Wednesday, August 8, 2012

My Experience at the SCBWI SUmmer Conference 2012

The Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators Summer Conference is held annually at the Hyatt Regency in Century City, about a mile from Beverly Hills. Not a shabby place to have a conference. This was the second time I'd attended the conference, the last time being two years ago.

There were over 1200 attendees this year from 46 states and 15 (I think) countries. And there were only about 300 guys, which was interesting conference trivia, but I'm happily married. Haha. What I loved most about the conference was the amount of energy, excitement, creativity, and motivation all under one roof. Even though I was exhausted when I left on Sunday afternoon, I was energized about my writing--and my writing future.

The two highlight keynote speakers for me could not have been more different. Tony Diterlizzi is an author and illustrator, and is probably most famous for co-authoring The Spiderwick Chronicles. He was the most dynamic author speaker I'd ever seen, part comedian and part motivational speaker. And an extremely gifted artist. He spoke about imagination and connecting with your inner child in writing children's books. What would your inner child find interesting, not what the adult author thinks a child will find interesting. And it all came back to the limitless imagination of a child. He also left us with a touching quote from Albert Einstein:
If you want your children to be intelligent, then read them fairy tales. If you want your children to be more intelligent, then read them more fairy tales.
My other favorite speaker was Sara Shepard, who is the author of the popular teen series Pretty Little Liars. I was inspired by her because she was not a dynamic speaker. She actually seemed nervous in front of the large ballroom audience. She inspired me because that's how I see myself reacting to being in a similar situation, and if she can do it, then I can, too! I just need to sell a few million copies. Sara talked about how to keep a series going, and she's contracted to go to book 14 in the Pretty Little Liars series, so it was interesting to hear her strategies for keeping it going after about 10 books while remaining separate from the television show. She focuses on a good scandal, which she defines as "good people doing bad things."

My favorite breakout session was with debut author, Jennifer Bosworth (someone from So Cal like me), and her topic centered around becoming a conspicuous writer--standing out in this huge ocean of writers. Attract attention. Be visible. Stand out. I found her discussion about extraverts vs. introverts interesting. Extraverts are people who gather energy in social settings while introverts hemorrhage energy in social settings (losing it to the extraverts). Even though she is a debut author, she already has the experience of participating in a multi-city book tour for her young adult novel, Struck. When she started out by saying she was a horror fanatic, I was hooked.

The conference was such a wonderful experience. It gave me a chance to learn more about the industry I want to professionally be a part of straight from industry leaders. I was also given a few new suggestions and strategies for my writing and promotion. What I need to get better at is networking and talking to new people. My parents must have conditioned me "not to talk to strangers" when I was a child a little too well. I have a genuine interest in talking to people, I just second guess their willingness to want to talk with me. I know, it's something I need to work on if I want to become a conspicuous writer. A next step for me will be to connect with a regional chapter for SCBWI to meet with local writers more regularly throughout the year.

This was the view from my 16th floor balcony. I wish I could have stayed longer!


  1. I would be like Sara Shepard as well. No wait - worse! Glad you got so much out of it.

  2. It's good to know that a writer as big as Sara can be nervous as well. It gives me hope
    This sounds like a wonderful experience

  3. Thanks for sharing your experience at the conference. I'd like to do a conference sometime. Be better to speak at one too.

  4. OMG I stayed at the Hyatt Regency in Century City during Blizzcon! It was so much fun. Great hotel. Was there with friends. I went to the spa with my friend Tomeka and we sat in the hot tub with some hot guys. L.A. is great. I'm so envious you live in that town. It's so exciting.

  5. Sounds like a very good conference. I've never been to one and so it's nice to get some of the insider tips from those that have.

  6. Yet another bloggy friend I missed! Can't believe you were there at the SCBWI conference as well! OH and I love Jennifer Bosworth. She's actually speaking with fellow writer Leigh Bardugo with our group (at Mysterious Galaxy Redondo Beach) on the 18th. You should drop by!


  7. Very cool recap! Sounds like you got some great insights. Thanks for sharing.

  8. It was amazing, wasn't it? I enjoyed this year so much more than last... and perhaps it's because I knew more people... where I was comfortable going up to people/author/editors/agents and just striking conversation. It really was a fantastic conference!

    And the key notes you highlighted were so great... I enjoyed them very much. And the male/female ratio is almost comical! Good thing you're happily married! LOL!

  9. Alex, I highly doubt you would be worse.

    Heather, i hear you on that.

    Stephen, that sounds cool.

    Michael, that's awesome. I missed the hot tubs. I'll have to check them out next year.

    Amy, you should check out the society.

    Nutschell, thanks for the invite. I'll follow up with you.

    Nicole, Thanks!

    Morgan, glad you had fun! I'm already looking forward to next year.

  10. This sounds like and amazing conference! I would have loved to have attended- but it was too far away for me this year (too costly). I love The Spiderwick Chronicles- so I think it is great that you got to hear Tony speak and that he was so dynamic. I think I would be more like Sara- I get the quavery voice when I am nervous. Thanks for sharing!

  11. I've heard Tony Diterlizzi speak at a book fair. He's a dynamic speaker.

    Thanks for sharing your experience. I went last year and hope to go again.

  12. I wish I could go to something like this ... Sounds like an amazing experience :) And I love that quote from Albert Einstein!

  13. So cool. To hear of someone else's experiences in conferences always makes me wish I had already gone to my first. Sadly, I haven't. There's always the I-have-no-money-to-spend-it-on-myself and the I'm-terrified-to-death-to-be-on-my-own. I truly think the second is the main reason I haven't done it, but reading all about your experience inspires me to go forth. Thanks!


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