Publishing Success from Connecting at Writers' Conferences
by Kami Kinard
- My first conference was an SCBWI-Carolinas conference. There I met another writer who encouraged me to attend a poetry writing workshop at the Highlights Foundation.
- At the Highlights Foundation Founders workshop, I learned about The Writers Workshop at Chautauqua.
- I attended the Writers Workshop at Chautauqua, where I met four of my closest writer friends. I also learned about the Rutgers One-on-One Plus conference from a writer I met there.
- Rutgers One-on-One Plus is a conference that pairs attendees one to one with a faculty mentor. Mentors are editors, agents, or established authors. It is a great place to get feedback from a lot of editors and agents at once. At Rutgers, I learned that I was writing in the most difficult genre to get published. I switched genres and came back the next year.
- The next year at Rutgers, my mentor was another writer. After reading my manuscript, she showed me how my characterization was shallow, and gave me tips on how to improve it. That manuscript later sold.
- Next I met my four writer friends from Chautauqua in NY for a mini conference. There I met editor Kristen Daly Rens, who showed my poetry to Lee Bennett Hopkins, who included it in Nasty Bugs, a poetry anthology released this year by Dial. I also made a new writer friend, who later suggested I submit my manuscript to agent Rosemary Stimola, even though she was not Rosemary’s client. I took her advice, and suddenly, I had an agent.
- At an SCBWI Carolinas novel-writing workshop, another writer suggested that I read my old diaries from middle school and high school. I didn’t remember those being very interesting years, but curiosity got the best of me, and when I got home from the conference I read the diaries straight through. Reading them gave me the idea to write THE BOY PROJECT (Scholastic 2012). It also helped me find the right voice for my main character.
And I haven’t even mentioned the other ways my writer friends have helped me, simply as friends. We call and email each other. We laugh at the absurdities of this crazy industry. We cry over family tragedies and we cheer for each other when there is cause to celebrate. We support each other.
I look back on those first years when I was sitting alone at the edge of the universe and think of them as the years that held me back. I regret that I didn’t get out there and meet other writers sooner, and I think my career would have moved more swiftly if I had. It is often expensive to attend conferences and workshops, but you have to look at it as an investment in your career. (Also, you should be aware that scholarships exist for most conferences.)
The best advice I can give writers aspiring to become authors is to attend workshops and conferences to help improve your craft and to make friends along the way. You can’t do it alone. Your journey will be more productive, and a lot more fun, if you travel with friends.
Links to the conferences I talked about:
- Rutgers One-on-One Plus: http://www.ruccl.org/
- SCBWI: http://www.scbwi.org/
- Highlights Foundation Workshops: http://www.highlightsfoundation.org/