I went to the NorCal SCBWI Fall Conference in San Rafael, California, on Sept. 8. It was great to get away for an all-day conference. There's nothing like being in a roomful of fellow writers, editors and agents, all talking about the process of writing and publishing to inspire you to get cranking on your writing project(s). Plus, I always seem to run into my writing friend, Andrea McAfee at these gatherings (we've been in several conferences/workshops together including the Pacific Coast Children's Writers' Conference and the Big Sur Writers' Conference, and it's fun to catch up.
The conference featured keynote speaker, Simon Wood, a native of England who now lives in California. He's had over 140 articles and stories published, and is the author of Working Stiffs and Accidents Waiting to Happen. His next book is Paying the Piper, out in November. Simon gave an inspirational talk about his struggles with dyslexia, and with his wife's help and support, his ability to work around his disability to achieve his dream of writing. Where there's a Will, there's a Way. For those of us who continue to persevere in our writing through rejections, months of waiting from publishers, and self-doubt will do well to remember that old adage.
Other conference speakers were Nina Hess, an editor at Mirrorstone, an imprint of Wizards of the Coast that publishes fantasy fiction for young readers; Ken Wright, an agent for Writer House; and Andrea Welch, an editor at Harcourt Children's Books. Unfortunately, I missed the presentation by Nina and Ken, and their Q & A panel because there was a parallel workshop on school visits with author T.E. Watson which was very informative. Public speaking is not my forte and I wanted to learn how to do school visits better, as in today's publishing climate, this is often the bread and butter of an author's career. T.E. was wonderful to work with and very generous with his proven ideas and steps to successful school visits. Now I'll know how to adequately prepare for my next school visit! I also bought two of his books ("Glen Robbie" and "Mom, Can I Have a Dragon?") at the conference, and my kids have really enjoyed them. "Glen Robbie", by the way, is beautifully illustrated. T.E., in turn, purchased my picture book, "Otto's Rainy Day", and we have kept in touch via e-mail about my current writing project with Tricycle Press which goes to show that the networking and connections you make with other writers at these conferences can be more valuable than just sitting down and listening to a presentation.
Andrea Welch from Harcourt whom I had met at the 2004 Pacific Coast Children's Writer's Workshop (she was Andrea Beebe then), led the audience through her process of bringing a picture book manuscript to publication which gave a terrific insight into the workings of an editor, and the thoughts and considerations that go into molding a manuscript into the best story it can be.
All in all, it was a good conference, and the manuscript I submitted for critique, "Armadillo Soup", received positive feedback which gave me more confidence to send it out. I've made my revisions on it, and have sent it to my old editor at Charlesbridge Publishing, Yolanda LeRoy.