Conference Tip #4: Enjoy! And What to Bring

Hi conference goers!

I'm excited because I'm attending the SCBWI FL Mid-Year Workshop tomorrow. I'm excited because I can't wait to rub shoulders and talk shop with other writers. I'm interviewing Donna Gephart tomorrow for my second iPhone video, and Christina Farley is interviewing me. I'm critiquing manuscripts, and later I'm going out for dinner.

If you're going to a conference, anywhere, anytime, you've got to be prepared, no matter what stage of your career you're at. I say, stick to the basics. This is what you should have in your laptop bag (in addition to your laptop), because you won't always have time to run back up to your hotel room:

  • breath mints!
  • any medications you have to take during the day
  • bottled water
  • energy drink (if you need caffeine)
  • small snacks to eat during breaks (I'm talking protein bars or peanut butter crackers.)
  • chocolate never hurts
  • phone and phone charger
  • books you want other other authors to sign
  • bookmarks or business card
  • hair brush
  • basic makeup
  • cash and debit/credit card
  • pens/pencil/tablet
  • copies of your first ten pages, your first page, your query
Clean out your purse and/or bag before going to the conference; you don't want to be flustered during the workshop, trying to find a pen.

Dress business casual. You want to be comfortable, but you should also look professional--you'll be in the same room with people who make this whole industry happen.

You are a brave person! You're taking an excellent step toward furthering your career as a writer! I hope whatever conference you're going to gives you what you need. Make sure you eat! Don't get low on blood sugar! Take care of yourself and have fun, and remember, no matter how nervous you might feel, you're crossing a threshold!

Good luck, conference goers! See you on the other side.

Conference tip #3: DON'T BE A STALKER Part 1 and Part 2

There are some people in publishing so well known to us online or through reputation that they are rock stars at conferences. I'm pretty sure Nathan Bransford and Kristin Nelson have wigs and fake noses in their laptop bags--how else to get through the madding crowd? I sat at the same table with Arthur Levine for dinner after a conference and he asked to look at my book. He touched it! This was like nirvana for me. I told my own editor about Mr. Levine's and my little exchange and she reacted the same way I did!

It's exciting to recognize people in publishing, but it's important to remember that although you feel like you know them, you don't, and they don't know you.

Conference tip #3: DON'T BE A STALKER, part 1

Now I'll be the first to tell you if I saw Nathan Bransford walking down the conference hall, I'd probably go over to him and tell him how much I've enjoyed his blog and his thread on Absolute Write. I'd mention one or two specific things he's said that helped me and of course I'd ask for a picture with him for my blog!

But that's different from waiting for him to emerge from the men's room, following him, cornering him (haha! I've captured my prey!), and saying, "Hey, I know you used to be an agent. I write X. Who in your former agency should I send it to?" That's just using people. And you can't disguise this kind of opportunist. "Hey, I read your blog. Can you read my manuscript?" WRONG! WRONG! WRONG!

Conference tip #3: DON'T BE A STALKER, part2

Don't reduce people at the conference to your means to getting published.

Now all that said, if you should be eating lunch and suddenly discover you're sitting next to a BIG NAME IN PUBLISHING, it's perfectly fine to introduce yourself and enter into small talk. If BIG NAME asks you what you're working on, WOW! YES! go ahead and talk about it--but briefly--key word--BRIEFLY. Return the favor--what are they working on? What was the last book  they read and loved? How do they like the city you're in and have they had time for sight seeing? Basically, treat them like another person, because that's what they are.

Good luck, conference goers!

Conference tip #2: Be Friendly!

One of the greatest things about attending conferences is getting to see all your writer friends. Maybe you're lucky enough to have a local group with whom you're going to the workshop with. So much fun! You get to talk, encourage each other, eat together. It's comfortable and easy to stick with people you know, but be careful not to err on the side of being exclusive.

Conference tip #2: Be Friendly! Don't Be Exclusive!

Many other writers are attending the conference alone. Be open to conversing with friendly people who approach you, even if they're not in your circle. They only want the same thing you do--a pleasant exchange, relief in knowing they're not the only one who feels nervous/intimidated/excited. You're talking to someone who might become a great friend, a strong supporter, a good critique partner. This person you don't know might even be on bookstore shelves one day--you don't know! (Not that you should befriend people for the potential benefits they might extend to you, but writing is a solitary act--the pecking at the keyboard and such--and it's nice to take a break and visit your friends, even if it's online.)

