What’s not to love about writers’ conferences? Nice hotel, like-minded, friendly people, and a shot at the Big Time. Or at least, a chance of attracting an agent. One of my dreams is to be able to attend conferences all over the country, if not the world. Just for the fun of it.
Tomorrow I will leave San Diego and drive two hours to Los Angeles and the forty-third annual Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Summer Conference. This will be my third time.
I’ve been to other conferences. My first was the Maui Writers’ Conference which had the double bonus of being in Hawaii and having Ron Howard on the faculty. He was quite accessible. Funny story — my family was with me. Our son, Jordan, was four years old and looked like Opie. A friend joined us at lunch, where Ron Howard sat at the next table. The friend insisted on taking Jordan over to meet him. Mr. Howard asked Jordan if he thought he would look like him when he got older. Jordan pondered it a moment and answered, “Yes, I think I will be bald.” Nice, Jordan, kiss any acting ambitions good-bye.
Another funny story — three years ago, at my first SCBWI conference in Los Angeles, Henry Winkler was one of the speakers. He co-writes a middle grade series with SCBWI founder Lin Oliver. After the talk, I approached him and told him I’d met Ron Howard fifteen years before in Maui. I said in another fifteen years maybe I’d meet Scott Baio at some writers’ conference. It got a laugh.
I really love the specificity of the SCBWI conferences. Everyone writes children’s books. I learn a lot and get to meet people who are struggling like me. The speakers are agents and editors who only deal with children’s literature. Authors like Judy Blume are keynote speakers. The hotel where the conference is held — and where I will be, in a really nice room — is in Century City, just across from the building used as the Nakatomi Towers in Die Hard.
So I will pick and choose the workshops and talks to attend that are most interesting and helpful to me. I have a consultation lined up, where an agent, editor or published writer will critique the first ten pages and synopsis of my novel, Morning of the Mermaid. I am in the middle of a huge revision on this book, so I don’t expect that much, but it will help to see if I’m gong in the right direction. There is a gala on Saturday night, with food and wine and dancing and costumes. This year’s theme is A Night in Old Italy. There’s an awards luncheon on Sunday. And a thousand other children’s writers to hang out with. There will be ample opportunities to pitch Alex Bullied to agents and editors. I only need to get my “elevator pitch” perfected.
If you’ve never attended a writers’ conference, I recommend the experience, at least once. If you’d like to see what it’s like, you can follow along virtually with the SCBWI Summer Conference at http://scbwiconference.blogspot.com or on Twitter @scbwi and the hashtag #LA14SCBWI.
I’m pretty sure I’ll get several blog ideas this weekend. Stay tuned.