Daily Archives: June 6, 2010

Getting Ready for Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers Five-Day Conference

This is the last big week that Lisa Hale (and all our amazing assistants) have to finalize¬† schtuff for next week’s big conference.

For example: I still have to rewrite the words to the Grand Finale Song and Cheri Pray Earl and I still have to practice singing it. (We’re fighting a bit, Cheri and I. She wants Michael Jackson. I’m all about Lady Gaga.) (Every time I type out Lady Gaga’s name it comes out Lady Gag, which Cheri would agree with.)

Another example: the assistants have promised to be back up dancers. That means practice for them, too. It’s not as easy to dance in spangles and tassels as you might think.

For those of you coming to the conference, either afternoon or the all-day sessions, well, here are TEN things you can do to get ready, too.

1. Read at least one book by each of the faculty. This will help you get to know them. The first time I met Claudia Mills I asked her if she liked Fig Newtons. She said yes, and asked how I knew. “Your characters always eat them,” I said. Not only will you get to know about the authors, but you may learn a thing or two about writing. This leads to number 2.

2. Look at the faculty books. What does each one do successfully in his or her writing? How does the author accomplish this? How can you learn from the authors’ books and improve your own writing?

3. Prepare to learn ALL that you can from every session you attend. Don’t go in thinking you already know all there is to know. When I went to Vermont College for my MFA, I already had a few books published. But I wanted to get everything I could from school. I decided I would learn at least three things from each session. I took many, many notes. Had I already known everything there was to know, I wouldn’t have learned a thing.

4. Don’t expect to get published from this conference. Yes, it happens. And yes, it actually happens quite a bit. HOWEVER, the goal that Lisa and I have for writers and illustrators who attend this conference is that they will learn to be even better writers and illustrators.¬† So go in ready to learn even more about being a fantastic writer and illustrator. You know what will happen, right? You’ll eventually publish.

5. Decide to make friends. The coolest part, for me, about this amazing five days is that I make good friends. Friends that will be at my funeral. I can’t tell you how wonderful this is (Not the funeral part. The friends part.). It happens every year. Right, Lucinda? Use evenings to set up informal critique groups, go out for ice cream, talk about the business etc.

6. DON’T argue with critique. You’re paying good money to be at this conference. Listen to what people have to say about what you’ve written (or drawn). Hold your tongue. As a matter of fact–don’t monopolize at any time. That way, you’ll hear (and so will other people) a variety of ideas, thoughts and opinions. And that’s always good for someone who creates.

7. Don’t go into the conference thinking you’re going to be able to hand off your work to an editor or agent. Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers isn’t that kind of conference. While you can send your work to the editors or agents who attend these conferences, I have never known an agent or editor to take a novel back to New York with them. Even though you are amazing, they won’t take your work, either. So don’t try to sneak anything to anyone. It will just go in the trash.

8. We’ve asked some of the very best people in the business to be your faculty. You want them to love you and not run when they see you in the hall. So please, please, let them have some down time. I know there was a little group who was unhappy when I pulled a teacher from them last year. But the fact is, we are already under-paying our faculty quite a bit. We want them to be able to teach all they have to offer during class hours or during their sessions, and not at other times. Remember that one song R-E-S-P-E-C-T. And understand that it is the assistants’ jobs to get faculty to lunches, classrooms and to quiet areas.

9. Let your gut help you decide which words of wisdom are the best for you and your work. There will be lots of opinions offered next week. The final word in all this is that YOU are the author or illustrator. You don’t want to never take any advice and you don’t ever want to take all advice. Weigh out what’s said. Think it over, then act to make your work better than it is now.

10. For heaven’s sake, have fun. I would have given someone else’s eyeball for this kind of opportunity at the beginning of my career. There is no reason to be afraid. Nervous, well, that’s okay. Nerves are good. But have no fear, my dear! This is going to be a week you laugh about and have warm memories over.

Okay-feel free to ask questions during the next few days. Ann Dee got her start at this conference and she’s taught for us before. A few of our readers have attended to the conference, too. We’re here for you all! Below is the link to a Deseret Newspaper article about Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers. Or email me at carolthewriter@yahoo.com


See you soon!

Oh, BTW–How’d your marathoning go?


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