Workshop Transcript

Advantages of Conferences

with Verla Kay


VerlaKay: Hi, everyone. Welcome to the Kidlit Topic Chat....please hold all personal chit chat until the hour is done. You are encouraged to join in the discussion, as long as you stay on topic. Okay, here we go...

I am Verla Kay, author of four soon-to-be published picture books and tonight we are going to talk about the Advantages of Conferences. How do you find them? Are they worth the cost? How much do they cost? What can you REALLY expect to get from a conference?

Gail: So, Verla, tell us the things you can gain from a conference.

VerlaKay: I think that it mostly depends on which ones you go to and what you expect to get FROM the conference.

VerlaKay: If you go to the conference expecting to make a sale, you are likely to come away disappointed, because although it can HELP, just attending a conference doesn't necessarily mean you will sell your work.

zap: Verla you are right. In my opinion, the worst thing you can

do going to a conference, is to go with the attitiude that "Here is my

manuscript. I need a buyer. If I don't get one, what good is the


VerlaKay: Things you CAN expect to get from a conference are these...

VerlaKay: Inside information and Up to Date marketing news


Lyra: Yep. Like I just heard at a recent conference that editors can't buy ANYTHING these days without showing it to

other editors and then braving the cruel marketing/sales people

VerlaKay: New ideas and inspiration from other writers

zap: A BIG advantage of conferences, in you can link up with

other writers and form a critique group.

zap: plus, you can connect with other writers and learn what

they are doing

LinS: I like that idea Zap

Gail: Peers are great. That is why the net is great

VerlaKay: Info directly from the source

VerlaKay: Would you believe that Jane Yolen was at the conference lyra and I just went to? And SHE was complaining because she had just gotten SEVEN rejections in ONE DAY?

LinS: I can't imagine

VerlaKay: I was so impressed with Jane Yolen. She is a REAL person, not all uppety like you might think.

zap: And when she got home, she got another.

VerlaKay: She did, zap?

zap: yup

LinS: she writes like a real person!

Laila_Khal: yes jane is on my other list and she was miffed at an

editor who had given her every reason to believe her story was sold.

but she got a rejection instead

zap: I think rejections hurt no matter who you are

Gail: We are not uppity, so she should be just like us.

Laila_Khal: Jane Yolen will be at the NE conference march 21

Kate: well, *all* writers are REAL persons, really <BG>





VerlaKay: Nuts and bolts information to help you become a better writer

zap: Writers can learn from conferences. They can often hear something that makes them look at their work in a

different, more enlightened way.

zap: I think one can gain a tidbit or two from every speaker.

Lyra: definitely

Lyra: Even if I hear something I KNOW, it helps adds to my writing


Lyra: I once attended a great workshop on book promotion, too,

which added to my knowledge


VerlaKay: Encouragement & sometimes even professional critiques

dori: I've heard that during some conferences, you can sign up

with an editor for a reading....???

VerlaKay: Yes, dori. Some conferences allow you to pay a critique fee and get your work critiqued by professionals. But I have also had editors casually glance at my work at conferences, too. They don't READ it then, but might glance at the opening paragraph...and tell me if they want me to send it to them or not.

LinS: and do you think she will associate you with the name on

the manuscript?

VerlaKay: Editors have VERY good memories

Lyra: I kind of doubt that editors can remember ALL the names, but some will seem familiar

VerlaKay: (unlike me...I will never make a great editor)

Lyra: Of course you include meeting them in your query/cover


zap: And one should spend one sentence with a clever, reminder

of meeting, don't you think?

LinS: and credibility counts BIG in this business. Your work

speaks louder than your personality, right?

zap: personality opens door but work is KEY


Lyra: I got to be one of the "professional" critiquers at a

workshop in January--which was a new experience for me.

Kate: what was that like, Lyra?

Lyra: Kate, I liked critiquing. I've been doing it for years for

contests & friends. This was the first face-to-face critique.

LinS: did you see any promising work?

LinS: and if you had, what would you have done?

Lyra: Yes, one picture book I saw was SO great, I passed the person over to Verla



VerlaKay: Fun times

Lyra: (lots of laughter if your roommates are nuts)

Gail: Fun is part of it.

Kate: (moonlight walks on the beach?)


