevant. Just put your work out there. Key word: Discoverability.
Do what you know and create what you love. If you are passionate about what you are doing it will shine through in your work.
Give freely. Be generous and open. More ideas will come. Be an idea factory.
Tell the truth in your character’s own language. The truth that you know is the one that will get you published. Look within, be honest and create from the heart.
Read. If you want to be a creator of stories you have to know a lot about the world… and how to ask the right questions.
Have style. Your own style has a relationship to your childhood and your own relationship with books. Don’t follow trends, do what comes naturally. Move from conscious creation to a more intuitive approach.
Know your characters. The story of your book is found in whatever they NEED!
Live a creative life. All the parts of your life inform one another. Even making cupcakes for your kids can feed your work.
Stay strong. Success is directly proportional to your ability to accept rejection.
Network. Connect with people who embrace your work.
There was a lot of other discussion about websites to check out, the current status of the industry, suggestions for submission, marketing recommendations and more. I can’t even begin to go into all of those things just yet, but in the end those things are probably the least important. It all begins and ends with doing good work. I truly believe that if you have a good story, if you tell it well, if you create it with passion, and if you pursue its publication with a strong belief in its success… it will find an audience. I have to believe that. This belief has lit a fire under me this week and I look forward to seeing where it takes me over the next few months.
Finally, I will leave you with the book trailer that John Rocco created for his book “Blackout”. Discussions on book trailers and marketing were a huge part of the conference and I was incredibly inspired by the passion behind this one. It doesn’t always have to be complicated. Sometimes simple can be wonderful.