Wednesday, January 25, 2012

SCBWI Winter Conference 2012 According to Ishta

It's two short days until the start of the SCBWI Winter Conference in New York City, and if you're in the same boat as me, you've already gotten down that suitcase and started planning your gala outfit. (Mine? Black slacks, black fitted top, and silver and black jacket. Oh, yeah.) You've read the how-to's and the Do's-and-Don'ts, and you're pretty much ready to go.

But what about the finer points, like potty breaks, where to eat, and how to get your tongue unstuck from the roof of your mouth come citique session time? Have a gander at my little list, where I'll walk you through some of the things I learned last time around.

Number One: For the restroom, look no further than your hotel room. The bathroom lines on the main conference levels are ca-RAY-zee in between sessions, so if you're staying at the venue, your own room is a much faster bet. Plus, the people who have no other option (because they're staying somewhere else) will thank you. And let's not forget the advantage of a guaranteed supply of toilet paper.

Number Two: Holy dog-doodles, if there are slower elevators than the ones at the Hyatt at conference time, then I don't know about them. Like, seriously, I think they must have a guy standing on each one hoisting them up by hand. They're great for getting up and down to your room (even at potty break time), but for the love of print, to get from Breakout Session A to Breakout Session B, use the stairs or escalators. MUCH faster. (Unless you HAVE to use the elevators, of course. Wheelchairs on the stairs are obviously not a good idea.)

Number Three: The person who told you you could switch breakout sessions with your roommate is a liar, liar, pants on fire. They've got a list at the door and they're keeping track, so don't even try. You'll just embarrass the gatekeeper, and piss off the people behind you who did their homework and signed up months ago to see that speaker and are now missing the first ten minutes while you argue with whomever is at the door. BUT...

Number Four: Sharing notes from breakout sessions with friends is totally, 100% kosher. Encouraged, even. Do it with everyone's blessing, and everybody wins.

Number Five: The surrounding streets are packed with amazing places to eat; you can literally follow your nose. But if you don't feel like braving the cold, the food court at Grand Central Station is an awesome place to chow down! The Spanish food place is super good. Just...

Number Six: Avoid the washrooms at Grand Central Station. Anyplace that has signs limiting teeth brushing to five minutes* isn't the place to be doing Mother Nature's business. See Tip Number One.

Number Seven: Another must-do at Grand Central is the whispering gallery in one of the hallways: you stand at one corner of the intersection, your writer-buddy stands at the other, and the domed ceiling carries your whispers to one another's ears. Pretty neat-o.

Number Eight: The critique sessions aren't just about you getting feedback. They're also about you offering your best, well-intentioned feedback to others. Those editors and agents aren't just interested in your pages: they're interested in you. So be generous, and give as you would like to receive.

Number Nine: Plan meeting places WAAAAY ahead of time. Like, now if you haven't done it already. And be specific. "The entrance to the Ballroom" won't cut it, because there are several of them; "The corner of the fountain in the lobby closest to the elevators" probably will.** Think 2,000 people, guys. It's busy in that there hotel.

Number Ten: Have business cards and a warm handshake at the ready, and be prepared to make friends. The people you will meet are all kinds of awesome - people who make books for kids are some of the nicest, most generous people in the world. Say hi to everybody, introduce yourself, and have a great time.

See you there!

*I have real photographic evidence of this.
**But you can't have that corner - that one's mine.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Is it Really the End of January Already?

My first post of 2012, and we're already in the last full week of January. Where did it go?

Well, I'll tell you. It went into reinsulating my attic (myself), and lots and lots of revision, and some querying, and many many discussions that began with, "You know, we live pretty far from the kids' school, and our old house is  a lot of work - maybe we should move," and ended with, "I love our house."

We had a lot of plans for this house when we bought it. Plans that involved an addition and at least one more washroom and drywall in the attic. Needless to say, we hadn't really costed out those things, and then life happened and five years later, here we are in the same house with all this potential - exactly the same potential it had when we bought it.

We could call it a day, but we still love the house. It has a solid foundation, a nice layout, and the rooms are in proportion to one another. It flows nicely, and feels balanced. But some of the rooms aren't used as well as they could be, and there's still only one washroom. So we did some rethinking, and some re-enivsioning. We revised our idea of what this house can be. And a year or two from now, it's going to be AMAZING. I can't wait.

If you have a manuscript lying around that hasn't really gone anywhere - maybe the plot is solid but there's a character missing who really needs to be part of the story, or maybe the setting needs more personality, or maybe there's something else that needs to be changed - try re-envisioning it. Try looking at it from a different angle, and maybe you'll see how to make it work.

Happy revising.