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!