Monday, October 7, 2013

Oh SCBWI Midsouth Fall Conference, how do I love thee?

I've already tried to count the ways.

And there are WAY too many.

You see, I'm a total noob. I'm that guy who's been writing since forever but never took the time and never saved the money to actually go to a writing conference. But then one showed up in (almost) my back yard. And when a conference shows up in (almost) your back yard and asks if you wanna go...

You say YES!

So I went. And I'm telling you now, folks. If you've ever wondered if going to a conference is worth the money, the travel time, the packing--the answer's still yes. Here's a breakdown of my first ever writing conference experience:


When I got there, there were books. Sweet Lord in Heaven there were books. And a lot of the authors were there with them, ready to sign, ready to chat, ready to smile, and pen a semi-personal note on the title page of your brand new hardcover.

The most surprising thing was how genuinely approachable the authors were. I stood in line to snag a copy of Kristin Tubb's The 13th Sign and happened to find myself behind someone who obviously knew her. Either that of the lady just really had a knack for guessing household pets' names. Several minutes later, it was my turn to step up, smile, and not do this:

And, no, that didn't happen. For one, I was alone, and for two, Kristin is much prettier than that librarian.

For an hour, I made my way around the tables, talking to authors, getting things signed, and wondering what it would feel like to be on the other side of that table. I know, I know... all in good time, Brooks...

The day ended with a networking/schmooze session which was where I got to meet fellow MG writer and Twitter friend, Gail Nall!

If you're thinking that picture's breaking the Ghostbusters theme, look closer at my shirt. I had this thing planned from the very beginning. Maybe.


The morning opened with a keynote speech by the incredible Jay Asher and the day didn't let up through the hours of sessions to choose from. These included first page critiques, breaking into publishing, working with illustrators, finding the right agent, revising your work... you name it, they had it. The only problem was not having a clone or a time-turner to go to all of them.

The sessions I picked were fantastic and I left every single one with more than a full page of notes, complete with doodles, some AHA! ideas, and a buttload of inspiration. To be honest, it was almost overwhelming. But totally in the good way. Although, I'm sure I walked around the conference looking less inspired and more like--

That's okay, though. I saw a lot of other people making that same face. In fact, we'd greet each other with a smileless nod and a grunt, then walk on to our next session, wide-eyed and looking like we were about to step out into oncoming traffic.

That evening, several of the conference attendees signed up for a writers' dinner at a really cool place that had a miniature bust of a pope on a round table (no joking here). We were told we had to be out by 9:00. 

That didn't happen. 

You shove six writers in a single booth, put some amazing Italian food in front of them, all after a day full of writing conference, and we'll stay until a manager calls security. Or until they run out of noodles.


When the last day rolled around, it was time for the final bit of announcements and our remaining pair of sessions. For my first, I chose a synopsis critique session by the amazing super-agent Josh Adams. I was lucky enough to get mine drawn, read, and commented on. His eyes sparkled when he read the title and he even said he'd want to read more! 

I decided to end my conference with Jordan Brown's session, Finding Your Voice. If you ever get a chance to hear this guy speak, do it. Even if you have to drive cross-country, donate blood for gas money, and hitchhike part of the way there, do it. He's that good. A warning, though. Limber up your fingers if you plan to take notes. Because the guy speaks at twice the normal human speed. Seriously. He's like the modern day Micro Machines commercial dude. With a beard.

Finally, we gathered back into the big room for awards, honorable mentions, and goodbyes. I'm glad to say I'm the proud owner of three new books, compliments of SCBWI's door prize committee. But I left with much more than just some amazing literature, bookmarks, business cards, and a journal full of agent and editor brain-pickings.

I left with a new-found love for SCBWI and the Midsouth group that worked so hard to bring so many awesome people together under one roof. 

So will I be going back?

I'm not even gonna answer that because this last image says it all.

But if you're still wondering, the answer's yes.


Anonymous said...

This sounds so fun! If you don't mind my asking, which synopsis got commented on?

Unknown said...

It really was!

The synopsis I donated to the please-read-me pile was my MG contemporary, My Seventh Grade Life in Tights.

There were so many awesome ones he read, though. Some where I even wanted to stand up and shout, "Can someone please publish that so I can read it already?"

But I didn't. Because I'm pretty sure that would have been bad form.

Robert Polk said...

What a great experience for you Brooks! Conferences are so fun and full of great people. And that's awesome about your manuscript going for a closer look to Josh Adams. Good luck!

Unknown said...

I'm already packing for next year. I just hope I don't grow out of my shoes before then...

Jamie Krakover said...

Your first conference experience sounds similar to mine. I was a bit overwhelmed at first but I learned a ton and met some really awesome people.

Congrats on the agent interest. That's awesome! I have my fingers crossed for you.

gailecn said...

I love this!! (Except maybe that picture of me...yikes! Maybe you should've just turned us into characters from Ghostbusters. ;)

I think my hand fell off from fast note-taking during one of Jordan Brown's sessions. So much good info!

Fingers crossed for you on the agent interest!

Unknown said...

It was so funny--I was walking around, just sort of absorbing the experience when Gail found me. She ended up introducing me to everyone (literally--she knows everyone) which made things a little less scary for me.

Unknown said...

What?! That picture's awesome! I think it shows our true personality. Goofy, a little crooked, and slightly blurry from the 3 hour drive to Nashville.

As far as the agent, I haven't sent anything yet. I'm still reworking the ending. As soon as I'm finished with this pass, I'll be begging for some people to help me slice the sucker up!

Unknown said...

I NEED to attend a conference with you.....the level of need is so high its bursting

Unknown said...

You ain't kiddin, man! Do you have any coming up you're going to? They're sort of sparse down here near TN, but I know they pop up all the time in the NE and out west.