This year I was the lucky winner of Shutta Crum’s tuition scholarship to the SCBWI conference in NYC. Did I tell you that I almost didn’t apply? In fact, I submitted my application at the eleventh hour. Literally. At eleven p.m., an hour before the midnight deadline, I pushed send on the email. My fears and anxieties almost stopped me.
Was I ready? It felt like a big step. Despite attending numerous other fabulous SCBWI conferences I’d never signed up for a national conference. The current seemed to be carrying me in that direction, but I was intimidated and I almost let the opportunity go by. I’m so glad I didn’t, and I’m here to tell you—I stayed afloat. I survived, perhaps even thrived, and I certainly had fun!
Another fear involved navigating the depths of New York City. I lived for many years in Minneapolis/St. Paul so I’m not truly a small town girl, but NYC did scare me a bit. Carrie Pearson, our regional co-RA, mentioned an inexpensive bus from LaGuardia airport to within a block of the hotel. The tide turned for me—I began to think perhaps I could tackle the Big Apple. Transportation was a non-issue in reality and finding food a cinch. The food court for Grand Central Station was right next door to the hotel. (When I spotted pastries not seen since Germany I was hooked!)
Swimming with the big fish was also intimidating to this pre-published author. The halls teamed with big name editors, authors and agents. Would I find friendly faces in that sea of humanity? But I found it was similar to sailors far from home—encounters with anyone from the same part of the world felt welcoming. Ahoy there! Fellow picture book writer?! Non-fiction writer?! Michigander! Minnesotan! The Saturday evening Gala was anchored by tables labeled with states and countries. Meeting someone in the same boat became as easy as sprinkling this post with nautical terms.
Wondering if I’d sink or swim in the critique sessions also stirred up my nerves. I’d signed up for the Friday roundtables. Two opportunities to read 500 words of my manuscript to eight table-mates and an editor or literary agent. Two opportunities to feel like schools of minnows churned my innards. But overall it was a good experience. Although the agent preferred YA to picture books, the editor did like my manuscript. And as I suspected she shared her email with our group—allowing us to submit one manuscript to her. But only for eight weeks. Words to the wise—group critiques did feel a bit like jumping off the deep end. Do your homework and have a manuscript truly submission ready before signing up.
Lindsey McDivitt is an Ann Arbor based writer formerly from Minnesota. She writes both fiction and non-fiction picture books and is especially fond of picture book biographies. Lindsey reviews Positive Aging picture books on her blog at www.a-is-for-aging.com. You can also find Lindsey on Twitter and Facebook, as well as A is for Aging on Facebook.
Pssst, want to know a secret? An editor just sent one of Lindsey's picture book manuscripts to the acquisition committee. We're cheering you on, Lindsey, and looking forward to hearing news of your book contract!
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