VerlaKay: Opportunity


Lyra: Two sales I made came from another writer I met who referred me to her publisher

Laila_Khal: The conference (I went to) was great. Met an editor ... can't recall her name - she was wonderful open and gave us tips and ideas. I sent her my umbrella story and still waiting.



Holly: How many different houses are represented at these conferences?

VerlaKay: That depends entirely upon the conference, holly.

Lyra: Small conferences are lucky to get one editor. Usually have

several published authors

VerlaKay: At National SCBWI conferences, they have more than one thing/person going on at a time, so you have to pick and choose who to go listen to.


Holly: How do you find out about conferences?

Suzy-Q: I found out about mine in this very room.

zap: local colleges

Gail: SCBWI is one source.

zap: and SCBWI has a website

Conference Costs:

VerlaKay: Some people think conferences are too expensive.

Holly: What are the average costs of conferences?

Holly: Are they really worth the money?

Suzy-Q: I thought the one I went to was well worth the money.. And my roommates were great!

VerlaKay: They can cost anywhere from $25 up to several undred

dollars, holly...depending on the conference, where it is and how long

it is.

zap: Conference prices vary greatly depending where in the

country you are.

Information on Some Conferences

judihill: Our weeklong workshop is $450 for 6 days which includes room, three

meals a day, manuscript critique and all nighttime activities.


Lyra: There's a one-day workshop in Modesto, CA in 3 weeks which

costs $45 (I think)


Kate: one day? what day, Lyra?

Lyra: March 21st

Lyra: Verla and I will be there

VerlaKay: $45 for SCBWI members, lyra and $50 for non-members

VerlaKay: The speakers are Lee Wardlaw - award-winning author of 20


VerlaKay: Elizabeth Law, senior editor of Viking

VerlaKay: Ginger Knowlton, children's book agent at Curtis Brown

Lyra: The Modesto workshop is excellent

VerlaKay: Jane Kurtz, author & Regional Advisor

VerlaKay: Brenda Gulberson, over a dozen books to her credit

VerlaKay: Doug Cushman & Susan Campbell Bartoletti, two more authors


Lyra: And three years ago they had a really uniquely dressed


Kate: uniquely dressed speaker?

Lyra: <WEG>--- me!


***FOR THOSE WHO DO NOT KNOW: <WEG> = Wicked Evil Grin

<G> = Grin


Lyra: (I had mismatched shoes)

LinS: on purpose?

VerlaKay: Yes, three years ago Lyra was one of the speakers...and she was SO nervous, she wore two different shoes by mistake!

Lyra: NOT ON PURPOSE!!! I was horrified

Lyra: Kept trying to hide my feet

VerlaKay: She was SO COOL. She turned it into part of her

speech....everyone loved it!


LinS: Laila..what did you think of the NY conference? What did

you get out of that?


Laila_Khal: Ny confernce was one day, too. meetings/workshops were

back to back so it was rushed. yes she would remember, I reminded her

in my cover letter.




Delta: SCBWI has a conference in Omaha, spring and fall, for

midwest people.



Holly: Do you have to be a scbwi member to go to their conferences?

LinS: No..but it costs more

VerlaKay: No, but you get a discounted rate if you are a member, holly

Suzy-Q: No Holly but you do get a break in the price.

zap: I generally encourage people to subscribe to their local

SCBWI chapter newsletter. Most chapters have one, Subscriptions are inexpensive and you need not be a member.


Holly: So is it worth becoming a member of SCBWI?

LinS: and Holly, you can join regionally if you don't want to pay

for the national membership..usually less expensive

Holly: how do you join regionally

zap: Yes, AND, many SCBWI chapters (not ours yet) offer one

scholarship to the conference

Lyra: Yes. Lots of local conferences which always sound so good

Kate: how often do these one-day conferences take place?

Lyra: In our CA area, there are only a few local workshops yearly

VerlaKay: Yes. Lots of them for a one-day conference


Kate: Does the SCBWI website have addresses of local chapters?

zap: it posts emails of the Regional Advisors

zap: and some regional newsletter info is posted as well.

VerlaKay: You can get them through SCBWI, kate. And you can go to their website through the Links Page on my website





zap: I think it's important to not scrawl your notes, but write

them reasonably clearly.

zap: And also, it's a great idea to type them up when you get


Gail: One should have business cards.

