5 things I learned at NJ-SCBWI

5. They’re not kidding about the sweater. Nearly every email from NJ-SCBWI prior to the conference reminded attendees to prepare for a cold conference climate, and it was in fact chilly inside the hotel. I do appreciate the heads-up.

4. Sensible shoes are better. Because after dashing around from workshop to panel to first-pages session to agent critique to lunch to the parking lot to lug my bags to my hotel room to workshop to dinner to critique group etc., my feet were about ready to quit on me — and those heels are actually sort of comfortable. (Conveniently the hotel offered a little spa-product sampler in the rooms; I gave myself a nice foot massage.)

3. It’s good to live in New Jersey. Well, of course I always thought so. But fellow attendees told me again and again how great this conference is, how large it is, how so many agents and editors attend it and are completely accessible, that I felt pretty lucky to live in the state that it’s held. Several people traveled in from out of state to attend; I drove an hour. (The only downside? I didn’t get a chance to hang out in Princeton proper — no Thomas Sweet visit, for instance. On the other hand, the hotel had pretty good cheesecake.)

2. Take notes, you’ll need them. I came away with good information on everything from how to keep your word count down on picture books (a difficult thing, sometimes) to the kind of revenue opportunities to seek out, to the overall state of the U.S. children’s book market (surprisingly strong; I’ll link to that report once it’s been posted). Not to mention useful critique suggestions on three different manuscripts. And on to rewriting …

1. Kidlit folks are the nicest folks. There must be something about the sort of person who would want to write for children. Everyone was incredibly friendly and open and helpful, and I had a lot of good conversations. A special shout-out to all the fellow 12 x 12 members I met there, including founder Julie Hedlund, whose program has really shifted my productivity into high gear.

Addendum: The conference runs a nice book sale. I brought home Ame Dyckman’s “Tea Party Rules” and Leeza Hernandez’s “Cat Napped!” which were met with much approval by my own two picture-book readers, or as I call them, the focus group.

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