Illustration by Ruth Harper, winner of the Letters & Lines Calendar contest.

Last weekend I attended the 2015 Letters & Lines Fall Conference, the annual conference for the Rocky Mountain Chapter of SCBWI. This year was the first year I was “just” an attendee, having retired after 10 years as co-Regional Advisor and prior to that as speaker liaison.

It was magical.

I wrote about some of the takeaway highlights on The Wild Writers blog this past Monday. Here I want to talk about why I still go to writing conferences after being in and around the world and business of children’s publishing for over 20 years.

I’m Still Inspired

We all know writing is a solitary business and sometimes we need that little oomph to remind us why we do what we do, why it’s important, why only we can tell our particular story and no one else. When editor Andrew Karre talked about diversity at the Letters & Lines Conference, he spoke about it from a very personal place and it made me think about it more personally. He talked about how he used to defend and now he listens because that’s what most people really want and need—to be heard.

I Want Connection

I love connecting with friends and making new friends. It’s fun to hear about people’s projects, their progress, and share encouragement.

I’m Still Learning

I love that even after all these years, I am still learning.

  • Fave Marketing Tip: (Erin Dealey). She turned a bad review into a super cool school visit exercise. Had older kids debate whether her picture book, Deck the Walls, actually did what the review said it did (taught kids bad manners). Fantastic!
  • Fave Page Turning Tips for Novels (Jenny Goebel): End a chapter with a revelation, threat or a challenge (and a great last line that will get that page turn!) – I liked the specificity of this advice, rather than just “cliff-hanger ending.” It got me thinking about my work-in-progress, excited about possibilities.

I Want to Give

Let’s face it, most of us don’t pay good money to attend a conference so we can give. We’re paying for what we can get. We’re buying networking, knowledge, and inspiration—a chance to improve our craft and further our dreams of publication. But I’ve come to appreciate the power of giving. It may be through presenting a session, providing a listening ear, or giving advice and/or encouragement. The difference for me lately has been my newfound awareness of it. When I began rounding out my experience with a conscious element of giving, I expanded the conference experience exponentially.

That’s why I’ll keep going to writing conferences no matter how many books I publish or how “successful” I become (“success” being a fluid term for me these days). For all of the above, all of the intangibles that make it a memorable and often life-changing experience.

Go Forth to Get…and Give

Yes, let’s wring as much information, inspiration, connection and exposure as we can from writing conferences—that’s why we’re there! But let’s also take it a step further. We’re already giving whether we realize it or not so now let’s make it conscious: “What do I have that might help someone else on his/her journey?”

Let’s all give at least one thing to at least one other attendee whether it’s personal or professional. We may make someone’s day. And we’ll definitely make our own.