Laila_Khal: business cards are great idea. I bring them with me to

conferences. I also bring samples of my published work


zap: And send thank yous; it was a pleasure meeting you to

anyone who you expect further contact

judihill: I always advise our attendees to write to the agent or

editor after the workshop with a query and remind them that they "ate

breakfast together" or whatever. Agent Dorothy Markinko said "if you

mention this workshop, I will pay more attention."

Lyra: I think she's one of the MANY agents who rejected me (g)

What NOT to do...

Lyra: Unique is okay...but never do what one lady did at the very

first conference I ever went to...

Lyra: One lady stood up and SANG ... then said she wanted the

editor to remember her

LinS: Oh, thats cute! What GUTS!

Angela: What did she sing?

Gail: I can sing.

Lyra: At the time I was impressed, but I was new--now I would be horrified/laughing

VerlaKay: Interesting, lyra. If I did that (sang) the editor would

remember me for sure...Would kill me.

Kate: what would you sing, Gail?

Lyra: I don't remember WHAT, just that she sang

zap: I'm gutsy, But I wouldn't sing

Lyra: If you did that, Verla, I'D KILL YOU!!!

VerlaKay: I can't see you singing at an editor, zap.

zap: True true. Editors are truly looking for talent!

LinS: haha

VerlaKay: But they want WRITING talent, not musicians.

Lyra: But don't tattoo their name on your arm to impress

them...just send them your work

Kate: I wouldn't think singing to get attention is a good ploy.

Gail: Something from a Broadway Show. I feel pretty, oh so pretty,

its a pity how ...

More Tips:

Laila_Khal: Verla, don't forget...conferences are also fund raisers for

SCBWI, and if you are a published author you can sell your books there



About Editors:

VerlaKay: Often the editors at a conference will be from a

"closed house" meaning one that doesn't accept unsolicited manuscripts

zap: oh AND, some closed houses will allow conference

participants to send to them.

VerlaKay: Right, zap. Often they WILL accept unsolicited manuscripts from the people

who attend the just have to tell them you met them


Laila_Khal: what is a closed house?

VerlaKay: A closed house is one that will only accept manuscripts from

agents, laila

zap: or who will not accept submissions at all

LinS: sometimes a query is the way to go on closed houses

zap: And sometimes a query will work even when they don't state

so in guidelines

VerlaKay: True, zap.

LinS: that is what I heard also

LinS: even to closed houses

zap: But, good writing is first and foremost.

zap: A great query or cover won't sell your ms. Your ms. has to

sell itself

LinS: No, zap..but it can get an editor to say, "OK Send it on"



Kate: is that a coincidence? that editors at conferences are from

closed houses?

VerlaKay: Actually, our Regional Advisor TRIES to get editors from

closed houses, order to open a door to some of our people that

would not normally be open for them

Kate: interesting

Gail: Good idea

Lyra: Our local conference organizers usually only bring in editors who

will let attendees submit

judihill: The editor should NOT be from a closed house. As a

director, I try to make that clear when I hire on that editor or agent

and give them a free vacation!

Lyra: One Asilimar (conference) had an editor who wouldn't accept anything, and there were a lot of complaints, so now only accepting editors are


VerlaKay: Ah...but if you remember correctly, lyra, that one editor

who wouldn't accept anything DID accept my manuscript

Lyra: That's because she was smart (g)

VerlaKay: And kept it for ten months before she sent it back with a

form rejection! LOL!

Lyra: okay, she wasn't THAT smart (g)



Tracking Manuscripts

Laila_Khal: Verla, that brings me to ask what to do if you forget where

you have submitted a mss last?

Gail: Keep a computer list. Cross them out as they come in


VerlaKay: I don't know the answer to that, laila...I was always VERY

careful to keep track of where my mss were!

zap: There is some free softwear for keeping track of

submissions on the web. (though I've not used it)

LinS: keep a separate file for just THAT laila

zap: Some people use index cards and swear by them.

VerlaKay: I always posted it on my bulletin board

Lyra: I've always just kept a list on the computer of my titles

and where they are

Lyra: Now my agent submits so I just keep the rejections in my reject


VerlaKay: Now I just keep my rejections there...because on each

rejection, my agent has told me where the mss went next.

