Stephanie: I’m not normally a shy person. Most people would probably say I’m pretty outgoing, but when I first started writing the idea of attending any type of conference terrified me. I thought of the SCBWI LA conference the way some people might think of the dentist. I imagined it would be good for my writing health, but not for my mental health.
Stacey: In contrast to Stephanie, I am a shy person, which means the idea of going to a conference makes me want to break a shinbone just to get out of going. I’ve gone to eighteen conferences now (and those are just the ones I remember), and I still get nervous, especially now that I am called to speak at such conferences, something I won’t go into in this post, but maybe one day.
Stephanie: To be honest, I no longer get quite as nervous as I used to, but I had a long list of fears before my first conference. I was scared because I didn’t know any other writers, because I wasn’t published yet, because conferences are expensive, because I feared people would ask me to pitch my book and then give me funny looks when I tried to explain it—if you come up with a scenario, I was pretty much terrified of it.
Stacey: I still get anxious thinking about being the weirdo who eats lunch by herself behind the plant.
Stephanie: Me too! All that to say, it never occurred to either of us that attending a conference might actually be fun.
Stacey: And to be honest, all of the conferences, yes, all eighteen of them (and maybe even the ones I don’t remember) have been a blast. Sometimes more blasty than others, but I have not regretted a single one of them.
Stephanie: Our favorite conference is the SCBWI LA summer conference, and since they’ve just opened up registration for this year’s conference we thought it might fun to share a list of reasons why you should all consider attending.
Ten Reasons to go to SCBWI LA (not in any particular order):
- Meet other writers, make friends: this is the best part. You’ll find people on the same pathway as you, and meet others who have gone before. It’s not just published writers who attend conferences.
- Get a feel for agents and editors (but don’t stalk them or pitch to them): the SCBWI LA conference provides many opportunities to hear agents/editors speak about what they’re looking for, and opportunities to interact with them. Unlike some other conferences, the vibe at SCBWI LA is casual; it could be due to proximity to the beach.
- Learn craft: As the largest gathering of SCBWI members (1300 this past year), competition to speak at this conference is high, and therefore the quality of the presentations is also very high. You will learn, even if you think already know it all.
- Get updated info about the market: every year, Deborah Halverson reports on market trends in the publishing industry. This is key for anyone looking to submit a manuscript for publication.
- You will never find a more interesting lobby, which serves as the meeting place for regional SCBWI groups, agents, editors, authors. The groups are fluid, casual, and the conversation is always lively. We can’t tell you how many new friends we’ve made, or how many interesting things we’ve come across, just while sitting on the couches or waiting in line for coffee.
- Saturday Night Costume Party: each year, the theme changes, but the staples are a live band, dancing, and build-your-own soft tacos for dinner.
- Find critique partners: there are organized meet ups for those seeking a critique partner, and opportunities to have your work critiqued by peers, and professionals. At the SCBWI LA conference there’s even an award, the Sue Alexander Award, for the most promising manuscript submitted for critique.
- Inspiration: the keynotes and panels can inspire you to greater heights. Last year, Newbery winner Kwame Alexander and Caldecott winner Dan Santat both roused and touched our hearts.
- Fantastic surprises: every person has a different experience at this conference, but one pattern we’ve noticed is that every year something new and magical happens to almost everyone who attends. One year, a group of debut authors were all having dinner, when one of the conference keynote speakers, Stephen Chbosky (author of The Perks of Being a Wallflower) showed up, and paid for everyone’s meal. Tell us you’re not tempted to go, just to see if that could happen to you?
- New Experiences Inspire Creativity: whether you chose to attend the SCBWI LA conference we really want to encourage you to attend some type of conference, somewhere. There are lots of great conferences out there, and as we said above, conferences always come with fun and unexpected surprises.
Now it’s your turn, for those of you who’ve attended conferences we’d love to hear about your favorite conferences in the comments.