Tuesday, June 12, 2012

What I learned at the NJSCBWI Annual Conference

This weekend the New Jersey chapter of the Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators had its annual conference. It was a three day affair filled with workshops, critiques, inspirational keynote speakers and book fairs that took me from high highs (Love your character! She is so well developed.) to low lows (You overwrite! What does your character really want?) and gave me the super power to say no (more) to coffee.  Along the way, I learned a few things…

Say hello. Conferences, especially, those as big as the NJSCBWI one, can be intimidating. Everyone seems to be chatting with everyone else and it’s easy to become a wallflower or a chair warmer. Make friends. Attendees at the conference are writers following their dreams. Just like you. Simply say hello and you may meet your next critique partner or beta reader.

Critiques are opinions. Take them with a grain of salt. I know you’ve heard this many times but it bears repeating. You need to pick and choose what you are going to change about your manuscript. The temptation to accept every suggestion that a senior editor recommends can be too much. An unusually tough critique can bring you down. In the end, it comes down to how well you are practicing your craft. Are you committed to becoming a better writer? Do you have faith in yourself and your story? Whatever I write in my feedback comments as a critique or whatever an agent writes can only be validated by you.

Your work is not perfect. That’s OK! Is your ‘conceit’ original? Does your story make sense? Are your characters well developed? Do you have a voice? If yes, then throw yourself into the process of pitching, submitting, and of course, revising.

Finally, don’t forget to submit your work! Polish up your query and those first fifteen pages that the editor discussed with you, paste them in the body of your email and hit the send button as soon as you can!

Good luck at your conferences!

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