LinS: and the rejections as they come rolling in

VerlaKay: And rolling and rolling and rolling in!

Gail: I make a list of the addresses, and I put an x through the

ones returned. It is on the frig.

Laila_Khal: recently I bought the Writers market in CD romm version. it

comes with submission tracking. since then I know where everything

else. but one mss i sent a few months ago, i cant recall where I sent


Delta: In the same electronic file folder that my book manuscript

is kept in (Mac's have file folders, not directories) I put a file

entitled "record" . I type in where it was sent, the date, and the date

it came back.


About critique sessions


VerlaKay: Another really good advantage of going to conferences is

that some of them will have "open critique sessions"

judihill: Everyone should try to be in a good critique group all the

time - even on line. That's the best way to learn. And it can't be

family (my husband loves my work but..) You need "fresh eyes".

LinS: I just got into a great "closed" one

LinS: critique group

LinS: some more than others..haha

zap: as are editors. Real people.

zap: Different.


VerlaKay: One of the great things about getting critiqued at a

conference is learning how to TAKE critiques!

zap: true, Verla.

LinS: My first published "writing" article was on just that

subject..professional critques

Kate: how does it work, read your work aloud to a

group, and get critiques?

VerlaKay: Yes. They often break up into groups of 6 or 8 people.

Each person reads their story and the others in the circle critique it

on the spot.


Kinds of Conferences

VerlaKay: What do you think the differences are between a big

conference like National SCBWI and a small one? Which one do YOU like

better...and why?


zap: Big conferences (I think) have more opportunnities for

hearing speakers... sometimes their presentations are more profound,

because they are speaking to a huge audience.

zap: Such as SCBWI National.

zap: But one can learn just as much IMO from a small gathering.

zap: And one can learn a LOT more from one's peers than one


zap: (at least i think so)

VerlaKay: I love the small ones, because they give each attendee a

chance to really have an opportunity to get to KNOW the speakers


VerlaKay: and there's a much better chance of getting your work noticed at a smaller conference

Lyra: The national conference is more exciting

Lyra: But I like both kinds of conferences equally for diferent reasons

LinS: I think I would prefer the smaller ones


judihill: Another option is the week long residential workshop like

we have where you get your work critiqued as well as meet an agent and an editor - who are there all week.

VerlaKay: That sounds wonderful, judi

VerlaKay: Judi? Which do you prefer? You are in charge of that upcoming conference, aren't you?

judihill: Naturally, I like the week long format where you become a

family of 60. However, I've attended the Carolinas SCBWI and it was

fun, informative but uneven. More of an "elbow rubbing".


Approaching Editors at Conferences

VerlaKay: Does anyone have any questions about conferences that they

want to ask?

Lyra: Like how to survive with multiple roommates (g)?

LinS: Yes.

VerlaKay: Okay...ask away, lin

LinS: I'd like to find out how to find the local retreats..also,

how to appraoch editors

LinS: at the conferences.

LinS: I am terrible at "networking" in one sense

zap: when you say "approach" do you mean hand them your ms?

LinS: no..I wouldn't do that Zap

VerlaKay: No, I would not give a manuscript to an editor at a

conference, unless she asked to see it.

Lyra: Most editors have to fly home and don't want extra luggage


VerlaKay: I WILL tell the editor a little about my best story and ask

her if it is something that she might be interested in seeing later.

VerlaKay: And I have done that numberous times and have gotten some editors to look at my work that way.

VerlaKay: I've gotten very personal attention with my stories like that.


Lyra: I wouldn't worry about approaching editors--they select by

what comes in their office

VerlaKay: Talk to the editor and say something unique,

special, lin. Tell them a little about your story...get them

interested in seeing it.

VerlaKay: Then when you contact them afterwards, you remind them that

they asked to see your story.

LinS: Do they often ASK?

VerlaKay: Yes, lin. Editors go to conferences HOPING to find new

talent. They WANT to meet you.

Lyra: LinS, just that I don't see conferences as a chance to hit

on an editor--only to hear what their tastes & policies are

zap: LinS, some retreats/ conferences sit you at small tables

during meals with editors, and you can ask lots of questions.



