The Conference Report: SCBWI LA, and Why You Should Go

Hi all! Stephanie here today with fellow pub-crawler Stacey Lee to talk about how fun (and scary) writing conferences can be!

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):

  1. 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.

Dinner at SCBWI LA 2015

  1. 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.


    Stacey Lee with her agent Kristin Nelson

  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.

Costume party

  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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?
  1. 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.

Fantastic 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.


7 Responses to The Conference Report: SCBWI LA, and Why You Should Go

  1. Karen Lewis Apr 20 2016 at 12:42 pm #

    Conferences are splendid gatherings of the tribe! If anyone wants a smaller, more retreat-like conference with focus on craft, lots of informal networking with literary professionals, please consider the Mendocino Coast Writers Conference, located on the wild North Coast. August 4-6, 2016 there’s a dedicated “writing for children and YA” track (led by Laura Atkins) along with the new, optional, Publishing Boot Camp August 7, led by Shirin Yim Bridges (Goosebottom Books publisher). Lots more!

    • Stephanie Apr 20 2016 at 5:56 pm #

      Ooh, I’d never head of that conference, Karen! Thanks so much for sharing! It sounds like a great event. 🙂

  2. Tanya Spencer Apr 20 2016 at 5:34 pm #

    One of the best part of conferences IS meeting other writers! Like how I got to met you two lovely ladies at SCBWI LA last year. Making new friends, writer friends, is the best. I hope I get to see you both at SCBWI LA 2016. I’ll be there!

    • Stephanie Apr 20 2016 at 5:57 pm #

      I agree, Tanya! I think that is one of my favorite parts for sure–and it was so fun meeting you there last year. Sadly, I’m not sure if I’m going to go again this year, but I think I’m going to reserve a hotel room just in case. 😉

      • Stacey Apr 20 2016 at 6:34 pm #

        Aw, thanks Tanya! It was great to meet you. I hope we do run into each other soon! <3

  3. Mona AlvaradoFrazier Apr 20 2016 at 7:46 pm #

    I had a blast at my first conference, last year. Best part was meeting other people, especially those in my same chapter I hadn’t met before. The keynote speakers were awesome & inspiring. Lastly, dressing up for the party was so much fun, as well as the actual party. I hope to make it to this summer’s conference too.

  4. Amy S. Apr 20 2016 at 9:14 pm #

    I’ve never been to SCBWI LA, but I have been to their conference that is local to me and I would definitely recommend to all writers interested in children’s/middle grade/YA! It’s so wonderful to be surrounded by your “people,” and it’s a pretty easy place to meet people, even if you are shy. The LA one sounds like it really goes all out!

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