I’ve been writing children’s literature for about ten years now, and I’ve have an amazing agent for the last four years. We haven’t made our first sale yet, but I have faith it will happen if we keep trying, and until then I’ll strive to approach my writing career every bit as professionally as my day job as a structural engineer. So why is it that I’ve never attended a national SCBWI conference before? The answer is simple: fear.
Attending a conference with 1200 writers and illustrators can make a newbie feel as insignificant as a single blade of grass in the forest. But I’m here to tell you it’s not as scary as you might think. For starters, only about 400 of those 1200 attendees are published. Which means there are 800 people just like you, still honing their craft and working towards that first publishing contract. And 300 people showed up for first-timer conference orientation this morning, a third of which admitted they registered without knowing a single soul attending the conference. You are not alone, no matter how isolated you may feel in your writer’s bubble.
One of the best functions of SCBWI is forming a support group for writers and illustrators, and the organization approaches the national conference with exactly that goal in mind. My incredible Regional Advisor, Alice McGinty, contacted every Illinois attendee in advance of the conference to notify us of who would be attending and to share her conference pointers. Then the e-mails flew between the attendees sending advice and coordinating when to meet up once we arrived in LA. Special thanks to Katie Sparks for an awesome blog post with her conference pointers at www.onceuponaspark.blogspot.com. And kudos to Stephanie Hawkins for bravely driving in LA traffic for our sightseeing adventure. Illinois SCBWI members rock!
One day into my first SCBWI national conference, my experience has been completely fear-free. Of course I belong here. Where else could I find so many fun, passionate individuals who love children’s literature every bit as much as I do?