What’s Write About Conferences!

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The 2015 Oklahoma SCBWI Conference is approaching on March 28th. WWAT is very excited to travel to Tulsa to “Ignite the Spark.” We thought it’d be fun to discuss our expectations and our favorite conference experiences with our readers. For our WWAT readers we suggest you take advantage of conferences in your area and if you are near Tulsa we highly recommend SCBWI (Society of Children Book Writers and Illustrators) Oklahoma’s Spring Conference. At the bottom of this post check out the guest speakers and the website for conference information.

M.M. Cox:

There are many great reasons to attend an SCBWI conference, but for me the main ones are FRIENDSHIP, KNOWLEDGE, and RESULTS.

Just so you know, I actually tried to come up with three reason that would make a cool acronym, but I kept getting combinations that sounded like my mouth was full. Oh well.

First, I cannot put a price tag on the friendships I have developed through SCBWI conferences. Spending a day with a group of talented, creative individuals who are as passionate as I am about writing for children and teens has given me supportive relationships in this industry to keep going no matter what! Secondly, I have gained so much industry and craft knowledge from these conferences. Two years ago, at the Tulsa SCBWI spring conference, I had the opportunity to sit down with Claire Evans from Dial Books, and she addressed a few things in my first pages that have completely altered the way I open my story and develop my characters. Also, literary agent Karen Grencik’s speech and handout helped me think differently about the way I wanted to write a query letter and propose my book. And finally, the “results”?  I connected with a literary agent by the end of the year and currently have my manuscript under consideration with some of my dream publishers. I am returning this year because I know each and every SCBWI conference improves my craft, introduces me to amazing people, and gets me inspired.

So what are you waiting for? Will you be there?

Jessica Lyn Toman:

My first conference was in the spring of 2014 in Oklahoma City (SCBWI). I was in awe of all the feedback I received from the editors and agents (Can submit ten page manuscript for critique, sign up for pitches, and then open submission to all the speakers). The biggest lesson I learned from my experience was the importance of voice. Killing clichés both in expression and characters contribute to the author’s voice. I believe my writing has improved from this.

Besides the feedback, the list of recommended books (Craft and Fiction) provided by speakers and friends, kept me reading well into the summer. In Tulsa, I am looking forward to networking. I want to come prepared with business cards and am ready to socialize with my fellow writers. I hope to see your face too.

Gretchen Kaup:

My highlights from last year’s conference were listening to the speakers, even those in the genres I’m not currently writing. Colleen AF Venable shared about the rising interest in graphic novels and had a lively presentation with many wonderful examples. I haven’t yet delved into writing graphic novels, but it is on my future to-do list. Andrew Harwell shared about the importance of family in developing memorable characters. This is now something I think about all the time as I write and my characters have changed for the better.

I’m excited for the speakers lined up for the 2015 Conference and all the wisdom they will share, but I’m also looking forward to connecting with other writers in Oklahoma and hearing their stories about their writing journeys. It’s encouraging to talk to people who have similar struggles and have the opportunity to encourage one another to press on. I hope to be seeing you in Tulsa on March 28th!

Lynn D. Barnes:

SCBWI’s Fall Retreat 2014 transformed my approach to creating picture books.  Tammi Sauer’s “What’s the Big Idea?” choreographed creative brain exercises for developing best-sellers.  One exercise had us find a twist on the familiar. It transformed my personal development of story, setting, and character.  In addition, preparation for a middle grade novel pitch clarified critical story line adjustments and resulted in the agent asking to see the first 50 pages.

I can hardly wait for SCBWI’s 2015 Spring Conference!  One of five agents or editors presenting at the conference will critique my newest picture book.  Feedback from these experts will influence next steps on my journey as a writer.  Opportunities to thought-partner with colleagues during the conference means accountability in making our learning actionable.

John Davidson:

My first conference was spring two years ago, and it was my most memorable. The speakers were great, as all conference speakers are, but that wasn’t what I will never forget. I was just beginning to commit to writing again. I’d upped my subscription to Writer’s Digest, created a Twitter account and followed a wide array of authors and editors, and bought a small trove of writing books to improve my craft. Our awesome critique group had yet to form, so the conference would be my first contact with real-life writers. I was stoked. I was terrified. I’m an extroverted introvert. (My internal relationship status reads: It’s complicated.) Bottom line is I loathe going into a large group of people I don’t know. I feel like an outsider. What would I say? How could I make the most of this experience knowing I am who and what I am?

I could say that those worries were unfounded as multiple people greeted me with a familiar icebreaker: “So what do you write?” I could say that numerous people introduced themselves without me having to say a word. I could even say that the agents and editors made it so easy to approach them that I had little reason not to. But while all of the former is true, the real truth is that it all became worth it the minute I walked into that big hotel room. I was among writers. Children’s writers. Writers for teens.  People just like me with passions and hopes and dreams—and some—some from towns not far from mine who’d made their dreams come true.

Above all, in my opinion, that is what you should expect should you attend the OKSCBWI spring conference: an opportunity to be among kindred spirits, those who won’t think you’re crazy that your greatest desire is to spend countless hours in solitude crafting a story that you can share with the world. Stories that will make children and teens laugh and cry and know that they aren’t alone in how they feel. Stories that will make adults remember what it was like to be a child or teen. So come, and discover that as a writer, you’re not alone. There are plenty of us crazies out here! (And it’s rare that we all pack ourselves into one place).


Conference Information:
“Ignite the Spark” SCBWIOK Spring Conference
March 28th in Tulsa, OK
9am to 5pm

 Speakers: Laura Biagi (Agent at Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency), Rachel Orr (Agent at Prospect Agency), Julie (Ham) Bliven (Editor at Charlesbridge Publishing), Erica Finkel (Editor at Abram Books for Young Readers), Allyson Heller (Editor at Aladdin Books), and Kristine Brogno (Design Director at Chronicle Books).


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2 Responses to “What’s Write About Conferences!”

  1. Can’t wait for March 28! This conference is gonna be EPIC!

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