Saturday, January 29, 2011

Interview with a Conference Veteran

Danielle Youngblood, a three-time conference attendee from Boston
For lots of people, this conference was the first national SCBWI shindig they attended. As transformative as a first conference can be, there's value to going back year after year, as writer Danielle Youngblood from Boston, Massachusetts can attest.

She's here for the third time, and each year she's learned something new that's advanced her career. The first two years, she participated in the writer's intensive, and had a picture book she'd written scrutinized by an editor and an agent (as well as the rest of the people at her roundtable).

Her takeaway? "It just wasn't my niche."

The second time around, she brought a YA sci-fi novel and during the manuscript critique, came to understand that the voice wasn't authentic, and that her readers weren't buying her character motivation. It was a tough realization, to be sure. But valuable--she kept her concept and geared it down to middle grade, the age of the students she happens to teach.

And now, she's confident she's found her format. She uses what she hears in the classroom to make her characters more realistic. And she's sharpened the pieces that will attract the attention of agents and editors.

"It’s more directed at the beginning," she says of her work-in-progress." The reader isn’t guessing who the character is and what the character was about."

With steady attendance at SCBWI conferences, Danielle says she's learned to approach publishing as a business, and not as an emotional experience. "I'm more strategic about getting feedback," she says.

And when she approaches an agent, she'll be ready. She knows the elements she needs to have to succeed.

"We writers have this romanticized idea that we're going to write a book and it's going to get published," she says. "There are so many intricacies of the writing process, of understanding the market, and how publishers work, and even getting acknowledged as a writer. It's a lot of work"--work she couldn't have done without the SCBWI.

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