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What should one's expectations be of attending a conference?

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Hello BlueBoarders!

For the past couple of years, the timing has not worked for me to consider the NYC SCBWI conference. But this year, the stars seem to have aligned - and I might be able to attend (fingers crossed)!  :running :running :running

But then I started to wonder....what should I expect to experience if I decide to attend?  :eyeballs

I have been to short workshops but not a full weekend conference. I would welcome anyone sharing their experiences, especially with NYC SCBWI conference and if you have any recommendations for making the most of this experience.

:) EspressoChick
#1 - October 29, 2016, 12:19 PM
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One of the highlights for me at the NYC conference a few years back was being able to connect with other blueboarders. Let people here know you are going and see who you can connect with.  :)
#2 - October 29, 2016, 02:39 PM
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To learn a bit, get inspired, and maybe meet a few people you know from the virtual world. And to enjoy yourself, being with like-minded people who get what you do.
Have fun.
#3 - October 29, 2016, 03:50 PM
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The NYC conference is big, and can feel overwhelming. So understand that attending one weekend conference is not a one-time "I'm going for *this particular expectation,*" rather it's the first steps of a marathon, and part of an overall plan to understand and get to know industry professionals and fellow writers and illustrators.

The best thing I've ever experienced from a conference has been meeting writers and putting faces with names (like fellow writers/illustrators from the Blueboard). The second best thing has been hearing from speakers who share their experiences along the way. The path to publication is difficult, and sometimes seems impossible, so to hear from authors who have had the same frustrations, and yet kept on that path, is inspiring.

Yes, hearing editors and agents speak, and perhaps the ability to submit to them, is great, but really this business is about two things: The work we're willing to put into improving our craft and understanding the business, and the professional and supportive relationships we find along the way.

To me, if you come away from a conference inspired to keep writing, and looking for opportunities to grow your writing, and your friendships with other writers, then that is a successful writing conference.

All conferences are different. The local SCBWI workshop events are more intimate, most regional conferences offer a broad range of speakers and workshops, and the larger conferences (like NYC and LA) are great for exposure to a wider range of professionals. They each have different flavors. Others may feel differently but, to me, the most beneficial for learning, especially in the beginning, are probably the really good regional conferences.

As I have said a couple of times, though, in the end, conferences are MOSTLY about the opportunity to build your own professional network with fellow writers and illustrators. So don't be shy, whichever sort of conference you choose to attend!

 :goodluck
#4 - October 29, 2016, 06:15 PM
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I've been to SCBWI NYC Conference twice and both times the main thing I got out of it was:
1. inspiration (listening to keynotes, etc.)
2. meeting up with other writer friends from online

I think if you're a newbie, a lot of the industry pro (agent and editor) stuff is good and helpful, but if you've heard it before or researched enough online, it's a bit redundant. And the chance to submit to editors at closed houses (if you don't have an agent) is nice, but honestly, the number of actual responses I've gotten from editors is like one out of every five. If there are agents who only take queries from conference attendees, that might be helpful.

But yes, I always leave fired up to write and submit and create!

Oh, and I know it's exhausting bc so much is going on that weekend, but do try to go to every session offered -- you never know when someone you haven't heard of/weren't excited about seeing ends up being hilarious/inspirational/just what you needed to hear! Have fun!
#5 - October 30, 2016, 07:37 AM
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I think you've heard good advice here overall. I've never gone to one of the big conferences, but I've done a lot of regional ones. I can tell you a few things I've learned to do that have helped enrich my experience:

1. Read at least one book by every keynote speaker. If you have time to do more, do so. You learn much more from keynotes if you have a sense of the person speaking.

2. Thoroughly research all of the agents and editors on the faculty. If you have time to read books by some of the authors they work with, that's an awesome bonus. Consider attending sessions led by agents/editors who seem likely to be a good fit for you. They won't get to know you if you just sit in on their sessions, but you'll get to know a bit about them.

3. Prepare an elevator pitch for your most polished work. You should be able to describe the story in about two sentences. Practice saying it confidently and looking people in the eye while you say it. Even if you don't manage to talk to many (or any) editors or agents, you will get a chance to describe your work to your peers at the conference. Might as well practice acting professional about it. 
#6 - October 30, 2016, 09:03 PM
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I haven't been to one for a while, but I used to go to the NYC conference every year. Be open. Look for inspiration. I met two great critique partners there. I learned a lot about the industry too.

In the past it was hard to get to chat with any of the faculty. That may have changed, but I doubt it because the event is so big. If you can, attend an intensive on the Friday. (These didn't exist last time I went, but they are more intimate.)

A word of advice, plan down time for the evenings. Give yourself some chances throughout the day to process what you're taking in, even if it is just a chat with one or two people you've met along the way.
#7 - October 30, 2016, 09:23 PM
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I've been twice to the NY Con (never to the LA one unfortunately) and I would say just what Ena and the others have.
I'd only add that you will find a HUGE difference after NY if you then get to attend one of the regional weekend conferences. While NYC itself is an exciting place to be, because of the number of attendees you likely won't get an opportunity for casual, intimate conversation with any of the faculty, the way you do at the smaller chapter cons. I think if I had to choose only one type, I'd pick the regionals over the nationals... but the big con is something you HAVE to experience at LEAST once! Main thing, don't be shy to speak to people and have FUN. You will feel different on the flight home, creative juices flowing, inspired to get busy working... and that's worth a lot just on it's own:)
#8 - October 31, 2016, 01:51 AM
« Last Edit: October 31, 2016, 01:54 AM by christripp »
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It might be a good idea to make a concrete goal for yourself so that you don't go in with vague notions of getting something unrealistic from the conference. Some goals I've had in the past:

-talk to as many other writers as I can, just to make friends and get/give encouragement
-pay for a critique or pitch session
-attend a talk where I can learn something new about social media
-introduce myself to an agent or editor at an appropriate time (like during the social evening where that's expected), just to practice putting myself out there
-come home from the conference with three ideas for how to go deeper in my revisions on my current manuscript
-buy at least one book that I can have signed by the author at the conference, because that's always exciting

#9 - October 31, 2016, 01:59 PM
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Whizbee, I love that. It's brilliant advice.
#10 - November 07, 2016, 07:46 AM
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Whizbee, I love that. It's brilliant advice.

Thank you! I am a concrete kind of person. ;)
#11 - November 07, 2016, 09:54 AM
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