Pam Webb

a writer's journey as a reader

Archive for the tag “conferences”

Conference Recap

About ten years ago one of my writing group cohorts gave me sound advice: “If you want your writing to go somewhere, you need to go to writing conferences.” I immediately started listing reasons why I shouldn’t go: time, cost, distance, and of course, intimidation factor. She countered with a shrug. “Find a way.”

And so I did. I budgeted time and money, carpooled, and found solace in attending with my writing group buds. I absorbed, networked, and came away revitalized. 

Since that first Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators conference I try to attend a conference of some sort once a year. My favorite one was at Chatauacqua hosted by Highlights magazine. For a week we learned the business of writing from some of the best children’s writers in the business, shared meals together, and received one on one conferencing. I sold a story, “Daddy’s Truck” to Highlights out of that experience. In fact it comes out this month in High Five.

This weekend I attended my seventh (or nearly so) SCBWI conference. Even though it’s closer and costs less than my first one, I’m getting more for money because I’m learning more. 

For one, listening to our keynote speakers, two agents and an editor, writing for children is a tough business and a very fulfilling one. As writers for children we encourage, impress, enliven, challenge, motivate, comfort, entertain, and so much more with our words. Our impact remains into adulthood with all of us treasuring at least one favorite title, a favorite author that we will pass on to the next generation.

I also learned that the children’s publishing field is very particular. Agents, editors, and publishers have their preferences and knowing those preferences makes a difference between a manuscript languishing in the slush pile and receiving a contract.

One very important takeaway from this conference is that my polished manuscript, the one I thought the editor I conferenced with would be so impressed she would pull out a contract and sign me up, needs work. Not a discouraging amount, but enough to get me back into revising mode once again.

Maybe in an upcoming conference or two, I’ll be up front at the long table with the authors instead of at the round ones with the hopeful writers. In the meantime I’ll keep attending, keep absorbing, continue revising, and checklist the chicken salad as my lunch preference. It was almost as good as the conference.

From Super-size to Bite-size

With summer vacation officially starting for me I decided to attack my office and tidy up the mounds of paper that has been accumulating through the year. This is both a needed chore and also serves as a means of procrastination. I know I should be sitting down and actually getting back to those writing projects. Like that cow joke book…

Cows can wait momentarily, for I found treasures to share.

[Zits points out that literature, and I will extend this to quotes, is a matter of perspective] 

Every year in September I attend the local SCBWI (Society of Childrens Book Writers and Illustrators) annual conference. My main goal is have a manuscript professionally critiqued by an editor or agent (who will be so delighted with my writing that I am offered a contract on the spot). Another goal is network and source gather. Both are conducive to bettering my writerly skills.

One workshop handout proved too fun to toss.The idea is to take a well-known quote and make it more relatable to teens by translating into more YAish language. Here is their example:

“When today fails to offer the justification for hope, tomorrow becomes the only grail worth pursuing.” Arthur Miller, Death of a Salesman

Here’s their translation: “Some days it’s hard to see the point of it all, so you have to wait for tomorrow and hope by then there’ll be something worth waking up for.”

I don’t know about you, but I can see this opening up a YA book that will be full of angst, humor, a touch of romance, and maybe even a bit of defiance.

YA is one genre that I would like to get out there into the hands of readers. There must be room for another John Green. I’m working on getting my YA voice down, and that’s the point of this exercise. Tell you what, rate me on whether I’m even close.

Marcel Proust, In Search of Time
“We believe that we can change the things around us in accordance with our desires–we believe it because otherwise we can see no favourable outcome.”

C.Muse translation:
“If I can’t see the silver lining, I’m still gonna carry an umbrella.”

Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms
If people bring so much courage to this world the world has to kill them to break them, so of course it kills them.”

C.Muse translation:
“The world wants to suck your joy, just like vampires, and vampires aren’t exactly EMTs.”

Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre
“Life appears to me too short to be spent in nursing animosity or registering wrongs.”

C.Muse translation:
“Life is too short to be hanging on to bruises–get over it and go have a bagel.”

Quotes of great possibility I didn’t get to:

“Nothing is so painful to the human mind as a great and sudden change.”
Mary Shelley, Frankenstein

“I know not all that may be coming, but be it what it will, I’ll go to it laughing.”
Herman Melville, Moby Dick

“There is nothing I would not do for those who are really my friends. I have no notion of loving people by halves, it is not my nature.” Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

Everyone suspects himself of at least one of the cardinal virtues, and this is mine: I am one of the few honest people that I have ever know.” 
F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

It was actually pretty entertaining to listen to everyone’s interpretation. As I recollect my vampire translation received a few polite guffaws. Does that mean it was perceived as a home runner or just a bummer?

I do have a couple of YA manuscripts I plan on revisiting and sending out on their “please-publish-me” tour.

Blue Skies and hope your summer is also off to a spiffy start.



Conference Crumbs


Recently I attended a writing conference and I will freely admit I attended primarily because I knew my time had arrived. Yes, this time I would be discovered. My critique editor would be so impressed with my submission that she would pat the chair next to her and state, “I’ve waited all day to finally meet you. I adore this * points to my pages* and we need to talk about contracts.”
This, of course, did not happen and I doubt it will. Or if it does I hope the actual moment will not be as corny as my version.

I didn’t always used to be conference goer. I used to be a conference nayer. “Pfft–I don’t need to spend money, drive miles, and sit and listen to people who have made it. I have my books and magazines to tell me what I need to know.” That’s me turning down a suggestion to attend a SCBWI conference. My critique group sagely retorted, “You go because it’s all about networking.” And she was right. Making connections is primary, and gaining knowledge is secondary for me.

When conference invites drop into my mailbox I first check the line up–who is going to be there? Getting to hear a favorite or well-known author or to glean industry insights from a respected editor, publisher, or agent might entice me to reach for the calendar. Yet, what gets me actually going to the conference is the critique, having the opportunity to learn and to receive an assessment of my writing from an industry professional. If I can get a renowned publisher, editor, or agent to look over my work and get their attention for 12 minutes, I’m all in. Critiques range in price and my pocketbook can handle the $60 variety, which translates to roughly $5.00 a minute . I consider this a good value since I willingly pay a dollar a minute for my ten minute chair massage at the farmer’s market. Both are invigorating focused sessions, yet only one is beneficial towards my career.
Once at the conference  I diligently sit through the various speakers, deftly mining worthy industry nuggets. Admittedly I’m only half tuned into the program because I keep glancing at my at my watch after continually rechecking my critique appointment slip. Bad form, really. It would be much better to relax and relish while waiting.

This year I did do just that.

My appointment was probably the last one of the day which meant I needed to pass the time. I actually decided to really listen to the speaker presentations and not just flick through the bin of offered treasure trove of advice but to really savor the meal before me. Yes,a muddle of metaphors.  As for the actual conference I had a productive meeting with a publisher of a respected, well-known publishing house. She liked my approach, style, and even appreciated my humorous bits in the manuscript. She had prepared an amazing critique page–the best organized I’ve ever received. No, she did not offer a contract. However, she did hand me her personal business card and invited me to send my proposal for another project to her directly *no slush pile*. And she said I could resubmit the piece she had critiqued. Better than six chair massages, I’d say.

So, if are on the fence about attending a writing conference I would give you a bit of a nudge and so “Zip out the credit card and go absorb and mingle and learn.”

Oh–I would appreciate some good thoughts towards the project I just emailed her.  Having just received a rejection for a manuscript, I wouldn’t mind some good news around the corner.

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