Friday, May 20, 2011

SCBWI Dakotas Conference Wrap-Up

This past weekend I made the 3 hour drive to South Dakota for the SCBWI of the Dakotas conference.  It was stellar.  

The lineup:
-Kerry Sparks - Agent, Levine Greenberg
-Chris Rylander - Author, The 4th Stall
-Jacqueline West - NY Times Best-selling author of THE SHADOWS
-Nathan Gasman - Art director, Capstone Publishing
-Emilia Rhodes - Editor, Alloy Entertainment

8:00 I was nervous as all get out.  I just slammed a 5hr energy and was barely coherent.

8:30 Agent Talk.  This part was kind of a review of everything I already knew just by reading blogs, querytracker, and Bransford. (don't tell them you know kids who love it, publishing is slow, etc.) It's amazing how much I feel like I have a handle on the querying and agent process.  There were some differences with her individual agency (which is top-notch) but it feels nice to know that the research is paying off a little bit.  She showed a query by a client who found her through, which I thought was sweet.

9:30 Chris Rylander tells us how he wrote an entire book in 6 weeks over his lunch breaks.  Kid is an amazing talent.  The amount of unspeakable querying sins he committed was immense and confidence inspiring.  

I know it's hard to read so I'll paraphrase, "Chris, You are my inspiration.  I am honored to have you here as are my distinguished guests."

10:45 First page session.  I submitted a page from my more or less shelved book.  I rewrote the first 2 chapters in 1st person a couple weeks ago and wanted to see how it played.  Got a solid amount of laughs.  It was really interesting to hear the page read aloud.  The teacher character sounded like a b, and I hadn't intended that/noticed it.  After the session the editor comes up, introduces herself, and tells me her opinion on one suggestion made.  She also compliments my first page. That felt like this inside:

funny gifs

1:00 Jacqueline West talks about writing a series.  She writes one book of a series with a skeleton outline of the next one ready to go.  She said if you write the whole series it's harder to move pieces around when you need to and compared it to a really big game of Jenga.  One interesting thing both authors said is that other than their editors they don't really have a crit. partner. 

2:00 Emilia Rhodes talks about the hot new trends in YA.  I'm not really a YA author, but it was still very interesting.
Humor and boy focused YA = hard
Mermaids / Dystopian= hot (for now)
Dystopian Mermaid societies with forbidden Werewolf love = my next project

She made an interesting statement about how if you are going to write an angel (or whatevs.) book, read all the angel books you can find, and view it like a photo album, being sure not to repeat old fashion.

4:30 Crit with Jacqueline West,
She was fantastic.  It was like talking to an old friend.  While there's always a lot to work on, having a NYT best-seller say nice things about your work goes miles in the motivation dept.  Basically I will spend the next month reading middle-grade fiction and deciding if and how to convert my works to that format (from simple chapter.)  Also brought up my first page, which felt amazing that she remembered it from the session (they were anonymous,) asked if it was mine by linking the style to my submission. 

Oh and basically my crit partner is a mad genius and everything she told me to smooth over that I hadn't had time to get completely perfect got brought up.  

4:50 I'm outie.  I felt like this:

50 Cent gif Pictures, Images and Photos

If you get a chance to go to a regional SCBWI conference, I highly recommend it.  I'll be headed back to the Dakotas next year.

I also recommend the following books, I'll be reading them over the next week(s) and will share thoughts:



  1. Sounds like a productive weekend! And now you know your next project, weird though it may be.

  2. I'm going to Backspace next week. It's my first conference. The first pages workshop should be fun. I can't wait.

  3. Sounds like a great experience. Interested now in the fourth stall.

  4. I love conferences. So inspiring. I've been reading mostly middle grades too as that is what I've been writing the last few years. And AWESOME that your work was memorable (and funny as I would expect) to Ms. West!
    Lastly, I've heard all good on Rylander's book. I keep saying this, but I HAVE to read it!

  5. Writer's conferences are like the candy, toy, or electronic stores for writers. I just love the buzz of being surrounded by like-minded individuals!

  6. Thanks for the rundown. I've got to get myself to one of these soon...

  7. Love hearing about the conference and way cool about the first page!

  8. Hey, Chris! What a great rundown of the conference. I'm so glad you enjoyed it and it was great chatting with you. I look forward to seeing you there again next year.