Blog, Writing

SCBWI Florida Conferences

I recently got back from the SCBWI Florida Mid-Year Workshops, and let me tell you, if you live in Florida and you write for kids, you’ve got to go to one of these. They’re pretty awesome.

SCBWI Florida puts together some fantabulous conferences and workshops. In January, the Annual Conference is in Miami. The theme for the next one, Jan 2014? Steampunk. How awesome is that? In June, we have the Mid-Year Workshops in Orlando. Disney. Fellow writers and editors talking and learning about writing for kids on Disney grounds? Disney. This year the workshops were held at the Disney Swan & Dolphin, a hop and a skip away from Epcot. Did I mention Disney? Seriously, can it really get any better than that?

I think I’d say I’m a veteran conference-goer. Before I started seriously writing for kids, I attended others (AWP, FIU, Sanibel Island Writer’s, and others). I’m very blessed that my employer encourages professional development, and since I teach English and writing, it’s a win-win. Every conference has been great. I’ve learned, soaked in ideas to use in my own teaching, grown in my craft and networked. And this is my plug for conferences: if you can afford them, they’re amazing opportunities to know people, to talk about books with others who get it, and to learn craft and to learn about the business side. Because in this business, we can’t fall stale. We have to keep growing regardless of whether we’re published or pre-published. 😉

Since joining SCBWI in October 2011, though, I’ve attended each of our regional conferences and workshops. Which makes this past conference my fourth. And what a difference it makes! I remember my first conference. I was shy. Nervous. Anxious. I knew no one, but I dove in and learned something new in one of the intensives: leveled readers. Then I was inspired by the workshops and the speakers and the first books panels. I saw Jessica Martinez speak and play her violin and I remember thinking: I want to be there one day (sans the violin because, well, I have no idea how to play). I did meet a couple people, and reconnected with a former colleague.

I went to the second conference a little more confident. My WIP at the time was about half-way done, and I was excited about this YA project and about the workshops. I attended a novel intensive with the fabulous lit agent Josh Adams from Adams Literary and authors Gaby Triana and Nancy Werlin, and when my first page was read during first page critiques, I nearly died when all three praised it. I hyperventilated, I’m sure, but Josh’s reaction especially gave me the confidence to keep going. I left that conference renewed and energized and ready to finish my book. It was because of this conference that I met Gaby and found my critique group, something I’m beyond thankful every single day. This conference will forever remain in my memory.

Third conference was equally awesome. My previously WIP was now completed and I had started another WIP. Not only did I get to hang out with my awesome critique group (Gaby, Danielle Joseph, and Christina Diaz Gonzalez, but I got to mingle with agents and editors and this time, I didn’t freeze up. I met the awesome Aimee Friedman, editor at Scholastic and author; Mandy Hubbard, literary agent at D4EO, author, and my former Lit Reactor instructor (love when internet world meets real world!); Michael Stearns, lit agent from Upstart Crow Literary, who critiqued my WIP. I was beyond inspired by Bruce Coville, Ellen Hopkins and Toni Buzzeo, who autographed a book for my son. Add to that the Barnyard Bookstomp dinner dance as well as agents, editors and first book panels, and it was fabulous.

This last one was also great. This time, I graduated to volunteer, and it was a wonderful experience–so much so that I hope to be more involved in future conferences! I attended the novel intensive with Brian Farrey-Latz, editor at Flux, and authors Alex Flinn, and Jordan Sonnenblick. There were lots of great exercises that pushed us beyond comfort levels, and that was awesome! Then on Saturday the Sci-Fi/Fantasy workshop with lit agent Joe Monti and author Matthew Kirby. I met new writers, and reconnected with those I’d met before. The Elixir Mixer and Silent Auction was perfect for networking and just hanging out with like-minded people. The only downside is that my fibro decided to flare-up a bit by the second day, but I got through it! I had some great critiques, too, and I loved Brian’s enthusiasm for my WIP. 🙂

I hope you see a pattern here. I’ve only listed a few of the faculty and speakers. In fact, the lineups are always great, from picture books to illustrators to middle grade and YA. SCBWI FL conferences = amazing. There’ll be a new addition on Sat, July 13: Picture Book Bootcamp at West Osceola Branch Library. For more info, go here. I have no doubt it’ll be just as informative and inspirational as the regional conference and mid-year workshop.

I’m now counting down to the Jan one because I can’t wait to meet up with old writing friends and meet new ones, and I can’t wait to see what Linda, Gaby, and the rest of the SCBWI Florida team has in store. Oh, and I totally can’t wait for the steampunk dinner dance. I’m already working on getting the perfect costume for hubby and me. Of course, I’m hoping by then, I’ll have an agent, but even if I don’t, I know I won’t be disappointed.

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