(Side rant here: I forgot my camera! I did get a shot of Meredith with my phone but as yet have not figured out how to get it from my phone onto my computer.)
According to the conference organizers, the competition to get into the event was tough ... about 250 writers applied for mentee spots ... and they regretted having to turn away so many, including some whose writing samples were very high quality, but they simply did not have enough mentors to take more.
Here were some of the highlights for me:
- My one-on-one session with Meredith was so encouraging and helpful ... she gave me a real "aha" moment when she suggested describing my story's setting - and my main character's reactions to that setting - as a way to evoke her internal thoughts and personality more. (My story is told in first-person POV.) It can be tough to describe setting and also to examine a character's personality when writing in first person, but exploring her reactions to the setting can effectively do both. I'm looking forward to playing around with that.
- I met Laura Arnold from HarperCollins, who will be critiquing a manuscript for me in a couple of weeks for the Mid-Atlantic SCBWI Fall Conference. Laura is sweet and smart, and I am even more excited now to get her feedback on my submission.
- Tom Yezerski's talk reminded me that, though I have a long way to go with my writing, I need to occasionally take the time to appreciate how far I've come. Though I didn't write down the exact quote, he said something along the lines of "No matter how you define success, whether it be winning the Newbery or writing one really good paragraph ...." Yes, sometimes writing one strong paragraph is a reward in itself!
- Both Betsy Bird and Nadia Cornier gave some valuable advice re: blogging. Betsy said you want to reveal enough about your personality, thoughts, etc., on your blog to give visitors the sense that they know you (and therefore want to continue to come visit you), but you also want to maintain some sense of mystery about yourself and your work. Interesting! Nadia and a number of the other editors and agents I spoke with told me they definitely Google people whose work they are considering representing or buying and visit their blogs. So watch what you blog about! Nadia told the story of one prospective client who blogged for days about how she hadn't completed her manuscript yet and needed to hurry up and finish it because she had led Nadia to believe it was ready. Nadia has a great sense of humor, so she was more amused than upset at this ... but still!
- Betsy Bird handed out a list of "Blogs to Watch" and on the very short list (six to be exact) of Author/Illustrator Blogs was one of my personal favs: Sam Riddleburger's!
- Ann M. Martin gave the keynote. There was some dispute as to whether she has written 400 titles (as was reported in her introduction) or 250 titles (as she had in her own notes). And she's only in her early 50s! Astounding!
- Last, but certainly not least, was getting to know my two carpool buddies, Sydney and Laurie, and meeting so many wonderful children's writers from all over the country, especially those of you whom I've met online through the message boards and through your blogs.