The Funniest Thing About Writers Conferences

The funniest thing about writers conferences is the panel Q&A. At every conference I’ve attended where they have a panel of successful authors, eventually someone will ask how they got started in children’s writing; what was their big break? I have heard writers begin their answers to that question in the following ways: “my husband’s agent…, while I was working at Scholastic…, the publisher of my adult romance novel…, a friend of mine who knew Jane Yolen…, after being an agent for ten years…” I have NEVER heard a single author say, “They pulled my manuscript from the slush pile and called me.” For all the assurances I hear from editors and agents at these panels that they read and consider every manuscript they receive, it seems odd that the (admittedly anecdotal) evidence suggests that having a friend in the business is still the quickest route to publication. But fear not! You do have a friend in the business. If you’re at a writers’ conference, look around. Talk to the person next to you. Everyone there at the conference is “in the business.” They all care about children’s publishing. Many of them have already been published or know someone who has. Talk with them. Reach out to them. You never know when a, “Hey, I like your sweater,” comment can turn into a, “I write in the same style, I think my agent might be interested in your work,” moment In addition, the agents and editors that attend these conferences WANT to find someone to publish. They want to make their weekend speaking engagement worth giving up a trip to the beach or the mountains. They want to connect, not just with a manuscript, but with an author – face to face. Take advantage of these opportunities and sign up for the one on one consultations and evaluations. Chances are, they won’t fall in love with your first submission, but you will have made another connection with “someone in the business.” Who knows, maybe you will end up on one of those wrters’ panels answering a question with, “My friend the agent…”

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