We were a packed house for the Inland Northwest SCBWI regional conference, but that's a good thing. Just under 60 of us gathered at the Spokane Club on September 19th to hear John Cusick, agent with Folio Literary Management, caution us to "skip the boring parts" when pacing our stories; author Jennifer K. Mann share how she visually analyzes picture books; and Viking editor Joanna Cardenas encourage us to explore the possibilities of genre bending. The day's events also included a panel of three local debut authors: Kris Dinnison (You, Me, and Him), Dan Gemeinhart (The Honest Truth), and A. L. Sonnichsen (Red Butterfly) who answered questions about their journey to publication. It's always inspiring to hear how perseverance and being open to the continual honing of our craft can payoff.
It's nice to sit with friends at conferences, but this year I was running late and ended up at a table of faces all new to me. You know what? That was another good thing. There were several conference newbies in the group and that gave us old hands a chance to answer their questions and make them feel welcome. It also meant that when my volunteer duty as a "lunch monitor," whose job was to make sure everyone got what they ordered, proved a bit trickier than imagined, I had several new friends telling me to relax, I was doing just fine.
Those of you familiar with conferences know that one of the best good thing these events offer is an opportunity for a professional critique. Your critique group is indispensable in helping you revise and hone a manuscript, but isn't it funny how a fresh set of eyes can have you seeing what you've written from a totally new perspective? About mid-afternoon, I met with editor Joanna Cardenas to discuss one of my picture book manuscripts. Joanna was easy to talk to, her comments a thoughtful blend of encouragement and honesty. Plus her typed notes will come in handy as I rethink and revise my story. Always a good thing.