Friday, August 17, 2012

WiK Blog Tour: ABCs of Attending a Conference (and One You Might Want to Go To)

By Bonita Herold and Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

Southern Breeze, my local chapter of SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) is having their annual fall conference on October 19-20 in Birmingham, AL. WiK (Writing and Illustrating for Kids) is a wonderful conference with a full-packed day of workshops and a Friday intensive study class. One of the things I love about it, is that it's on the smaller side (about 200 people) so it's not as overwhelming as say, RWA (with over 2000). It's a great way to get your feet wet if you haven't attended a conference before, or network and get to know folks in a more personal setting if you're a conference veteran. And you don't have to be a member to attend. (But you might join after you see how awesome these folks are)

This year, Southern Breeze is doing a blog tour to help promote the conference. (full schedule at the end of the post) You'll find interviews and guests posts from the presenters and special guests, and learn a little more about the conference and its presenters.

WiK12 Conference & Writer's Intensive (optional intensive Friday October 19th)
Saturday, October 20, 2012 8:30 AM - 5:30 PM (Central Time)
Conference: Spain Park HS; Intensive: Hampton Inn
Spain Park High: 4700 Jaguar Dr.
Hampton Inn: 4520 Galleria Blvd
Hoover, Alabama
Hampton: (205) 380-3300

Today, I'd like to welcome one of my fellow Breezers to share some conference tips. Having just returned from a national conference myself, I've added a few extra "letters" at the end for things I ran into a few weeks ago in Anaheim.

Bonita (Bonnie) Herold received her BA in English and her MA in Education/TESOL. While a mother, wife, and reader throughout the years, at times she was a secretary, medical transcriptionist, playground supervisor, tech writer, newspaper writer, and ESL/Spanish teacher. She likes to think of herself as well-rounded rather than flighty. As a member of SCBWI since 2010, she won first place in the Illustrated Fiction contest held by Southern Breeze that year and is now the Local Liaison for the Huntsville area. She hopes to parlay her love of writing into an eventual book contract for one or more of her two dozen picture book manuscripts. If you’d like to read a collection of eclectic meanderings, check out her blog at

Take it away Bonnie...

A: Act responsibly. If there’s a meet and greet with alcohol involved, don’t overindulge.

B: Bask in the joy of being with like-minded individuals, with the love of books being the common denominator.

C: Carry conversations forward. If you’re asked any yes/no question, make sure you qualify your answer.

D: Do be polite. Don’t stalk agents and editors.

E: Enter a room with confidence. You ARE somebody.

F: Focus on fun.

G: Grant yourself a little forgiveness if you blurt something out without editing.

Hand out business cards, even if you haven’t been published.

I: Introduce yourself to the main players.

J: Jumpstart a conversation in the elevator.

K: Kidnap your usual shy self and hold it hostage until after the conference.

L: Listen and learn.

M: Make friends, make contacts.

N: Never give an agent or editor your work in person.

O: Observe.

P: Pitch your work if given a chance. Prepare beforehand.

Q: Questions. Don't be afraid to ask a lot of them.

R: Recognize that there’s a time and place for airing your views. The workshop isn’t that place.

S: Smile.

T: Turn off your cell phone.

U: Use your time wisely.

V: Volunteer. It may open doors AND make you feel good.

W: Wake your inner child, and embrace new ideas.

X: Xerox anything you can’t write down.

Y: Yawn only when the workshop leader’s head is turned.

Z: ZZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzz. (After all that hard work of listening, learning, and being on your best behavior, you deserve a long nap.)

Janice's Extra Conference Tips:

D: Don't be afraid to walk up and start a conversation with someone. Everyone else is wondering what to do, too. At the very least, "What do you write?" will get an answer.

G: Granola Bars. Sometimes you don't get much time between sessions to eat. Pack something easy to snack on if you need it.

H: Hand Sanitizer. You'll be shaking hands a lot (or hugging) and touching everything others have touched. When I remember my cold prevention, I don't get sick.

I: Invite folks to sit with you. Especially if they look lost or bewildered. New folks alone are grateful when someone takes the time to be nice and welcoming. (I've been on both sides of this)

L: Layers. Conference rooms get cold, or they're too hot. Day one was warm, day two was like a freezer. Wear clothes you can adjust the temperate if needed.

T: Transcribe your notes. Taking notes in a workshop always leaves me with chicken scratch I can't read by the time I get home. But if I take a few minutes each night to type them into my laptop (or just re-write the page) I can bring home all the great tips I learned.