Ideas for the Hard of Hearing:

Laila_Khal: yes, verla. but I don't expect youto have th eanswer

tonight. I need to know how to approach SCBWI to make conferences


Kate: how to make them deaf-accessible?

LinS: what do you mean?

Kate: can I make another suggestion? not just deaf-accessible,

but accessible to the hard of hearing too

Delta: Do you mean, hire a deaf interpreter?

Laila_Khal: yes i am deaf and don't sign because i lost my hearing later

in life and thus must depend on someone to tell me what's going on

LinS: and you must miss a lot

VerlaKay: zap, do you have any kind of answer to laila's question?

(zap is a Regional Advisor for SCBWI)

Kate: Laila -- I'm hard of hearing

Kate: I have some ideas for Laila

Laila_Khal: does a hearing aid help you? in my case it can't

Kate: Laila, do you have any ALDs?

LinS: Right..and I have heard of NONE since coming to Dallas. I

do know what they are

Kate: Laila, yes, hearing aids help me. But not at large


Kate: I'm lost when talking to more than one person

Laila_Khal: so what do you do in a large meeting, Kate?

Gail: As I get older, I lose more and more of My hearing. If the

slightly hard of hearing cannot hear, then that is bad. And signing will

do nothing for me.

Kate: sit up close; try to get speaker's notes, sit with someone

taking notes and look over their shoulder....

Kate: Gail, there is an organization called ALDA (Association of

Late Deafened Adults)

Kate: one way could be to assign a "buddy" to the person, to take

notes for them, to tell them what's going on

Kate: there are two national organizations for the hard of

hearing, ALDA, and SHHH

Laila_Khal: i heard of live caption very similar to ho wit works in

court,it uses a computer screen.

Kate: yes, Laila, CART is wonderful! but expensive!

Kate: Laila, sometimes you can get students to volunteer their

time to do CART

Laila_Khal: it's the initial cost that may be expensive, but to hire

someone to type is the same cost I believe maybe less than you pay an


VerlaKay: Wow, that would be great if you could swing it financially,

laila. Are there any groups that might help with the expenses of

something like that?

VerlaKay: What about local Arts Councils? Sometimes they have grant

monies available to deserving writers...

Kate: Laila... what CART is, is court reporting... I forget how

much they get paid an hour.... oh, you're not in California

judihill: Gail, you might ask the conference director to seat you

right in front. That's what I do with Terry Galloway (poet,

non-fiction) who only lip reads. It's not perfect but it helps.

VerlaKay: judi...that is an EXCELLENT idea

Kate: for people who only lipread, there are "oral" interpreters,

who mouth everything that is said.


No conferences in your area? Start your own!

LinS: I haven't heard of any retreats here in Dallas..and I'm very involved locally

Lyra: Maybe you should start your own retreats, LinS =-that's how

they get started

LinS: good idea

zap: If you could get 15-20 interested people in your area, bet

you could get an editor in for a day and your regional advisor would

help you

Lyra: And if you set up the workshop, you get to drive the editor

back & forth, really get to know them

LinS: Excellent idea, Zap.

Gail: I volunteer to be the driver.

VerlaKay: Also a good idea, lyra!

Lyra: Of course you'll need to charge enough to fly editor and

hotel charges

zap: volunteer to do anything; you'll be amazed at the

connections you make

Gail: I know my city well. Let me drive.

VerlaKay: I am doing just that for Modesto conference...and not only

do I get to ride in the car with two of the speakers...but I get to stay

and have dinner with ALL of them, too.

LinS: Verla...are either of these editors ones you have been

published with?

VerlaKay: No, but the agent is my agent, you know. And she

will be at the dinner, too


In Closing:

VerlaKay: Okay, have one minute left to ask that last

burning question about conferences...


zap: What's the most important thing we can come home from a

conference with?

LinS: inspiration

zap: that's a good one. anyone else?

LinS: knowledge

LinS: NEW knowledge, I should say

zap: fledgling critique group

Lyra: I usually leave with new hopes and excitment for writing

VerlaKay: I always come home with new friends, a feeling of hope, new ideas, more knowledge and a burning desire to WRITE. That's why I go to conferences.



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