Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Write Conference for You by Kathy Halsey

On your mark, get set, GO! Conference season began with a bang yesterday with SCBWI LA registration. SCBWI LA and NY are the annual "big kahuna" events of the season, and I am lucky enough to attend the LA event this August 1-4. We writers have few resources and lots of choices for professional development, so how do you decide what is the WRITE conference for you?

Begin Small
Go "big" or go home isn't always the case. I worked my way up to attending a large conference. Being a newbie and only having less than a year under my belt, I dreamed of LA last year but didn't feel I had enough experience to take advantage of all that was offered. Instead, I spent my time and money at a smaller venue that still had a big bang for the bucks. Hidden in Findlay OH is a fabulous conference with a small writer's tract at the Mazza Museum which house the LARGEST COLLECTION OF PICTURE BOOK ART IN THE WORLD! Yes, I'm shouting because many folks know about the Eric Carle Museum, but the Mazza Museum is a fab find for families, writers and illustrators alike. You'll want to sign up for their monthly email newsletter, too, even if you are too far away to visit.

Here are a few teasers entice you to put this conference on your radar:
  • Enrollment in the writing strand is free w/registration (You must attend for the full week.) 
  • Registration is flexible-choose one day for $75 or the entire week for only $225 - a steal
  • Frugal folks can opt to stay in student housing and walk to all sessions on the University of Findlay campus. I did this and felt like a college "girl" again!
  • There are 2 keynote sessions a day and we're talking pb royalty, folks...and you can go out to dinner nightly with these keynoters
  • This year Mazza hosts Bob Staake, Laura Seeger, Lynne Avril, Margery Cuyler, David Shannon, Loren long, Jarrett Krosoczka, Aaron Reynold, Pamela Zagarenski, Mike Wohnoutka & David Slonim!!!!!!!! (Yes, excessive exclamations)
  • During the writer's strand, you'll have access to a published writer for several days as the artist-in-residence. In 2013 Michael J. Rosen ate with us and even critiqued an ms of our choosing for 15/20 minutes, all FREE.  

Other Thoughts and Tips
After you get your feet wet at a smaller venue, look to your state and if you are a SCBWI member, attend your annual conference or a SCBWI conference in a neighboring state. 
Then you are ready to tackle the big kahuna at the national level!
To make your first big conference better, I have these tips:
  • Room with others from your state/region/critique group
  • Carpool if possible or coordinate flights and share a cab
  • Set up a meet & greet with "your tribe"-I plan to meet with my fellow RhyPiBoMo-ers, WOW nonfiction peeps, and, of course, my fellow GROGgers! 
  • Divide and conquer with your writing buds - do not all go to the same sessions, multiply your effect by divvying up sessions and sharing handouts, ideas later!
So what conferences are you attending this season? Comment on the GROG and share your conference tips, too. See you in LA and also at Kristen Fulton's WOW Retreat for nonfiction in July


  1. Oh my gosh, Kathy, what a wonderful place! How did I not know this existed??? Thank you for introducing it to me. It is most definitely on my list.

  2. Sounds wonderful. Wish I could attend these.

  3. I've been to the Carle, but not to the Mazza. I signed up for their newsletter. I can't go to either workshop in 2014 due to 2 other writing commitments at the same time. BUT, I will keep them in mind for the future. And the next time I'm in Ohio, I'll stop in. :)

  4. The look on the childrens' faces, when the Mazza volunteer opens the pop-up book is precious. I'm betting they have one of the best docent/volunteer groups around. I have noodled around on both the Mazza & Carle sites. Haven't attended either but it's on the list. I love the enthusiasm of this post. Will be eager for your future conference reports.
    I know that at SCBWI NYC in winter, the great SCBWI bloggers live blog from the sessions. Is this case with the summer in LA, too?
    Happy packing this summer Kathy.

  5. I'm hoping they blog, Jan. That's how I've followed the other annual SCBWI conferences. Mazza is quite special.