Plan on Attending Multiple SCBWI Conferences

Here we are, building relationships at last month's SCBWI conference.

SCBWI just had their big Summer Conference in Los Angeles last month, and it was a lot of fun to see those of you who came to our dinner.

Conferences are the best way to meet agents and editors in real life. Take advantage of opportunities to share your work with them through portfolio reviews, contests, pitch sessions, round tables, and critiques. That’s how I connected with my agent, Rubin Pfeffer.

At Storyteller Academy, we want to help you put together the great work that you’re going to show industry professionals at these conferences. 

Small SCBWI conferences can be an even better way to meet industry professionals than the big conferences, and the small conferences are very affordable. At a small conference, you get more one-on-one time. There’s a good chance you’ll end up sitting by an agent or an editor at lunch or dinner. There’s a better chance that you’ll win a contest or get recognized for work that might be passed over at a bigger conference.

Jim Averbeck, Ken Lamug, and I presented at Nevada's small regional conference in May.

Looking back at my career, if I could give you advice, I’d say plan for conferences. Plan on going to the smaller ones. Work up to the big ones. And when you go to the big ones, have work that you’re going to show or get critiqued.

And plan on going multiple times. Don’t put all of your hopes and dreams into attending one conference. People who expect to find their agent or editor at the first conference they attend often leave feeling disappointed, crushed even. Don’t set yourself up for that kind of disappointment. Plan on building relationships through many conferences.

Just to share my experience with SCBWI, I won the best portfolio show at at a small conference. Then I went to a big conference with big expectations. Nothing happened. I was sad. I went again. Nothing happened. I was sad. And then I decided that I was just going to have fun. I didn’t enter the Portfolio Showcase that year, but I did show Ninja! during the Illustrator Intensive. And that’s when I connected with my agent. I had been working hard all along, but I think it happened because I relaxed. I didn’t have any specific goals or expectations for that conference, and it was the third or fourth conference in a row that I’d attended.

When you go to multiple conferences, you start to see the same faces. You start to understand how everything works. You build those relationships.

That conference was seven years ago. I’ve been around long enough to see the folks who stick to it and make it. You’re just one story away. If you stick to it, you’ll keep growing. You’ll have the right relationships and opportunity. And it will happen. It takes a while to develop the skills and have everything come together. The tough thing is that you don’t know when it’s going to happen. But it will happen.

Blog Contributors

Instructor Photo: Myrna Foster

Myrna Foster writes and edits content for Storyteller Academy and the WriteRiders Newsletter for SCBWI Nevada. She has spent a lot of time teaching and coaching children, including five years as a preschool teacher. She's also worked as a journalist, and Highlights High Five has published six of her poems. 

Arree Chung is an author/illustrator and the founder of Storyteller Academy. Arree’s Ninja! series has received starred reviews from Kirkus and School Library Journal. Kirkus also gave a starred review to Mixed, which recently won the FCGB award. 

Today Arree lives a creative life, making stories for children. Arree spends most of his time making picture books, writing middle grade novels, and sharing his love for art, design, and storytelling with kids and dreamers everywhere.

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