Monday, January 30, 2012

UNEXPECTED SURPRISES AT THE SCBWI CONFERENCE IN NYC ... PART TWO!

Happy Monday everyone.

Well, you will be happy to know that I did make that EARLY 6:30 train yesterday. Dark, misty, and cold, I had slinked into my semi-frozen car like a thief in the night ready to steal more writerly information.

But before I tell you about Sunday's events, I'd like to finish my recap of Saturday. (Please scroll down to part one if you missed it.)

Right before my exciting meeting with the "FONZ," I had my first of three seminars about fiction. I choose these particular ones because as a fiction writer, I honestly wanted to know if I was doing it right. Lol.

Jennifer Laughran from Andrea Brown Literary Agency was the lecturer on general fiction. Since my main focus was to meet an agent, here was my first chance. Luckily I am far from shy, so I headed straight for the first row. Jennifer had been present an paced between the podium and the other SCBWI rep.

This turned out to be one action-pacted hour. Many interesting questions were asked and NONE were allowed about querying...  "That's what Google's for," she emphasized.

Since most of you know my novel THE BLINDED GARDENER is edgy, I wanted to know JUST how edgy one could get in Y/A, so my hand shot up. Jennifer eyed me suspiciously, and then nodded. She must have known. LOL.

The question didn't surprise her, but she did flush a bit especially after her answer.... need I say more. To paraphrase ... Anything goes as long as it fits in with the story.

My next session was after meeting Henry Winkler. A nice guy and now a Children's book author. I had a few minutes to inhale my protein bar and off I went to my Y/A session. Now this session was from the "Editor's" point of view, so I was really looking forward to what Tara Weikum from Harper Collins had to say.

Tara focused on good writing and NOT to worry about trends. We all know this. Basically is was a recap of what the panel had said in the morning session. Bottom line... write commercial, high quality properties where the publishers can make tons of money. That's they're only interest.

My last and most interesting lecturer was with Ari Lewin, exec editor from G.P. Putnam/Penguin. Although this was a Fantasy focused lecture, she actually dug into the principles of what makes a terrific and eye-catching first page. She gave us four different examples. Artemis Fowle, The Hunger Games, The Golden Compass, and a project that she was working on.

Wow. She had us dissect each excerpt and by doing this I learned how an author can really say a lot in a minimal amount of space. So for your exercise this week try doing this with you favorite novels. Read EACH and EVERY line slowly and pull out what's there. It's amazing what you can learn.

Exhausted and starving, I met up with my friend Lila and we ran to the cocktail party. What a spread ....

Meeting with people from all over the world was exciting and awe inspiring. Although the party was jam-pacted with people, I still managed to have some intriguing conversations. I had met Jennifer Laughran again, but unfortunately the conversation didn't segue into a pitch, but I will send her a query anyway.

By midnight I had returned home and wrote part one. 5:30 came all too fast so I was back before I realized I hit the pillow.

Sunday's events concentrated more on the Illustration aspect of the business. Since I illustrate I was beyond fascinated to reacquaint myself with my former craft. Knowing this aspect if you are a children's book writer, m/g or y/a, is important. They really do go hand in hand.

The panel of illustrators were the TOP in the industry and their work is global. Many of their influences and inspirations could easily be used by writers. ALL of them stressed on being active in the community and meeting other artists. Having the human connection to bounce ideas around is crucial. We bloggers know how important our community is to us. I certainly have stressed it enough on my blog. WE ARE AWESOME!

After the awards and door prices were given we had an AMAZING talk by renowned writer, Kathryn Erskine. Her whole talk was on how to FOCUS on writing and to stayed FOCUSED... don't give up and continue to grow... Again we all know this, but it is nice to be reminded of it.

Lila and I went for a quick lunch. What a fascinating and wonderful new friend I have now. After escorting her to a cab, I ran back to the last lag of the conference .... the book signings.

I had bought several books on Saturday: two from Kathryn Erskine and two, from beyond awesome illustrator, John Rocco. Lines were still a bit long, especially at John's table. I had found out later why. After a half an hour, I made it to the front. He graciously smiled and took my two books for signing. I chirped away about my work a bit and in about a minute I glanced down and saw an original drawing of an gnomish creature peering up at me ... WHOA! Not just a signature!  He sketched a moon in the other of my books.

How awesome is that?

Could this conference get any better?

The answer .... YES!

I made it over to Kathryn's table. By now only a handful of people were left compared to the hundreds that were there earlier. We talked a bit and she asked about my latest novel. She liked the premise and also believes that a writer should write about ALL the intensities of life. It is all part of the human factor.

