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?
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>
***FOR THOSE WHO DO NOT KNOW: <BG> = Big Grin
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: 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
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?)
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
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
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
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!
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 ...
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
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 conference....you 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
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
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
VerlaKay: Actually, our Regional Advisor TRIES to get editors from
closed houses, Kate...in order to open a door to some of our people that
would not normally be open for them
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)
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.
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
Kate: how does it work, Verla....you 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
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)?
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
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
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
VerlaKay: No, but the agent is my agent, lin....as you know. And she
will be at the dinner, too
VerlaKay: Okay, gang....you 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
zap: that's a good one. anyone else?
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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