Since many of us are getting ready to head out to LA for the SCBWI conference, thought I'd share my top five tips for all of you who are going and haven't been before.
1. Try not to be shy!! If you see someone you recognize from on-line, go up and introduce yourself. This is the best part of the conference, meeting people you've only known on-line. And you can even introduce yourself to someone you don't know if you're hanging in the lobby and no one is around you recognize. I know it's hard for us introverts to reach out, but usually, you'll be really glad you did.
2. If your head is swimming by day 3 or 4, it is perfectly acceptable to skip out of a session and hang on the patio or in the lobby, talking to other writers for an hour. Those little sessions talking books, craft, agents and editors (oops - am I not supposed to admit we talk about agents and editors?) can be just as helpful and informative, if not more so, than the conference sessions.
3. If you have a critique scheduled, relax, smile, and go in and listen. Be open to the suggestions your critiquer has. Don't try to defend yourself and why you did something in your story. This is not really about YOU right now. It's about getting your money's worth and getting as much information from that author, editor or agent as possible on how to make your story better. Once the critiquer is done sharing his/her thoughts, have some questions prepared about the story. Is there something you've been on the fence about? Ask! Are you wondering if a certain character is likable? Ask! Curious about market for this kind of book? Ask! First and foremost, be kind and respectful during your session. Kindness goes a really long way. Don't be pushy about submitting your manuscript, if the agent or editor is interested, he/she will let you know.
4. For unpublished writers, I think the tendency can be to go to all of the sessions where editors or agents are speaking. But make sure you go to some craft-oriented ones too. One of the best sessions I ever went to was done by Cecil Castellucci on characters. If you have a weakness or two in your writing and there is a workshop for it, GO!!! It's a great way to learn and improve your writing.
5. Don't drink too much and get lots of rest. Okay, okay, I know - it's not gonna happen. But I had to try, it's the mother in me!
Can't wait to see you!!