My first experience with a national writing conference was the Society of Children’s Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) Summer Conference in Los Angeles, August 2005.
Ah yes, I remember it well.
Four days of keynote speeches, breakout sessions, book signings and hopeful writers, writers, writers everywhere. Honestly, at that point in my writing education, that conference was a waste of money. I was still working through my first formal class on “Writing for Children and Teens” and there was no manuscript in my suitcase. All I brought with me was a very strong passion to write the sort of YA literature I loved to read (more on that in later posts).
I remember being amazed at the number of attendees, all with anxious hopeful eyes that would instantly glaze over in dismissal when I told them this was my first conference and I wasn’t scheduled for a critique. I remember pens scribbling madly every time an editor or agent described the sort of projects they were hoping to find. I remember being in awe of the gorgeous art showcased at the illustrator’s portfolio show. And I very clearly remember watching Sonia Sones, Carolyn Mackler and Megan McCafferty eat lunch at a nearby table and thinking YA publication was like an exclusive sorority I just had to join. (Which was not a very comfortable feeling as I had never ever been a “joiner”).
There was a brief discussion in one of the breakout sessions about blogs. (Back then no one used the term “social media” or, if they did, I didn’t know what they were talking about). The gist of the discussion and professional advice boiled down to this:
- Reading editor and agent blogs is incredibly valuable and important when an author has a manuscript to submit
- Author blogs could be great resources too
- If you had a great blog, it could help your writing career
- But don’t, don’t, DON’T blog if you can’t do it well or if the time commitment will hurt your writing productivity
End of story for me. No blog.
Fast forward to the 2009 SCBWI Winter Conference in New York. (New York City!!!)
Instead of an illustrator portfolio show, I went to MOMA for the first time in my life. Uh, WOW!!! And that’s all I’m going to say about that.
It seemed to me that most presenters and attendees at the 2009 conference were discussing “social media” and “platforms” more than the art and craft of storytelling. Ugh. Now, I don’t want to give the impression that I’m Granny Slay the Writer, still pecking away on my manual typewriter and terrified that all those nasty cyberthiefs are going to steal my ideas. No! I’ve been on Facebook pretty much since its first year, connected with my current guy through online dating (though he likes to tell people we met at a book festival, which is also sort of true), worked for several tech companies in the Silicon Valley and am learning to use all the amazing features on my new iPhone very well thank you!
I finally heard one publisher say, “Blogging and social networking can be a great tool, but don’t let it interfere with your writing. And don’t do it at all if you can’t do it consistently and professionally.” He went on to say that he did not ever want any of his authors blogging about the publication process (the edits and rewrites and marketing and art selection, etc) that goes on behind the scenes at his imprint.
And so that’s the message I plucked out of all the other chatter and held close to my heart for two years.
Fast forward to now. Here I am writing my first blog post despite the terrible fear in my heart. Why? In the past few months I have read numerous articles, interviews and blogs (yes, I do read and follow some great blogs) that clearly show that most agents and editors who receive an intriguing query will Google the author’s name before reading and/or requesting the actual manuscript. This disclosure is coming from professionals that I admire and trust. If the agent or editor finds a good, solid blog as a result of that Google, the chance that s/he will give your manuscript serious consideration will greatly increase.
And that’s what it’s all about. Period.
So…I took yet another Writer’s Online Course (Blogging 101) in the hope that I would prevent myself from creating a really bad blog. And now, away we go! Into the wild cyber yonder.