With an hour to kill before my train back to the burbs, I scoped the room. I noticed agent Regina Brooks from Serendipity had written a book as well on how to query, etc. Although I didn't buy her book, I thought I'd swing by and say hello.

Vivacious and smiling, I introduced myself. I told how much I had enjoyed her on one of the panels and was interested in querying her agency. Well, she graciously asked me about my novel. Here was my chance to finally pitch to an agent. After a huge swallow, I let it rip....

Two minutes later we shook hands and she had placed my card in her purse... Yes, she asked for a query and partial too! YES!

You just never know when it's going to happen. Shyness will not get you where you need to be.

A few moments later I strolled over to Fantasy writer, Cassandra Clare's table. Only a few admirers were talking to her, so I slowly worked my way into the conversation. Her guest spot focused on love triangles. Since I have one in my novel, I had discussed with her. She LOVED my premise and wished me luck.

That my friends was the end of this amazing weekend. I crashed into a leather seat in the lobby five minutes later, with still a half and hour to kill before my train.

The next SCBWI conference is in August in LA. I HIGHLY recommend going. Know I understand why so many writers are pushing themselves to attend these events. I had gone with high hopes, but low expectations.

I learned a very valuable lesson. Agents and Editors are NOT OUT TO GET YOU.... They have a hard job and they are truly very nice people. The members at this conference were supportive, encouraging, and offered their time to read our novels. Who could ask for anything more? Well, maybe a contract. LOL.

Have a great Monday everyone.



20 comments:

  1. Kick some ass Michael. I expect to hear great things from you in the near future.

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  2. that sounds like such a great conference! I think you've inspired me to get myself into gear and attend one!!

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  3. That's great you got a request from her! Sounds like a full and awesome weekend.

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  4. That was as close as I could have gotten to being there with you :) Glad your experience was so great.

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  5. What a fun post! I enjoyed experiencing this with you, Michael, and since I'm quite shy, I really liked tagging along after you and letting you do all the introductions and smiling!

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  6. Awesome job, sir! Approaching agents is (was) so unnerving. But you know what? If you never try, things might never happen. Glad to hear you take that step. And thanks for the rundown! :)

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  7. It is beyond awesome that you got her to request a query AND a partial! Yes, faint heart never won fair lady or success!

    You are a great reporter. I felt like I was there.

    Don't you know how it must sometimes feel to be an agent at one of these conferences? You must feel like you have been tossed into a pen full of hungry lions with a raw steak tied around your neck!

    You can understand Jennifer Laughran's answer to the querying question!

    I wish you nothing but a rich harvest from the seeds you sowed at that conference! Roland

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  8. Yay! It sounds like you had a wonderful time. :)

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  9. Congratulations on the request! That's awesome.

    It's so much fun to read your experiences from the conference.

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  10. Wow! That's so awesome that you got a request. And met everyone else. I'm a bit shy but you're convincing me that's not the way to go to a conference. Thanks for sharing everything.

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  11. What a wonderful, exciting time you had! God, I would have loved to be there even though I'm not looking to publish (I write for myself and quite often). My son, however, is an aspiring writer and really good. I would not say that if it weren't true as I am fairly critical of writing abilities. He is 35 and writes on the side constantly. I keep hoping he'll do something more with it. These conferences sound so great for an aspiring writer. Thanks for the vivid descriptions. Keeping my fingers crossed about the query and the partial! Wow.

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  12. Sounds like your weekend was highly successful.

    Very happy for you.

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  13. Yay for edgy novels. I don't think I would have been brave enough to ask. :)

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  14. I knew that vivacious personality of yours would serve you well Michael. I'm so pleased you got a query and partial request. Whoop, whoop :)

    ......dhole

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  15. I would love to go to a conference like this sometime! Sounds awesome!

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  16. I've never been to a conference but this sounds to me like the perfect example of how to get the most out of one :-)

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  17. That sounds awesome. It's a shame we don't all live close by and all go together with the extrovert lol. Thanks for sharing such a great experience.

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  18. Boy do you know how to tell a story and keep us reading! I loved reading about your first conference. You did much better than I did. I think almost fainted when an agent talked to me. I was lame! <3

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  19. OMGosh!! You spoke to Cassandra Clare??? Colour me SUPER green! She's one of my all time favourite authors.
    Congratulations on the partial request!
    "Shyness will not get you where you need to be." <--- Crap, I think I'd be useless at one of these things!

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  20. What a WOW! experience it's cool..

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