So Yesterday I attended the SCBWI Dakota Conference. It was a small event with only about 30 people, but we had three great speakers. Author Cindy Kane, Illustrator Carrie Hartman and Editor Brian Farrey-Latz from Flux—the young adult imprint of Llewellyn Worldwide.
Brian’s presentation was the one with the most information that pertained to me. He’s a dynamic speaker and is fun to listen to. One thing he spoke about was making sure we’re balancing the plot—the action, with the internally emotions of the main character.
Apparently this is one of my problems with FROSTY.
I signed up for the 15 minute manuscript critique session with Brian. (My first 1500 words) This was so cool because as I said, he’s an actual editor at a publisher that works solely with YA.
Some of the ladies there (ladies cause there were only 3 men out of 20 and 2 were speakers) were nervous about their critique. I wasn’t nervous, but I hoped it wasn’t going to be ALL negative.
He had some good things to say and of course pointed out the negative. Overall I was happy to hear what he said and the bad stuff didn’t surprise me.
Three months ago, I got a critique from someone else in the industry and she commented that things were moving too slowly at the beginning. And that I had too many inner thoughts. So I revised and deleted 12,000 words. I think I went overboard. It wasn’t balanced.
Setting and description isn’t my strong suit to begin with, but I cut too much of what I did have at the beginning. Many of the places where I cut are where Brian suggested I add more detail. I’m not going to bring back everything I cut because the key is balance. I just need a little more to establish my setting.
I also need to add some more internal thoughts. No big conversations, but just a line or two every occasionally.
After I met with Brian, I skimmed through his comments. Most of them are about adding a detail or two. Or to take a few lines and move them out of their current spot to somewhere else.
It was a lot of great comments and I’m glad I decided to do the critique. Even though it was a one day conference and didn’t have a lot of attendees, I learned a lot and met a ton of new people.
Now time to get back to work.
Have you ever had an editor or a literary agent critique your work? How did it go?
WIP Coaching Update: I don’t have much to say about WIP Coaching because now I’m putting Gabi to work. We spoke this week about my ‘homework’ and went over some questions I had. Now she is going to critique my first fifty and let me know what some of my big problems are. I look forward to hearing what she has to say.
So onto selling yourself.
Last week I attended the North Dakota Society of Professional Engineers annual engineering conference. I rode up early with my dad, who had a meeting to attend. I had one full day to myself with nothing to do and no kids around. I spent most of the morning and early afternoon doing writing stuff. (Stuff being writing, editing, blogging…) Then I met with a college friend and her kids and had a great afternoon. I wish I had more days like that.
The annual conference was a day and a half and consists of a business meeting, a banquet and lots of seminars. Licensed professional engineers renew their license every two years (at least where I live) and one of the requirements is 30 hours of continuing ed.
At one of the seminars, I had to write a pitch… for myself. Or a personal branding statement as the speaker from Dale Carnegie Business group called it.
And she only gave us five minutes.
That’s not long enough and I struggled. I don’t do much engineering work so how could I put into words a way to sell myself? There were some questions to help you develop your statement.
*What qualities or characteristics do you have that cause you to stand out from others in your field? Umm, I’m a woman. That’s all I came up with. And by the way, there were only three women attending this conference out of fifty people, so I think that qualifies. But since I haven’t worked full time since my son was born 7 years ago, I don’t have a specialty I’ve developed.
*What would your colleagues or clients say if your greatest strength? You mean my kids; I suppose they’re my only colleagues. I make a good mac and cheese, maybe.
*What do you do that adds or brings remarkable, measurable, distinctive value to other people and organizations? I’m a good listener. (But how does that relate to engineering?) Most of my projects have been fairly standard and unremarkable, so once again, I had nothing.
What I came up with was pathetic. And luckily, I got to read it to a total stranger because the DC session was very interactive. I’m not a fan of interactive sessions, especially when the speaker can call on you. The other guy’s was very good and he admitted he’d done this all before, but it made mine look all the more sad.
So what I already knew was that I’m no good at selling myself. This will have to change when I become published because writers need to promote themselves and their books. But for some reason, selling my book doesn’t seem as hard as selling my engineering skills. Maybe it is, I guess I’ll find out when I get there.
Are you good at selling yourself or your writing?
Last weekend I attended my first writers conference at UND. It was actually the 32nd Annual Writing for Children and Young Adults Conference. Yes, 32nd annual, and I just heard about it for the first time, thanks to my mom who spotted it in the newspaper.
I have absolutely nothing to compare it to, but I thought it was a good conference considering the size of UND/Grand Forks. They had three (the 4th cancelled last minute) editors from publishers that do children’s books. I’d never heard of the two companies, Flux and Egmont, but the other was Random House, which everyone knows. And the one who didn’t show was from Viking, which I recognize too.
There was also a local author of middle grade fiction, Kurtis Scaletta, who now lives in Minneapolis area. He lived in Grand Forks and attended UND.
The speakers were dynamic and interesting. And I met some nice people too who I will probably run into again.
The best thing was that being a small conference, 25ish people, you have access to these editors and the writer. They sat at lunch and dinner with us and would answer questions you might have. That might not happen in New York at a conference with hundreds of people.
Mr. Scaletta also offered to review query letters and offer suggestions since he’s dealt with them and literary agents. He thought mine looked good. It has been much revised and changed since I first started querying, so hopefully this might grab someone’s attention.
I was disappointed that I’d missed the deadline to submit a manuscript (10 pages) for evaluation by an editor. That would have been helpful. I also wished they would have had a literary agent (which the big conferences do).
But I will definitely go back.
I also hope to go to more conferences. Sioux Falls had one last spring and hopefully will again. Yes, the big jump from Grand Forks to Sioux Falls. Maybe I’ll take on Denver or New York or LA after that!