I attended our local SCBWI fall conference last weekend, and as always, it was terrific. Kudos to our wonderful Regional Advisors, Denise Vega and Todd Tuell. Author Chris Crutcher started it off on Saturday with a humorous and heart wrenching/warming keynote address. In addition to writing award winning novels, Mr. Crutcher is a mental health therapist, and he left little doubt in my mind, that he was a darn (Chris would use a more expressive adjective here) good one. It was also apparent that his experiences in working with patients help make his writing come alive. And his humor made all of us come alive as he read an excerpt from his book, DEADLINE, recounting some hilarious scenes, each spurred by a big brother's question: "Do you want to do something neat?"
During the conference, I learned more about social networking (Melody Jones), what makes agents/editors take notice of a submission (agent Karen Gencik's session on 101+ reasons for rejection was very well done and informative), how to write Middle Grade that rings true (editor Emily Clement - loved this as this is my niche), and enjoyed hearing editor Molly O'Neill talk specifically about what attracted her in works she took on.
A special plus at these conferences is the opportunity to sign up for a pitch or critique session with an agent or editor. I was especially fortunate to receive a critique of my first chapter of MG novel CHANGING TIDES from Karen Grencik. She is very personable and straight forward when you meet with her. She also joined our group at the banquet and kept us entertained with her delightful stories and humor.
The social camaraderie with fellow writers is always a big draw for me. Writing itself is a very individual activity, and conversing with other writers about their struggles and sucesses helps me remember I'm really not alone when I'm writing--I just can't see them. I can't stress enough the importance for writers and illustrators to attend these conferences. They provide you with the state of the art news in our profession, the opportunity to meet with agents and editors, and the social contact with people who understand exactly what you're going through and trying to accomplish.