Two weeks from today I'll be eagerly attending the 2014 Prairie Writer's Day, the Illinois SCBWI Chapter's annual writing extravaganza. Although this will be my 4th year attending, it is only just now that I finally feel like I "get it." My first year, I signed up and took copious notes and had a mini-heart attack at the thought of how much work was ahead of me. Years 2 and 3, I attended my breakout sessions and listened to the panels, thinking, "Hmm, I already know most of this. Maybe this isn't the best use of my time & money."
But now that I finally understand the importance of networking in the publishing industry, now I get it. It's so much more than just sitting & taking notes and absorbing what wisdom I can; it's being there. Meeting people, and being met. Every other person at a writing conference is someone valuable to know. Maybe you're sitting next to an agent or an editor. Maybe you're sitting next to the next best-selling author. Maybe you're sitting next to your future critique partner. No matter who's next to you, it pays to make friends.
So this year, I intend to throw my introverted-bad-at-small-talk-with-strangers self out the window for a day and do my best at networking. I even have my talented graphic designer hubby working on my business cards to pass out. The "Mix n' Mingle" portion of the day--which I normally skip because it's the last hour of the day and I'm exhausted and have to drive an hour home--is what I look forward to the most (well, and dread a bit too if I'm being honest, due to that "bad at small talk" thing.)
In preparing for this year's conference, I've found
Esther Hershenhorn's "Confessions and Tips from a Veteran SCBWI Conference-Goer" an extremely helpful resource. It's meant for conference newbies, but I think even veteran conference-goers can benefit from some of these reminders. My favorite tips:
- Do your homework ahead of time & know who the presenters are. It will make the day that much more meaningful.
-Consider your immediate needs when choosing workshop sessions. Sure, we all need to know about dealing with agents or publishers at some point, but if you haven't even finished your manuscript yet then you should focus on that.
-Divide & Conquer: partner up with a friend (or stranger) and share notes on workshop sessions you didn't attend. Twice the knowledge=always advantageous.
Click on the above link for Esther's full tips. Again--thanks Esther!
Finally, HAPPY BELATED HALLOWEEN from my Ewok dog: