SCBWI Summer Conference, Part 1

This weekend, while female runners competed in the 2012 Olympic marathon, I, along with 1200 other attendees, underwent my own endurance event at the Century City Hyatt: The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators’ (SCBWI) Annual Summer Conference.

Others had warned that, though awesome, the event is overwhelming, and I found that absolutely true. Actually, the conference’s Monday intensives are still going on, and I’m glad I didn’t sign up. Not that they didn’t look amazing, but my mind feels overstuffed as it is, not to mention I’m physically exhausted. (Yes, sitting in chairs and taking notes is quite draining).

So in the following days, I’ll be decompressing. And as I process what I learned and experienced, I’ll share some of the insights I got. But for now I’ll leave you with a little commentary on the helpfulness of the advice I received prior to the conference.

Dress in layers

Not so helpful. To me, “dress in layers” implies temperature swings from high to low. Except for the newbie orientation, I never came close to being comfortably warm, even with a polar fleece jacket. So unless your optimum temperature runs around 60°F, wear pants and long sleeves, and if you get cold easily like me, bring a jacket because the Hyatt apparently likes to crank up the air-conditioning.

Bring a notebook

Good advice. You learn and hear so much in such a compressed period of time there’s no way you can remember it all. The hotel did have some notepads and pens on hand for those who forgot to bring one along though.

You can also take notes on a laptop, but though the conference area does have some electrical outlets, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll find an open one when your charge runs low.

Bring business cards

Also good advice. Even if you don’t have a book, blog, or whatever, business cards save you the trouble of having to write your name and contact info over and over to all the new people you meet.

It’s also a good idea to immediately jot a few words on cards from others, like when/where you met or what you talked about. I traded cards with more people than I expected and spent part of this morning sorting and organizing my stack. If not for the notes I wrote, I’d have no idea which person was which because names and faces start to blur over the course of the weekend.

Don’t worry if you don’t know anyone at the conference because SCBWI people are approachable and friendly

Definitely true. I don’t know what it’s like at other writer conferences, but just about everyone I met was willing to let me join in on their conversation or sit at their table at lunch. A couple of YA writers from Nevada even offered to share their breakout session notes within three minutes of us introducing ourselves.

Not to say there isn’t the occasional awkward personality. One of my friends was weirded out when this one lady kept talking at her and wouldn’t leave her alone. But that is definitely the exception. For the most part, the conference is a grand opportunity for writers of juvenile literature to connect with other people who share that passion.

Anyway, that’s it for now. I’ll be sharing more about things I learned at the keynotes and breakout sessions in later posts.


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