Wednesday, August 2, 2023

The Joy of Beginnings: Navigating the Conference as a New Bookmaker

Where do I go? How do I get started? What should I do? What breakouts should I attend?

It's your first conference and you are excited to join but as you get closer to the dates, thoughts and feelings begin to bubble up. 

There are so many awesome events, so many amazing bookmakers, speakers, publishers, and agents--

PHEW! It can be overwhelming!

I felt the same way when I first attended SCBWI's Winter Conference 2021. I was brimming with anticipation but I just didn't know where to start. I was new to this world and I wanted to "do it right." I went in ready to meet everyone, take the BEST notes, write the next bestseller, and RULE THE PUBLISHING WORLD, one literary pun at a time!!!!!!

..............yeah. No.

Notes from my first conference:

"I am definitely intimidated."

"This is all very overwhelming."

"Why am I teary-eyed? Did something fly into my eye? YUP. That must be it..."

[This last one wasn't in the notebook but I was thinking about it!]

The conference didn't turn out the way I had planned but in retrospect, I learned so much when I sat and reflected. HERE ARE SOME TIPS FOR NEWCOMERS that I wish I knew before.


1. Plan Schedule / Research Breakout Sessions

        There are so many fantastic events, with specific focuses, taught by wonderful teachers and speakers. Reading up on all of the sessions, checking out bios, and preparing ahead of time will ensure smooth sailing through the weekend. 

Here is a link to the conference's main page with all of the resources and descriptions you'll need:

2. Attend the Orientation for First Time Attendees

        ...with the FABULOUS Jolio Stekly! She will walk you through all the how-tos for the conference. Knowledge is power and knowing where to go in this virtual space is crucial. If you are new to SCBWI, this is a wonderful way to get started, make a game plan, and get the hang of the flow of events.

3. Goal-Making 

        Have an obtainable goal and when you're overwhelmed, reconnect to it. Write it on a Post-It note. Scribble it in that notebook you specifically bought for the conference. (I know you did ;) ). Keep it close. This affirmation will help you navigate through the conference. 

4. Take Breaths and Breaks

        Go at your own pace. Take notes, or just listen. Make tea. Have a snack. This is your conference and you can experience it however you want. Take deep breaths and stretch between sessions. It will help realign your mind and body.

5. Get excited! 

        You are taking a big step toward your goals, dreams, and aspirations. That is brave, awesome, and inspiring! Remember your "Why" and get excited! You are in the room! Be your cheerleader and count your victories!

6. Build Community

        Post that you'll be attending the conference and use hashtags like #scbwiSummer23 to connect with others who will be attending as well.

        Book a seat in one of the four online socials!

7.  ? Ask Questions ?

        You don't have to know everything and sometimes things can seem confusing to you. I know I learn differently and may need a little more clarification. Don't be afraid to ask for help or clarification, whether about the conference or bookmaking. 

This community is full of some of the most generous people you'll ever meet and you add to it by being yourself and showing up.

But by the end, the tune I was singing went more like this:

"What is my voice?"

"Share yourself, your feelings, put yourself out there! NO FEAR!"

"Left feeling inspired, I have work to do but if I care enough, the work is worth it"

From that conference, I've gained industry friends to write and draw with or just have coffee with which for me is exactly what I needed. 

Listen to your gut. 

If it sparks joy, go toward that.

It isn't about perfection or knowing everything. It's about cultivating growth, building your community, and finding YOUR creative voice.

And though you may feel like a newbie, sometimes a novice's perspective brings freshness to those around them.

If you want to view this session to hear the full content, along with the rest of the conference, register at Replays of the conferences will be available until September 10, 2023.

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