As a Co-Regional Advisor for the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), I was part of a big effort to get our Fall Conference up and running. Registration opened on Monday so we are off and running!
It got me thinking about my first conference experience, when I was convinced as I walked into the main room that everyone except me was well-published and knew exactly what they were doing. A row ahead of me and a few seats over was an author whose books I’d read. I remember looking at the back of her head in awe–she was a real author with published books! This author later became a key mentor for me. I also joined the critique group she belonged too (a funny story I will share in a week or two), and she introduced me to my first agent and my first publisher.
I learned pretty quickly that I wasn’t the only “newbie” there, but more than that, I discovered people who welcomed me, shared their knowledge, time, and expertise freely, and made me believe–despite the realities of publishing–that I had a shot at making my dream come true.
Sure, conferences are about making those important contacts with editors, agents, and other industry professionals. They’re about getting feedback on your work and learning how to perfect your query. But they’re also about making friends, building relationships that will last, and reminding ourselves that we don’t do this alone. There are other people who understand why I’m walking around only half-coherent because I’m working through a scene in my mind. They know what it’s like to have gotten a “pass” so quickly we wonder if anybody actually read it! And they know why I do a jig when I finish a draft, a final polish, or get the query or manuscript out the door; they know we have to celebrate each step along the way because the process can be slow and discouraging and it helps when people who care share the journey.
Even after over 20 years as a member of the SCBWI and dozens of conferences, I still love to go. I still learn something and I love to be inspired by the speakers. But most of all, I love to be with people who “get it.” They are the warmest, kindest, funniest and most generous people I know and I am forever grateful for their friendship, trust, and encouragement.
Taking that step into my very first conference was scary, but I’m very glad I did it.
It changed my life.