About Me

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I'm a published author of short fiction for kids and adults. I have an MFA in Creative Writing from Spalding University. I'm a former content writer for Spirit and Truth publishing on their Living the Word series. I've also worked as a paid book reviewer and as a student editor for The Louisville Review literary magazine. I'm a wife and mom to two great kids, three dogs, and a cat. I love books, movies, gardening, kids, and animals.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Top 10 Impressions/Things I Learned at My 1st Ever Writing Conference

This past weekend I attended the SCBWI Midsouth Conference in Franklin, TN. It was a fun if overwhelming experience. I'm still processing a lot of the information I gleaned from it. But I have tried to narrow down some of what I learned or some of my impressions to ten things.

10. Do Not wear opened toed shoes to a conference. In fact, you should probably pack socks to wear. Even if the rest of you is dressed warmly your toes will thank you if they are properly covered in those cold conference rooms.

9. Be prepared to spend some money on books. But limit yourself only to books you know you will read, even if you do have the chance to get them all autographed. Those of you who saw my earlier post with my to-be-read pile will be proud of me.

I only came away from this conference with 6 new books (The League of Delphi by Chris Everheart, The Unwanteds by Lisa McMann, the first two books in Tracy Barrett's Sherlock Files series, The 100-Year-Old Secret, and The Beast of Blackslope, along with Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu, and Crystal Kite Winning novel, The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron). For me that was quite an achievement.

8. If you are shy and have a hard time approaching people here are two, almost, sure ways you can strike up a conversation with a stranger. First, always smile and start with a simple hello. Second, if you aren't comfortable talking about your own writing ask them about theirs. Most writers love talking about their work. Once you know what genre they write in, it is usually easy to ask a few specific questions that will get them really talking. And voila you have an instant friend you can smile and chat with the rest of your time there.

7. Business cards are a great and easy way to exchange contact information with people. You don't have to limit handing them out to agents or editors either. If you find another writer that you really click with, give them your card. After the conference the two of you will be able to keep in touch via email or social media. It never hurts to have too many friends who know what this creative path is like to help you along it.

6. One of the things I really liked about this conference was the limits they put on # of people for each breakout session. Each one was limited to 25 people. It was just enough to make you feel you weren't sitting in a room with the presenter and a bunch of crickets, but not so many that there wasn't time for Q&A's after they finished talking. I loved the Q&A parts. Someone always thinks of a good question about the material you never even considered. It makes those breakout sessions that much more informative. So keep that in mind when you think of signing up for a conference.

5. Familiarize yourself with the faculty who are attending the conference. Look up the books they've published or the authors they represent. It will help you not feel so lost when they reference these books during their talks. Goodreads is a great place to look for some of this info.

4. I'd heard about keynote speaker Jay Asher's book Thirteen Reasons Why before coming to the conference. But I never expected him to be so funny. He gave a great talk to open the event. It was entitled How to Publish a Book in Twelve Years of Less. He freely admitted he didn't really know how to publish a book in less than twelve years.

Me with keynote speaker and author Jay Asher

 I found him to be very open, and his story to publication inspirational. I've been at this 3 or 4 years now. HOORAY! Only 8 or 9 years left to go. SIGH. Hopefully, not.

3. I made a lifelong friend at this conference. A writer I'd gotten to know online was there with me attending her very first conference too. It was really great meeting you Jocelyn Kasper, you made this whole experience so much less scary.

Me with author friend Jocelyn Kasper

2. Don't listen to that inner 'doubter' voice that tells you that you're not good enough to approach editors and agents at these conferences. My friend Jocelyn helped me with this. She bravely talked to the presenters and faculty at the end of each session. Even if you aren't ready to submit to some of these people, or they don't represent something you're working on now, talk to them. You never know when that one connection might help you later on. Remember, they are there because they want to connect with authors, and they are just people. You might be surprised at how easy they are to talk to even if all you say is--thank you--for sharing their wisdom about publishing with you. Everyone likes to feel appreciated and kindness is contagious.

1. It isn't necessary to go to conferences like this to get published. A lot of the information you hear could be gathered from a good writing newsletter, writing blogs, or even participation in a great critique group. But conferences are one of the few places you can actually meet the gatekeepers to publishing face-to-face. If you are serious about wanting to get published, and there is a good conference offered in an area relatively close to you, why not take advantage of this? You never know, you might meet your ideal agent or editor there. Or if you already have someone in mind you'd like to submit to, maybe think of going to a conference they're going to be at. You aren't stalking them by doing that. You're just carrying out important research. :)


  1. Ann, it sounds like you had an awesome time! Love the pics. I also love Jay Asher. I met him/heard him speak at my first ever SCBWI LA conference when 13 Reasons Why first came out and I was so impressed. Then I stalked him on FB and now we are friends (he is probably thinking--who is that Margo Dill lady I let on my FB page?). This is a great list. Thanks for sharing your experience!

  2. Thank you, Ann, for this beautiful post and photos. I appreciate your kind personal comments. It was great meeting you and sitting up front together at many of the breakout sessions this past weekend. Your ability to assemble this succinct wrap-up less than 48 hours after the conference is impressive. Keep it up. Nine years really isn't that long.

  3. You are all most welcome. And thank you for following my blog.

  4. Thanks for sharing the list of books...they are going on my list as well!!

    1. No problem, Kristin. They all sounded really good. I've actually read the first one in the Sherlock Holmes Files series by Tracy Barrett. It was a short read and a good mystery for younger readers. It's an interesting premise on the great detective. Let me know what you thought of the ones you read. :)

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