Monday, October 26, 2009

scbwi conference hightlights and my writer's angst

Whelp, the Regional Northern CA/Bay Area SCBWI Conference came and went, and with it I learned a few new things, met some amazing people, and developed a little writer's angst.

First off, cheers to all of the writers and illustrators who attended the conference, because they truly helped to make the day a more fulfilling, enjoyable experience. And kudos to the agents and editors who presented. I'm sure that putting yourself at the mercy of a bunch of eager writers can be a daunting, potentially draining task. In fact, I think it's safe to say, that most of the industry people who attended, have probably been hounded one too many times by relentless, pushy writers, which in turn, can make it kind of difficult for someone like me, a non-pushy writer, to have a "normal" conversation with them, without scaring them away....

That said, I learned lots; everything from how to capture a child's voice - a tough task on its own, as it's easy to forget the quirky, yet surprisingly insightful things kids can say; to five lessons on how to plot your book; and, how to (hopefully one day) promote yourself and your book once it's published. One of the highlights of the conference though, was when an editor from the imprint of a big publishing house, picked random manuscripts from a basket, which conference attendees had added to at registration that morning, and read them out loud, then critiqued them on the spot. Eeck! First of all, let me say, what a brave editor for doing this and for thinking quickly on her feet, literally, and, although I found this exercise helpful, it was also a tad nerve-wracking, even though my manuscript was not read. Maybe it was just me, but I could feel the tension in the room as writers sat clenched with anticipation that their manuscript could be the next one read. The editor was nice with her critiques though, and kept her criticisms light and constructive. Finally, to end the day, Teri Sloat, a very creative, enthusiastic author/illustrator, showed us how inspiration and imagination can lead to creativity. She presented an animated video of her illustrations come to life, which elicited many "oohs and aahs" from the audience.

So, where is my mind today? I'm a little distracted, to tell the truth, (this post took me way too long to write and I almost scraped the whole thing) because in the back of my head, actually the front of my head, I'm reminded that I have a ton of competition out there, even though I don't like to look at it as so, it is, to be realistic, competition. Going to these conferences can be very inspirational, but, at the same time, part of me feels extremely overwhelmed. I know in order for my manuscript to sell it needs to be tight, entertaining, attuned to the current market and appropriate age group, and most importantly, very well written - this is no easy thing. I really hate when anxiety creeps up on me like this, but when it does, I try and take a deep breath, go for a run or take Sadie for a long walk, and hope that it runs its course through my system. But, then again, I know that I wouldn't be doing this if I weren't passionate about it. After all, what is it they say? No risk, no reward. amen.

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