"They got a brand new dance.
It's called the [NESCBWI] shuffle.
It don't matter if you're young or you're old
We're going to show you how it goes!"
—Cupid Shuffle by Cupid (edited by Sera Rivers)
You never know who you're going to meet at NESCBWI. And I'm not just talking about your dream agent saying "Hello" to you in the elevator. Or your favorite author or illustrator who happens to sit next to you at lunch.
I'm talking about the shy guy in your workshop who admits to you that it's his first conference as he doodles in his sketchpad. Or the flustered girl at the Meet & Greet who's been revising her middle grade novel for the past five years but can't seem to get it right. Every connection counts. We are a "society" of book writers and illustrators. We come together just once a year, but those connections make a lasting impression. It's important that you get the dance steps just right.
To the Right...To the Left
Your words hold greater power than you might think. It's important to treat everyone with respect. Remember, we are all fellow colleagues—no matter where someone may be in their career at the moment. In my early conference days, people I had just met encouraged me to keep on writing on. Especially when I felt down on myself—when I had a not-so-great critiques, or had agents/editors state in panels and workshops that no one was looking for what I was working on. But the friends I made who gave me encouragement kept me going. Sure enough, as the years went on trends changed and the types of books I like to write are being sought after (I better hurry up). I am forever grateful to these kind souls who took a moment to believe in me.
This year was my fourth NESCBWI conference and I can't believe how many people I've connected with over the years. That first year I huddled close to my writing group all weekend, wondering how I could get the nerve to say "Hi" to my favorite authors. This year, I couldn't walk down the hallway without running into someone I knew. And it's a wonderful feeling. Many new friends that I met last year made a point to let me know that I inspired them, that I made them feel less nervous or not so down after a not-so-great critique. It felt great to know that my words made the same difference that others' made for me. So be encouraging, offer advice, and share the knowledge you've learned with others.
Now Talk, Now Text, Now Post, Now Tweet
The conference is just once a year, but connections are year-round. Put those business cards you've collected to use. Friend someone on Facebook. Follow them on Twitter. Create an in-person or online critique group. Share weekly writing prompts. Give writing or illustrating challenges and follow up on them. Help each other find the right agent, the right editor, the right art director. Give feedback on query letters. Share NESCBWI and other writing/illustrating events. Encourage each other to keep writing, to keep drawing, to keep going.
Now Work It By Yourself
This year's conference theme was "Be Brave." Make that your mantra for the rest of the year. Then make it your mantra the next year and the next. Maybe bravery for you is starting a writing or illustrating group in your town. Or tackling the project you secretly want to create just for you. Or pitching the agents you've always wanted. Take the next step to make your dreams come true. Or signing up to volunteer at next year's NESCBWI conference.
Write, Draw, Do your Thang, Do your Thang
Just remember, show up to do the work every day. It's the only way it will get done. I can't wait to hear all the great things you've accomplished at next year's conference.
I want to know. What is one piece of advice you learned this year that you'd like to share? AND, what is one creative goal you'd like to accomplish before NESCBWI's next conference?