WiK12 Blog Tour Schedule:

Aug. 15   Sharon Pegram at Writers and Wannabes
Aug. 16   Sarah Campbell at Alison Hertz’s blog, On My Mind
Aug. 17    F.T. Bradley at Laura Golden’s blog
Aug. 20    Chuck Galey at Elizabeth Dulemba’s blog
Aug. 21    Jo Kittinger at Bonnie Herold’s blog, Tenacious Teller of Tales
Aug. 22    Irene Latham at Robyn Hood Black’s blog, Read, Write, Howl
Aug. 23   Vicky Alvear Shecter at
Aug. 24   Doraine Bennett at Cathy Hall’s blog
Aug. 27   Virginia Butler at Bonnie Herold’s blog, Tenacious Teller of Tales
Aug. 28   Jodi Wheeler-Toppen at Diane Sherrouse’s blog, The Reading Road
Aug. 29   Ellen Ruffin at Sarah Frances Hardy’s blog, Picture This
Aug. 30   Donna Jo Napoli at Writers and Wannabes


  1. These are all excellent suggestions! I have to admit, thought, that "W: Wake your inner child," is my favorite! ;-)

  2. My fav was K - Kidnap your usual shy self and hold it hostage until after the conference. I grew up so shy and have to constantly push that shy little girl back into her room and lock the door, so I can meet and mingle!

  3. Vicky, that was one f my faves as well. It works from a creative standpoint and from a "don't be shy and play with everyone you meet" way.

    Barker, I make it a point to talk to everyone I sit or stand near. A simple "Hi, having a good conference?" is a great way to start a conversation. And if the person isn't interested, they say "Hi, yeah" and you know not to bug them further. But most folks chat back. Easy to do when you're sitting and waiting for the workshop to start.

  4. Thanks, ladies, for stating your faves. I'm glad you have them!

    And, Janice, I'm honored to be featured on such a professional-looking blog! :-)

  5. SUCH great conference tips! I love "Bask in the joy..." because sometimes, it's only at conferences where we have the opportunity to meet other writers. But if we're too busy being nervous, worrying about what we'll say, we miss the joy!

    And that layering bit's important, too. I canNOT bask in joy if I'm freezing. (I ALWAYS bring a sweater!)

  6. I loved this post. Loved all the tips.

    What a great idea.

    The jump starting of conversations in elevators is not as easy as it seems when you're riding up all alone with Arthur Levine.

    You might feel like you're back in junior high and he's the boy you have a crush on.

    Just saying.

  7. Holy cow, these are awesome suggestions. I love "kidnap your usual shy self." I need to remember that other shy writers are there, too, and we're all feeling a bit awkward. By the way, I love the smaller conferences the most. Way less intimidating.

  8. Oh Yay!

    I love all of these. But I agree that kidnapping your shy self is one of my faves.

    Just a quick question... I've heard of people "crossing the border" to go to other region's meetings. Is this considered "kosher"? I can't make MY regional SCBWI getaway two weekends before but I have that weekend open. Can I come and not feel like an outsider? (Still a SCBWI newbie and unsure of the unwritten "rules".)

    Thanks Bonnie and Janice for this super post!

  9. LOL, aren't you clever, doing an A to Z for that. :) REALLY good tips here. I love 'em all!

  10. I love the list, especially Y! Regarding H, I've heard before about unpublished writers getting business cards, but what should they say? Just name and "Writer"? Perhaps some indication of age group or genre(s)? Something about the writer's manuscript?

    Thanks for the great advice! Oct. 20th seems to be a popular day for conferences. I know of two in my area that are happening on that day.

  11. These are all very good tips. I've never been to a conference before, but I'd like to go once I start earning enough money to go to one. I wouldn't have to worry about indulging in alcohol since I don't drink; however, I'd probably run the risk of being hyped up on caffeine and start running all over the place.

  12. Bonnie, good to have you. Thanks again for sharing your tips.

    Cathy, it's so rare when the temperature is just right.

    Sally, oh wow, yeah, I'd be intimidated too :) Had that experience with Donald Maass once.

    Julie, they really are. I love both sizes for different reasons, but small cons really let you get to know the organizers and presenters better.

    Amelia, meetings, probably not, as every region has membership people pay for. But events that are also open to the pubic are fine. You can always email one of the advisers and ask. They might be fine with getting more butts in the seats even if they aren't members :)

    Connie, I'd suggest name, email, website, blog, and a line about what you write. (like YA author or paranormal romance) You want to have enough info someone can contact you, and remember you. If you have a book, the cover on one side and info on the other is a popular choice.

    Neurotic Workaholic, the caffeine and sugar high does have the same affect :) So does sleep deprivation. You might also look at some of the local events. I know Southern Breeze does schmoozes all the time (everything from meet & greets to workshops) and those are usually free. And open to the public.

  13. Oh, gosh! Lots of comments that need a response! Cathy, I totally agree about the layering bit. I often freeze when others don't, so I always carry a sweater. Sally, I get so tongue-tied around agents and editors; sometimes, it's probably best not to say anything! Julie, shyness seems to be a fairly common denominator among us writers. I try to ignore mine as much as possible and talk to anyone who's sitting beside me. Last year at the Midsouth Conference--yes, I crossed over with no problem, Amelia--I saw someone at lunch time who looked as lost as I felt so I invited her to sit with us. She seemed grateful and since everyone at my table was talking to everyone but me, it worked both ways! Connie, I have business cards that say Writer and just the usual contact information.

    Good luck to all of you, and thanks for your kind comments! (And in terms of the ABCs, you may have read my own bio ABCs in my blog; I borrowed the idea from Danaye Shiplett, Author & Illustrator, who will be part of a panel at an upcoming Schmooze in my area.)