This weekend I attended my first SCBWI conference!
I drove six hours to Houston and stayed in a very shiny hotel (my car seemed so old and dirty!). The Hess Club was just down the street in an upscale shopping area that reminded me of Southern California or suburban Phoenix.
Unlike the intimate picture book conference I attended in NYC last year, this was much bigger. About 100-150 people, mostly white women my age or older, sat at round tables in a sparkly meeting center listening to authors, agents, and editors discuss elements of craft. The day was jam-packed and well-organized, and by dinner my head was spinning.
Conferences are funny things. So many hungry writers and illustrators, so few gatekeepers standing between us and publishing nirvana. Part of the point is to meet people who might help on your career path. I printed out business cards but only gave out a couple. Schmoozing is not my forte! But I did have great conversations and think that I made some friends.
I signed up for a one-on-one manuscript review with a local author whose work I admire. We had 12 minutes to discuss her feedback. She was incredibly nice, even when sharing some constructive criticism that I didn't like to hear: my main character was coming off as an unlikable stereotype. Ouch.
BUT when we talked about what I was trying to do--show a kid who is sweet inside, tough outside--she seemed interested in continuing the conversation (our time was up!) and told me to contact her. Extremely generous. So I'm not hopeless!
When I got back to my table after my critique, my tablemates sympathized with my less-than-stellar response. They'd all been in my shoes, which made me feel better. That's the benefit of writing conferences: tough-love feedback combined with commiseration from like-minded folks.
Here's to new friends and building community in this crazy profession!