Wednesday, May 11, 2016

#NESCBWI Spring Conference: A Midwestern Gal Leaves for Parts UNKNOWN by Kathy Halsey

Should I stay or should I go? My happy conundrum this spring - go to The Wild Wild Midwest or head to New England for Parts UNKNOWN?" I chose the latter and that has made all the difference. I blame it all on MG/PB writer, friend, photog, Writer's Loft Board member, Pam Vaughan. And two others to blame... conference co-chairs, Josh Funk and Heather Gerry Kelly.
Pam likes to joke that I left my "tennis shoes" back in Ohio and slipped into Eastern "sneakers" to reinvent myself. Writers, challenge yourself to go outside your usual circle, your own SCBWI group, and grow. I learned so much, met so many new writers, talked w/industry experts, received a hug from Jane Yolen, and snapped a pic of nonfiction writer extraordinaire, Melissa Stewart, 2015 Crystal Kite winner. 

It will take me several months to unpack my new knowledge and several more blog posts, too. Don't worry, I will be sharing the expertise and juicy tidbits. GROGger Christy Mihaly will tag team with me, too. We met up several times and shared stories with 12x12 folks for pizza and camaraderie.

Short, Sweet Takeaways for Today
1. Have a goal in mind when choosing conferences. My goals included extending my network, meeting some author luminaries. getting a critique from editor Julie Bliven; following a nonfiction track throughout the conference.
2. Meet on social media before you go to a new conference. Many of us newbies connected via the #NESCBWI16 hashtag first and planned to meet at specific sessions/events.



3. Try something new. (Well, the theme WAS reinvent.) I challenged myself. I struck out and did not cling to my roommate the entire conference. I entered the Pitchapalooza contest and ate alone at the MVP lounge one night. Results...stronger pitch and new friends. 
4. Be brave, confident, and know you have something to share. Approach editors, agents, published writers and really talk. I now have a new vision and way to tackle a WIP for educators because I sat w/ Megan Dowd Lambert at the #AskAMentor session. With no one at her MFA table, we instead discussed her amazing professional book, READING PICTURE BOOKS WITH CHILDREN. Lucky me, I had 30 minutes uninterupted with her. 
5. Attend every event you can, even if it goes into the wee hours. The keynotes were amazing and the sessions were vetted beforehand, so this really was the best of the best. 
Yes, I am still drinking the NESCBWI conference Kool-Aid and will share more with you later! I still have to tell you about The Writer's Loft, and The Unlikely StoryBookstore & Cafe owned by Jeff Kinney, and...stay tuned. 

26 comments:

  1. Thanks for all the tips. I'm looking forward to my first writing conference at the Asian Festival of Children's Content. I can only attend for 1.5 days, but still!

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    1. Oh, Tina, glad you can treat yourself to a conference. Hope you really enjoy it & share w/us.

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  2. Kathy, my friend. Good for you! Great advice for us writers. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Thanks, Sherri. Glad we chatted recently.

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  3. Thanks for sharing your experience, Kathy! Your takeaways are good to keep in mind. I look forward to hearing more!

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    1. Hey, Jane. I have tons more to share. Glad you came by.

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  4. Kathy, it was great to sip the Kool-aid with you! I hope someday to come out to your conference.

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    1. We'll give you a Midwest welcome. We're friendly like y'all are only we talk "different," Carol. LOL

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  5. Sounds like you had an amazing time! This is a great conference every year.

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    1. I am coming back, I threatened everybody! Shh.

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  6. So glad to have met you and so glad you had a great weekend!

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    1. You and Josh were so kind to include me in private events, too, before your conference began. MA hospitality.

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  7. Thanks for sharing, Kathy! This one is on my list to attend in the future.

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    1. I was quite impressed, Traci, and I've been to LA SCBWI 2013, AZ SCBWI, OH SCBWI, 2 WOW NF Retreats and AASL.

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  8. Kathy, I love hearing about NE from the AZ/OH perspective! It was wonderful to see you in Massachusetts. Thanks for making the trip, and I'm glad you found it worthwhile.

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    1. Seeing you was part of the priceless part of the trip, Christy! TY for being my friend.

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  9. It sounds lovely. This conference is on my list. I attended the midwest and learned a lot there. It was fun and refreshing to visit outside my region. I look forward to hearing more about your adventures!

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    1. You and Enzo will, Stacy. TY for visiting the GROG.

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  10. I'm so glad that you decided to follow that tug to the NE, Kathy! It sound like the connections you made and the things you learned were invigorating and inspiring. And GROGger hugs make every conference better. :)

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    1. Patty, meeting GROGgers form all over the country has been such a blessing. I am glad we are all on this journey together.

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  11. What a great post. It took me years to realize I could go to another region's SCBWI conference. It opens up so many possibilities and it's fun to be an honorary member of another region. The NJ and NE and Midwest ones are on my to go list.

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    1. Sylvia, it did open up possibilities. If you go to NE or Midwest, let me know. I so want to meet you in person one day.

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  12. Whee! Squee!
    A hug from Jane Yolen!
    A bookstore cafe owned by Jeff Kinney?
    30 MINUTES (isn't that half an hour) alone with an expert?
    new contacts, new friends, new skills for your toolbox AND time with
    Grogger Pam V. I say you hit the jackpot dear Kathy. Much deserved.

    And big appreciations for sharing this & for the future posts from your springy
    Springfield daze & days.

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    1. AND hugs from dear CHRISTY M.

      Jumping that line back into this post!
      xx with apologies to Christy for not editing well, 1st time.

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    2. Hey, Jan, it's all good. So much fun to find GROGgers at events, too.

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  13. I think this is great advice! Venturing outside your comfort zone is always a good thing.

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