By Sarah Herlong
Recently I went to the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators conference.
Fortunately room service was great! The hotel was very nice too. I found their preparations beforehand very organized and helpful. Online they had 3 publications. One was a Conference Brochure. It contained a conference overview, hotel information, conference schedule, workshop descriptions and faculty bios. All handy anytime I needed to access it.
Then there was the downloadable Conference Information brochure. This contained all the guidelines and deadlines for manuscript critiques, portfolio reviews, first pages/ first impressions, red eye critiques and portfolio displays. This was very helpful to have all in one place. There was also a copy of the critique form used by the entire faculty. This form for manuscript critiques was very thorough. It was covered front and back with boxes for the editor/agent to fill. They had to list the positive aspects of the work and elements that needed improvements. They had to provide notes on character development, plot and structure, language diction, voice, and marketability. There was even a section for next steps and extra comments. I found this produced the best critiques I’ve ever gotten for my work, especially the editor’s comments. Their perspective is so different than an agent’s. Having this form in advance also helped me tailor my questions around what they would have already covered in their critique. It made me more professional as well as their critique more informative.
Then most interestingly was the Newcomer’s Guide. It contained helpful tips for those attending their first conference as well as anyone who wanted to make the most of their conference experience. It included all sorts of tips to make the most of my 15 minute critique and even icebreaker questions to help you make connections with other conference goers. Frankly I got more questions about my work from the room service personnel than from the conference goers, but I’m antisocial.
One of the things that were very helpful was a little map of the lobby with the conference rooms all labeled. This meant there was no confusion as to where my critiques and workshops were being held. I was never late for anything.
Being neurotic I came up with three questions for the conference coordinator, and she responded within a few hours with answers to all my questions. This I found impressive.
Another great thing was that afterwards there was a computerized critique of the conference itself that included boxes to expand on answers for each question. They asked specifically about each workshop, if it was as good as expected. I took that opportunity to squeal on the agent who talked about music instead of middle grade fiction. Yes, that really happened.
All in all it was a great conference that expanded not only my knowledge of the children’s market, but music as well, unfortunately.