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The SCBWI National conference is just ahead (July 30-August 2). If you're a children's book writer or illustrator, this is the mondo-beyondo of conferences. There's something for everyone. You'll see me there with my trusty Clairfontaine spiral soaking up words of wisdom from speakers such as M.T. Anderson and Carolyn Mackler.

Also, my agent and I will be presenting a session, "So your manuscript is ready, but are you?" We'll be pulling back the curtain on the debut year of an author and what aspiring authors can do to best be prepared. Hope to see you there!

Since we'll be covering the most important details at the conference, I thought I'd share in the next couple of blog posts some outtakes, if you will, of "What not to do's" that didn't exactly make the formal presentation cut. So...

How Not To Go All Pageant-Girl on a Panel:

As a debut author I was blessed with the opportunity to be on the mother of all panels. SWEETHEART was one of six books chosen for Book Expo America's 2009 Young Adult Buzz Novels. New York. Big Stage. And I'm fearless when it comes to speaking in front of folks. What could go wrong? Let's just say the former Miss Teen South Carolina who became infamous for saying phrases like "the Iraq" and "everywhere like such" has my deepest sympathy.

I've had a year to think about my first panel experience, and I've had some outstanding panels since then. For those of you looking forward to presenting your book on a panel on a really big stage, here's my best advice to avoid the dreaded pageant-girl freeze.

1. Take a good long look at yourself on the jumbo tron. Yes, it adds ten pounds and no you will not have on enough lipstick. Men will look like they need a shave and an eyebrow trim. Get over whatever you see, and think about your book.

2. Expect to hold a microphone. It's not a magic wand, and you are not Harry Potter. I had never held a microphone before, and it was as if someone had transplanted me from the boondocks into the city and handed me a magic stick that made my voice louder. It was my which-fork-do-I-use moment. I focused on the proper hold technique when I should've been using the magic stick to talk about my book.

3. Always have your book with you. I literally forgot to hold the cover of my book up during the presentation. Author fail. Since that panel, my book and I are one. After a year of presentations, I'm amazed at the number of authors who forget their books.

4. Be yourself. The pageant-girl freeze happens because someone is trying too hard. In my case, I worried about details like enunciating properly while reading and anticipating questions. As a result, I lost the freshness of responding to questions about the two things I know best -- me and my work. I don't do that anymore. If you saw me on a panel this past year or you're planning on being at some of the events this coming fall and spring, you'll see me being me. Cracking jokes. Saying "y'all" with a drawl. Gushing about THE SWEETHEART OF PROSPER COUNTY and my newest book PARADISE.

More next week!


( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
Jul. 15th, 2010 02:25 pm (UTC)
Hi there, Jill!
I'm thrilled to read that you'll be at the conference and presenting, too!!! Yea! I'll be there, as well, and looking forward to seeing you! Can't wait!
Cynthia Willis
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )