Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

Tips, Goals For Conference-Goers

By Lyn Sirota

Whether this conference is your first writer's conference or your twenty-first, there is a level of excitement and anticipation of the big event. Who will I meet? What new gems will help build my skill sets? And the big one…will I get closer to selling a manuscript?

After all, isn't that what every writer is after? True. But learning from the process along the way builds strong writers who value the journey. The people we meet, and how we present ourselves and our work is game changing. So it's good to have a plan for each conference. The plan doesn't need to be anything formal. Just some forethought.

It might take a few readings of the conference materials to understand the flow of the day/s. If the selection of workshops or sessions is intricate, print the options in order to read through everything thoroughly and highlight or underline interests and choices. It helps to have a first choice and a back up choice. Learn the rules to know if it is acceptable to move between sessions during session time.

Plan your information management ahead of time. Decide how you're taking notes. Whether it is recording notes in a notebook, laptop, tablet or phone. Often handouts are given and it can be helpful to take notes on the handouts or take a picture of the handout with a smart phone for use later.

If there are editors you know you would like to meet, make a list of them. If you are going to their sessions, you'll know who to look for later. If you're not, you might need the assistance of a conference volunteer to point them out to you.

Develop a "pitch" just in case anyone—whether it be editor or colleague—asks what your manuscript is about. Think of a pitch like a help wanted advertisement. Say just enough to pique the interest of the other party without giving it all away. It's helpful to rehearse this and run it past other authors or a critique group to test it out.

Have an exit strategy. There will be many people to talk to and it is important to maximize time. Whether it is "Excuse me I need to find the rest room" or "Excuse me I need to locate an editor I've been wanting to introduce myself to," all of these help the day run a little smoother and help accomplish goals.

Wear comfortable, but professional clothing and shoes. Dress in layers. Conferences often have issues with heat and cooling, so it helps to have options. Your conference experience is always a function of what you make of it. Going into it with an open mind is, perhaps, the best step in the journey of becoming published!


There are a few more spots still available at the New Jersey Summer Conference, sign up today!