Last week, I attended the Book Passage Children’s Writers & Illustrators Conference in Corte Madera, California. I can’t even beginning to express how much I got out of this. I went as a lark, to be honest—I “won” the spot by bidding on it at my daughter’s school’s silent auction fundraiser in the spring. The timing of the conference was actually tough—we had already planned my son’s birthday party for that weekend and I had to miss his preschool’s year-end party. Plus I was in the first week of my ABG Reads Book Blog Tour. But is there ever really the perfect time for such things? Not in my world.
So I went to the conference without any expectations or any preparation. I didn’t know any of the faculty except for one agent and Annie Barrows, an author whose Ivy & Bean series my daughter loves (so do her parents—it’s very readable for an adult audience). I have the beginning sh*tty first draft of a young adult prequel to The Flower Bowl Spell, and since there were workshops on YA, I felt completely justified in going. As it turns out Kristen Tracy‘s workshop on writing the beginning of a YA novel was so helpful, I can barely stand it! And Annie Barrows’ insights into the minds of middle grade readers (ages 8 to 11 according to most experts), got me thinking about writing my own middle grade/first chapter book. In fact, I started drafting one yesterday!
In addition, there were picture book authors and illustrators, as well as editors and agents. I missed all of the agent panels due to my son’s party. Andy Ross and I exchanged index cards during a writing exercise run by Lissa Rovetch. Mine read, “Styron—chartreuse—teacher—sadness.” His had “Frank—green—financial analyst—greed.” Go ponder that. I was kind of bummed to miss the talk on self-publishing and promotion through social networking and tweeting. I did ask the advice of Kathryn Otoshi, a self-published picture book author/illustrator, about balancing her time, and she broke it down very practically into a kind of mental pie chart of 24 hours. How much do I need for sleep, eating, family, work, errands, and how much is left over for me? What then, of that time, will I use for my writing and what for promo? So basic, but that’s what makes hearing it so great.
And really, that’s what the conference was all about. I’ve written fiction seriously for 20 years. I know a lot of this stuff about the craft of writing, the ineffable stuff, the nuts and bolts stuff. But sometimes, it’s good to pay attention to what methods work for others. It’s a recharge of the creative batteries. And I even made some new friends.