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Eight Steps Forward

As promised, here are a few things I got right at last year's New York SCBWI conference:

1.  Arrived Early -- Arriving 20 minutes or so before the conference began allowed me to find my seat, get comfortable with the layout, double check my work, and just settle down.   

2.  Made Enough Copies -- Ok, I know you think this is a no-brainer, but I was truly surprised by the number of folks who showed up without enough copies of the piece they were to read.  Not knowing for certain how many people would be at the table, I made about 10 copies of my selected reading for each session (20 total).  Also, I numbered those copies (on back) so that I could be sure all were returned to me. 

3.  Created a "special" editor/agent copy--  I made one copy with all of my contact info at the top for the table leader (2 total, morning/afternoon).  I kept it simple:  name, address, phone, and email.   If you read the previous post, you know that I had e-mails in the inbox upon my return home.

4.  Wrote an intro and one-sentence pitch --  Think about it.  You'll need to introduce your work whether it's a picture book or reader or novel.  I tend to blab and since we each had limited time (7-10 minutes), I prepared a not-very-good-but-adequate intro.  "I'm Jill Alexander, and I'm here from Texas.  I'll be reading the first 500 words of my completed novel THE SWEETHEART OF PROSPER COUNTY.   In this story, fourteen year old Austin Gray finds confidence in her own boots and mini-skirt individuality through the hijinks that occur on her unflappable quest to be the next FFA sweetheart in the local Christmas parade."  Although the title was different, I really did read that.  And, quite frankly, it saved time and helped me not to fumble around with an intro.

5.  Practiced reading aloud -- I read standing up, sitting down, in front of my family, to the dog.  This practice really helped with nerves during my critique reading.  I knew my selection almost by heart, so I knew where I needed to pause to take a breath and words I wanted to emphasize.  I felt confident.    I'll add here that confidence is important.  I remember being proud of my work even if everyone else thought I was crazy. 

6.  Timed myself -- While practicing the reading, I timed myself.  I don't remember exactly but I think the 500 words takes around 3 minutes which leaves 4 or 5 minutes for the table to critique.  Note:  Your time improves with practice and, if your stressing about adding that extra 30 words, you might be able to work it in.  I did.

7.  Got to know my tablemates--  This really goes back to arriving early.  If you visit with those around you, you're more comfortable when you read.  Also, I made two terrrific friends with whom I continue to correspond.

8.  Critiqued others as I wanted to be critiqued--  I tried to find something encouraging about each person's work.  If I didn't say it aloud, I wrote it on their copy.  Any questions or more critical remarks, I saved for the copy  as well. 





( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 28th, 2009 11:29 pm (UTC)
Thanks, Jill! As a complete newbie going to the intensive on Friday, I really appreciate the heads-up.

BTW Great website!
Jan. 29th, 2009 06:53 pm (UTC)
Congratulations on the sale of your book. I followed your post at the SCBWI bulletin boards. I am so glad I did. I'm leaving today for the NY conference and these are great tips!

I have plenty of copies but never thought to do a SPECIAL "AGENT" one with contact info. Also, good idea on giving a brief little summary of what your book is before reading the 500 words.

Great advice. Thank you!

Ron Smith
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )