Was this your first SCBWI national conference? If you have attended more than one, how was this one different from the others?
The national conference in New York was my second SCBWI national conference. I attended the LA event in 2005. Both are wonderful, with speakers and sessions that leave you crackling with creativity. I’ve heard it said that the LA conference focuses more on the craft of writing, while the NY conference focuses on the business of publishing. In my experience, I found that to be true. It seems as though attendees have more access to agents and editors in NY, but the LA conference offers a huge lineup of kid lit veterans. If I were made of bricks of gold and blocks of time, I’d do both every year!
Can you give a brief overview of what happens at the conference?
I was lucky enough to attend the special Writer’s Intensive that is held every year the Friday before the conference. From 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., eight writers were assigned to one of 30 tables. Each table had an editor or agent who directed a critique session. Writers brought a 500-word sample of their work, and had 15 minutes to both read the piece and receive critiques. It was amazing! My morning session was one of the best critique sessions I’ve ever been involved with at a conference. Our group really gelled. I’ll likely keep in touch with 2-3 writers from that experience. And Jane Yolen gave the closing remarks, focusing her speech on fabulous endings. “A good ending should be both predictable and unexpected,” she said.
Saturday included a number of keynote speakers: David Wiesner, Nikki Grimes, and Carolyn Mackler. (Wow! Pow! Ka-chow!) There were two pre-assigned break-out sessions, each featuring an editor of a major publishing house. The topic was the same for each editor: “What I want to publish.” I chose to attend sessions by Reka Simonsen (Henry Holt) and Wendy Loggia (aka, my SuperEditor, at Delacorte ) The editors were upfront and open about how their houses work, what the acquisition process is, and what their needs and likes are. At the core of every presentation? Editors want A GOOD STORY. Hmmm…
On Sunday, Susan Patron spoke about what it’s like to win the Newbery (it was *fascinating*!). I missed one of my all-time favorite authors, Richard Peck, due to my flight schedule.
Overall, it is delightful experience, one that reenergizes your writing and keeps you focused on quality.
What was your favorite event or speaker?
My favorite speaker was Carolyn Mackler (The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things). I’d seen her present at the LA conference in 2005, and boy, what a difference three years and a couple of banned books makes! Don’t get me wrong – she was an energetic, funny, and entertaining speaker when I first saw her, but her speech this year in NY was downright inspirational. As in, I-want-to-dash-back-to-my-hotel-room-and-write-right-now, I-don’t-care-that-there’s-no-money-in-kid-lit inspirational. All heart. Fantastic.
How did it feel to go to the conference as a soon-to-be debut author?
I’ve always found conferences a little nerve-wracking. Writers are a reclusive sort, and talking to strangers isn’t always easy. So for me, having a book coming out this fall was kinda like having the ultimate ice-breaker. Kid lit writers are the nicest people on earth, and they are genuinely happy for others’ successes.
Plus, I got my first-ever round of applause for writing at this conference! My SuperEditor offered Autumn Winifred Oliver Does Different as an example of middle grade historical fiction that caught her eye. “And the author is in the audience!” she added at the end of her lovely overview. “Give a wave, Kristin!” As I did, the audience clapped! For *my* book! I’m still floating.
What advice would you give unpublished authors who are considering attending the conference for the first time?
Go go go go go! But first, write the very best story you can write. Research the people who will be presenting at the conference, and see who edits/represents books that are similar to yours. Read those books. (This is a step that is often overlooked, but don’t overlook it! That whole ice-breaker thing again…) Be respectful of the agents and editors who are giving up their personal time to attend the conference. Bring business cards, and meet as many fellow authors as you can. If there are optional or additional critique sessions available, do as many of them as you can. After the conference, send exactly what the editor/agent requests, no more, no less. Write thank you notes. Have fun!
Tell me about your debut novel and when it will be available.
Autumn Winifred Oliver has charmed a hive of bees, wrangled a flock of geese, and filched a stick of dynamite from the U.S. Government. But it’ll take a whole new kind of gumption to save her Cades Cove home.
Autumn Winifred Oliver Does Things Different is an historical fiction middle grade novel set in 1934 Cades Cove at the birth of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the only national park formed from privately owned land. It will be available October 14 from Delacorte Press. For more information, please visit my website: www.kristintubb.com.
Thank you Kristin, for taking the time to share your experiences! Now I definitely have ‘Attend SCBWI national conference’ on my to-do-list.
Kristin is a member of the Class of 2k8, a group of 27 debut Middle Grade and Young Adult authors with books coming out in 2008. Check out their website here.