Remember the golden rule (lifted from the Bible): Treat others as you would have yourself treated.

Go forth and have fun, conference goers!

Going to a Conference? Tip #1 PARTICIPATE!

The season of going to a conference is upon us, and many of you are attending a conference for the first time. Hooray for you!

Going to a conference can sometimes be intimidating. I went to my first conference by myself. It was a small conference in a small town, and all the other writers seemed to know each other, greeting one another by name as they trickled into the little hotel. I felt so alone.

But I shouldn't have. The other writers were friendly--they asked me my name, where I was from, and then this question: "What are you working on?" I didn't know how to answer! What if they stole my idea? I hugged my laptop bag closer and bluffed my way with words that provided no information; after all, my material was proprietary!

Well, I've been to quite a few conferences since then, and I'd like to share some tips with you this week so you can get the most out of your conference experience.

Tip #1 is the biggest and most important tip of all: PARTICIPATE!

 At my first SCBWI conference, the middle-grade track was divided into three or four groups, each with an editor or agent heading the table. An editor headed up my table, and she wanted to help us with our query letters. If anyone wanted to read theirs aloud, she said, the group could provide feedback. My blood raced through my veins at 500 mph. As the first couple of people read their queries and the editor critiqued them, I could hardly concentrate on what they were saying. This was my first query letter and NO ONE had seen it. Ever. No feedback or critique group--I was flying solo. What if my letter broke all the rules, didn't make sense, or worse--what if it was boring?

But I knew I couldn't leave the table without putting my letter up for inspection.

My hands shook so badly when I read my letter, I had to lay the paper on the table so people couldn't hear it rattling. My throat had suddenly dried up. My voice cracked and wavered. When I finished, the editor thought for a moment. Then she pulled a phrase from my second paragraph and said that phrase arrested her attention. The group agreed. She suggested I rework my query to get that phrase in the very first sentence of the letter.

I loved her suggestion and implemented it. That query was for the first book I ever wrote, which eventually became my third book published by Bloomsbury/Walker--ME & JACK. Now the point here isn't asketh questions and be ye published, but rather become a better writer by taking risks to get the information you need. That's one of the reasons you're attending a conference--to learn! So if you can read from your piece, do so! If you can provide a comment or critique, open your mouth! When you can ask questions, ask them! You'll walk away from the conference with so much more if you brave it and speak up! Good luck, conference goers!

Three Beautiful Pharaohs

Recently, a group of Pharaoh Hound owners invited me to join their group. I did, and now I see photos daily of one of the most elegant dogs God ever created. The dog on the cover of Me & Jack is a Pharaoh Hound. Maureen Key-Del Duca gave me permission to share this photo with a little information that gives you an idea of their personalities: From front to back: Lola, Farley, and Titus, but Maureen tells me their nicknames are Lolabelle, Farticus (for a reason!) and Titus the bite us. Aren't they beautiful?

Me & Jack Nominated for Great Stone Face Book Award!

While perusing the Internet, I discovered a wonderful surprise: Me & Jack has been nominated by the Children's Librarians of New Hampshire for the Great Stone Face Book Award 2012-2013! This is such great news! I've read some of the other books in the list and I'm thrilled to be in the same company as Brian Selznik, Cal Ripken, Jr., Lauren Oliver and other great authors. Now I know what actors mean when they say, "It's an honor just to be nominated."

Thank you, New Hampshire Librarians!

Twinkle, Twinkle, Me and Jack

Twinkle, Twinkle, Me and Jack
Twinkle, twinkle, Me and Jack,
Dog on the cover, paw print on the back.
Some schools have it on reading lists,
The book has adventures and turns and twists.
Twinkle, twinkle, Me and Jack,
Dog on the cover, paw print on the back.

Bookstores ask me to come and talk,
On their shelves my books are stocked.
I will come and sign them then;
I will bring a fancy pen.
Twinkle, twinkle, Me and Jack,
Dog on the cover, paw print on the back.

If you buy one, it'd be so cool.
You could show your friends at school.
A boy, a dog, and trouble await--
I hope you think this book is great.
Twinkle, twinkle, Me and Jack,
Dog on the cover, paw print on the back.

The dog is noble; the boy is brave.
There's a bully in it, too. He misbehaves.
You might laugh and maybe you'll cry;
Maybe when you're done, you'll have red eyes.

Twinkle, twinkle, Me and Jack,  
Dog on the cover, paw print on the back.