Just 24 hours until we kick of the SCBWI LA conference – and if you’re like me, your nerves have started to kick in big time!
Whether you’re a conference newbie or veteran, you can go into this one with a game plan that will have you feeling excited, prepared and confident – especially with these tips from writers who’ve been there and done that.
What to Bring and What to Skip
“Business cards are fun but don't really do anything for you; even if you exchange them, you never really use them. In a choice between bookmarks and business cards, I highly recommend going with the former instead.” – Dahlia Adler, author of Behind the Scenes, Under the Lights and Just Visiting
“Pack water and a small, easy-to-eat snack - a banana or a granola bar. Even if you build breaks into your schedule, it's good to have something on you to help keep you going and to keep your energy high.” – Nicole Brinkley, bookseller and founder of YA Interrobang
Dress for Success
“It's business casual, but wear clothes that are comfortable and make you feel confident. You'll be in them all day. Wear comfortable shoes too. This is an industry of women in flats.” – Tracey Baptiste, author of The Jumbies series
“Re: what to wear – be comfortable but professional, and if you can, be interesting; if you're shy, nothing helps get a conversation going like a cute/funky dress or shirt. (Modcloth and eShakti are favorite resources for this.) If you're paneling and wearing a skirt or dress, I highly recommend making sure it covers your knees, for Reasons.” – Dahlia Adler, author of Behind the Scenes, Under the Lights and Just Visiting
“Dress professionally, but unless you're comfortable walking around in dressier shoes on your feet six to eight hours, wear sneakers. Being unable to focus because your feet hurt is an easily preventable experience!” – – Nicole Brinkley, bookseller and founder of YA Interrobang
“It sounds simple, but taking time to dress and drink coffee in my room helps me start the day. Mental preparation is important, but also wearing something true to your personality. I've had hour long conversations because I complimented someone's Han Solo t-shirt and we ended up having more in common.” – Zoraida Cordova, author of the Labyrinth Lost and Vicious Deep series
“Be yourself – don't try to ‘wear’ another personality that you think is successful. That said, push yourself a little. If you're shy, promise yourself you'll introduce yourself to a few people. Move out of your comfort zone a little, but set achievable goals. Don't attempt to become someone you aren't. Being false isn't going to get you somewhere you're happy; growing more confident in who you are will.” – Padma Venkatraman, author of A Time to Dance and Climbing the Stairs
“Be optimistic, be hopeful, but don't have expectations - allow yourself to be pleasantly surprised by any and all good things that happen.” – Mike Jung, author of Geeks, Girls and Secret Identities and Unidentified Suburban Object
Talk to People!
“Ice-breaker: Ask people what they're reading/have read and enjoyed lately.” – Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich, author of 8th Grade Superzero and Two Naomis
“When introducing yourself to an editor you admire, be sure to tell them which of the books they've edited that were your favorite. It shows that you know them for their catalog and not just as an editor of books. Also, in my experience, it's a welcomed recess for the editor to geek out about books they love.” – Adam Silvera, author of More Happy Than Not, History Is All You Left Me and They Both Die At the End
“Always remember that most people are just as nervous as you. Don't pitch your book or try to wrangle a way to pitch your book unless asked directly about it. Get to know other people because you're interested in them, not with an eye toward what they can do for you.” – Gwenda Bond, author of the Lois Lane series and Girl On A Wire
“To move on from the introductions, I like to ask questions. Maybe you'll find a panel you didn't know about, or a new conference friend.” – Zoraida Cordova, author of the Labyrinth Lost and Vicious Deep series
“Don't expect to pitch anything unless you're attending an actual pitch session. Conferences are for learning and networking, and putting agents in awkward positions won't do you any favors. If you meet someone you really want to pitch, just approach them casually like anyone else you're happy to meet. There's nothing wrong with ‘I love your tweets’ or especially ‘You rep so many of my favorite books.’ There'll be time to pitch them after the conference and refer to having met them then. At a conference, in a casual setting, just be a person.” – Dahlia Adler, author of Behind the Scenes, Under the Lights and Just Visiting
“If your dream agent or editor goes off to sit alone, they probably need a minute. Conferences are overwhelming for them, too. Be kind and let them rest. Same goes for meals. Give them a chance to actually eat if you're seated at a table together.” – Tracey Baptiste, author of The Jumbies series
“The bar is a really fun place to hang out and meet people. But take it easy. Don't get so nervous drunk that you burst into tears when you meet Laurie Halse Anderson. Not that that happened to me...okay, yes, yes it did. But authors, editors, agents are hanging out in the bar because they want to socialize. Otherwise, they'd be in their room, talking to their cheeseburger. Not that I've done that before...okay, yes I have. Social anxiety is real. What I'm trying to say is, don't be like me – take a chance – talk to as many people as you can, and don't forget to kick off your shoes and dance at the closing party.” – Kim Liggett, author of Blood and Salt and The Unfortunates
Plan Ahead – and Broaden Your Horizons!
“Attend panels/talks that you have genuine interest in. Not all authors are at the same stage career-wise. Look for sessions you’ll find most useful or enjoyable. Don’t be afraid to take breaks from the crowd. And wear comfortable shoes.” – Tanaz Bhathena, author of A Girl Like That
“Even if you are an author, panels on illustration and graphic novels can be illuminating.” – Tracey Baptiste, author of The Jumbies
“I have really loved diversity panels, personally, even though it'd be cool if conferences didn't need them anymore, so I always think they're worthwhile, if the panel is actually diverse itself and full of authors who are committed to bringing more diversity to publishing but can also discuss craft and the industry really well. If you have to ask yourself ‘Why are these people on this panel?’ it's probably not the right one for you.” – Dahlia Adler, author of Behind the Scenes, Under the Lights and Just Visiting
“It's a good idea to keep your mind open to thinking about your manuscript/writing in a way that you didn't expect. I see a lot of people come to conferences very single-minded about their goals and what they think their book needs, whether it's immediate publication or help with a very specific part of the story. But the writers who get the most out of conferences are about to open their mind to whatever the speaker/panel is talking about and be willing to apply those thoughts to their WIPs.” – Maggie Lehrman, editor and author of The Cost of All Things and The Last Best Story