Thursday, August 2, 2012

Your Conference THRIVE-al Guide

 You're packing.  You're flying.  You're driving.  You're arriving...

But more than just SURVIVING the 2012 SCBWI Summer Conference, you need to know how to THRIVE and get the most out of it.  To that end, some tips:

1.  When you get it, take the time to read your packet.  There's a lot of material there, but if you wait until you get home to check it all out, you may miss some important things - be informed, and read your packet.

2.  First time at the conference?  Attend Jolie Stekly's Friday Morning New Attendees Orientation.  It's in room Olympic 1 at 7:45am.  Get up early and go to it!  Jolie's a member of Team Blog, a former Regional Advisor, and SCBWI's 2009 Member of the Year... She's a treasure, and you'll be in good hands!

3.  Stretch.  Challenge yourself to attend one session that's outside your current focus (a plot talk if you're an illustrator, or a session on picture books if you write YA.)

4.  In the words of Fred Ebb (lyricist for "Cabaret")

"What good is sitting alone in your room?  Come hear the music play..."

Don't just attend keynotes and workshops and then retreat to your room.  Hang out in the lobby bar and by the outside tables - even if you don't drink. Talk to your fellow writers and illustrators...  Lots of magical connections and moments happen this way.  Leave yourself open to that magic!

5.  Keep your nametag on.  Even at dinner, or drinks afterwards (see tip #4.)  Your conference name tag helps others know you're part of the tribe, and helps them remember your name, too.  You can even stash some of your own business cards in the back so they're handy.

6.  Speaking of business cards, when you get one, or that evening, jot a quick note to yourself about who the person was and what you discussed.  It's not so much for your biographers, but there will be over 1,000 other attendees... and in a couple of months (or years), it will be remarkably useful to have something brief to jog your memory.

7.  Maximize the experience:

Friday night there are a bunch of Optional activities, including:  Yoga, an Illustrator Social, a Nonfiction Social, an International Social, an LGBTQ Q&A (with publisher and editor Arthur A. Levine, assistant agent Natalie Lakosil, and award-winning author Sonya Sones) and Moderated Peer Group Critiques.

Saturday night there's the Hippie Hop Gala (and Dance Party!)  Will YOU be wearing Tie Dye or Fringe or ...? 

Sunday night, after the Autograph Party, Los Angeles Kid Lit Drink Night will fill the lobby bar, and lots more networking and schmoozing and fun will be had with whoever's still around from the conference, plus we'll add in a group of Los Angeles' kid lit hooligans.  The joint will be jumping!  (On the other hand, if you need to get your shavasana on, there's also another Yoga session that night.)

The world of SCBWI's Summer Conference is your oyster, from sun-up to sun-down and around again to sun-up.  Partake.

8. Take care of yourself and your creative fire.  If you're feeling overwhelmed, it's okay to take a break (despite tip #7.)  Chat with a fellow conference-goer by the pool.  Sketch.  Outline that new picture-book idea.  Visit the conference attendee hospitality rooms -  Bel-Air and Malibu (on the California Level) - to recharge and have a snack in a quiet place.  Remember that this is YOUR conference, your time, and you get to make it your own.

9. If you're on twitter, tweet conference moments/quotes/shoutouts with the hashtag:


Even if you're not on twitter, you can follow along at this twitter search.

10.  When tweeting or blogging the conference, remember our Team Blog guidelines...  A taste but not a transcript.  It is not respectful to the presenters to share their material in its entirety, so let's all be respectful.

11.  Keep in mind that you want to be fun and have fun, but you also need to be professional.  After all, this kind of thing is not going to make a good impression:

(My thanks to Arthur A. Levine and Paula Yoo for illustrating that point so beautifully.)

12.  Do your homework.  Particularly excited to meet a certain faculty member?  Read a couple of their books first (that they wrote, or illustrated, or agented, or edited), and you'll have something to talk about, and maybe questions to ask to make it a great discussion.

and let's make this a Baker's Dozen...

13. Bookmark the SCBWI Conference Blog at to follow along and comment on the experience!

Those are your tips, now go THRIVE! (And have a blast!)

Illustrate and Write On,

Cross-posted at SCBWI: The Blog

Do you have MORE tips for your fellow conference-goers?  Add them in comments!


  1. Don't be afraid to go up and speak to someone (keeping #11 firmly in mind.) I had the most wonderful chat with Richard Peck (RICHARD PECK!!!!) last year, simply because I went up and spoke to him. He made me feel like a welcome colleague.

  2. Arthur and Paula clearly should win an Oscar for that performance. Hilarious!