Weekend again?

Last weekend I attended the NJSCBWI 2015 conference. As always, it was wonderful – but I can’t believe it’s already the weekend again. I’ve finished my shifting and shelf-reading and my library has been put to bed for the summer (for me, if not my students), and I am back at my desk, ready to write.

Perhaps what I love best about NJSCBWI is that there’s always something new to learn and someone new to meet. I’m not an extrovert, but I could play one on TV, and the friendly folks at NJSCBWI make it easy to make new writing friends.

I probably say this every year, but this year seemed especially lively and full of positive energy – so much so, I had to start scribbling ideas for revising my query on the nightstand pad as I fell asleep. My sleep may have suffered, but my writing got a huge boost from the conference.

Fave workshops? Had to be Kelly Calabrese‘s “Agent Search Survival Guide” and Suzy Ismail‘s “Writing Across Cultures.” Oh, but wait – Samantha Bremekamp‘s “Be Your Own White Knight” on social media and marketing and John Cusick‘s “Pacing” were incredible, too. And what about Marietta Zacker‘s talk about “Relationships in Children’s Books?”

Okay, so I loved them all. πŸ™‚

I learned how to survive the search for an agent with Kelly and that you can be too PC from Suzy. John’s presentation on pacing confirmed what I’m doing right and highlighted some areas I need to work on. Likewise, Samantha’s presentation reassured me that I’m not the Luddite I think I am, and that I’m making a good start at using social media. And Marietta? Well, she’s a ball of fire. She perked me right up just as I needed it in the afternoon AND gave me more books for my to-read list. Not to mention the idea that the relationship between characters can act as a spur to plot, driving the story forward in interesting ways.

I’m hoping to review all of the workshops, but for now we’ll look at Kelly’s “Agent Search Survival Guide.” After all, I’m in the midst of that search! I’ve had my share of Β no replies and rejections, but the rejections are getting personal, which is a very good sign.

Kelly is an actress as well as a writer, and she gave her presentation her all, keeping us awake and alert with plenty of humor and personality.

Kelly’s Top Ten Tips:

1. Target the right agents – don’t waste their time or yours.

2. Pitching an agent in person? It’s a conversation – and BREATHE.

3. Dive into Twitter Contests. You can find your people, and they can help you find your agent. Plus, it’s FUN.

4. De-code responses – Kelly kindly listed what each type of response REALLY means. In other words, requests are great, but they don;t automatically = representation.

5. Submission stat intelligence – Kelly gave us statistics on just how many queries come into an agency, how many requests come from those queries, and the tiny number of offers of representation that result. The takeaway? You’re one fish in a GIANT school. Keep swimming as hard as you can.

6. Use Resource Portals – Kelly listed a few of her favorite sites and blogs for resources about agents and querying. (I use several of them, including Writing and Illustrating, Query Shark, Michelle4Laughs, and Query Tracker among others.)

7. Navigate “The Call” – This was perhaps the most interesting point of Kelly’s talk. She shared how she misunderstood an agent who was offering representation, but didn’t realize it until much later. And she gave a helpful list of questions you really should ask about working styles, career representations, sales, and more.

8. Post “OFFER” alerts – Well, now I know what to do when I get that offer! (There’s more than just saying yes. πŸ™‚ Β )

9. Contract Basics – Kelly covered the fine print – and you need to pay attention to it, too.

10. Prep for the Afterword – Mum’s the word. When your book is in the submission process, you can’t say a word. I may have to duct tape my mouth shut.

In short, if you’re seeking an agent, run – don’t walk – to Kelly’s presentation and have a blast while learning the right way to go about getting a literary agent. Her final words of advice? Chocolate is appropriate in all situations. Need comfort for that rejection? Chocolate. Anxious while awaiting a response. Chocolate. Time to celebrate getting your dream agent? Chocolate AND champagne. πŸ™‚

I think it’s time to break out the M&M’s…

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