This year, I went on a conference extravaganza.  The only downside has been that I haven’t had time to post about it.  But let the paying forward begin.  I’ll start with NJ SCWBI, a children’s author/illustrator conference, and move on to RWA Nationals in Orlando, so stay tuned.

NJ SCWBI was extremely well-organized.

What I loved best was that every attendee got a handout with every editor and agents interests and photo.  They even did a spreadsheet with X’s in the pertinent part, e.g. picture books yes but rhyming no.

Every faculty member was open to submissions by every attendee.  Now, some of them limited it.  The most strict was one submission 3 months post conference.  And obviously not all their interests coincided.  For example, I have no historical fiction to submit to Carolyn Yoder (Senior Editor, Calkins Creek Books).  But the saving grace was, I did NOT have to pitch to everyone I saw.  They’d already opened the door.

I did pay extra to go to the “faculty dinner” to schmooze a little one-on-one.  Like I said, not mandatory because they’d read my submission anyway, but it did give me a feel for the people.  For example, Denise Cronin is a Vice President and art director at Viking Books.  I’m not an illustrator, but she was particularly kind.  I sat next to Shauna Fay (Assistant Editor, G.P. Putnam’s Sons) and chatted about Restaurant Week in New York.  I mentioned my two main children’s works and she was more interested in middle grade series about a girl who tells the future with a bowl of popcorn.  Shauna said a lot of people think the YA surge has peaked, which I found depressing since I’d written HIGH SCHOOL HIT LIST (about a bully possessed by a grizzly bear spirit and the Indian kid who stops him).  But the attendee next to me, who was pitching an “edgy” YA said, “Don’t worry.  If it’s good, it’s good.”

The workshops were all useful.  I had no idea about the importance of school visits as an income stream (tip:  make sure you’ve got something to give to the kids whose parents didn’t buy a book, it’s as bookmark or an alligator paper clip a la Kristin Venuti Clark) and that you have a good pamphlet (Sudipta Bardhan Quallen).

Rock on!