Since its inception a few years ago, I've watched WriteOnCon, the free, kidlit-based, online writer's conference ("Exclusively for Everyone!" is their slogan), from the sidelines. I was always moving, or traveling, or doing something else when the conference rolled around in August. Or my manuscript wasn't ready to be shown to anyone else. Or, let's be honest here, I didn't really see the point. I subscribe to WriteOnCon's blog feed, so I read most of the posts after the conference. Some of them were even quite useful. But I wasn't participating in any of it.
So what's different this year?
After a long weekend at the New England SCBWI conference, I learned how challenging and rewarding a conference could be. I spent almost three days straight writing (notes, ideas, techniques), and am still referring back to those scribbles months later.
Also, while I haven't made much noise about it on the blog, Project Fun is finished, and currently making the rounds, waiting for the right person to read it and fall in love. So I actually had something I could post on the WriteOnCon forums, to get critiqued and to show off. And maybe even Ms. Right herself would discover it.
So several months ago, I blocked off the conference on the calendar, making sure my schedule would be open. Last week, I screwed my courage to the sticking point, and posted my query letter and the first 250 words in the forums (and later added my first 5 pages, all linked here). And since then, I've spent most of my free time reading other posts in the forums, commenting, and making sure I'm a friendly writer on the boards, and not an anonymous stranger hoping for feedback. This weekend I made sure I had easy meals to make for dinner, no errands to run, and no other responsibilities. I could devote the full two days to "go" to my conference.
Things I've learned:
Where to begin? I've learned how to evluate a manuscript for market potential, how to make sure I invest enough of myself into it, how to dig deeper into my characters, what middle school kids are REALLY like... and tons more!
And not to pat myself on the back or anything, but I'm so pleased I decided to "attend" the conference this year. Devoting two full days to learning, thinking over my work in progress, and taking notes, I've been challenged so much more than I might have by skimming a blog post a week later.
Also, I didn't need to worry about posting my work on the WriteOnCon forums. Not only have people been welcoming and encouraging, they've been brilliant. I've received lots of tremendously useful feedback, even on things I thought were pretty polished.
Things I've enjoyed:
Just like attending an in-person conference, I've reconnected with friends from all over the kidlit world, including NESCBWI (I miss you New Englanders!) and the Blueboards. And it's been so encouraging to not only be surrounded by friends, but to have a ready-made fan club to read my work and cheer me on.
Plus, I've connected with tons of brilliant writers, from the forums and presentations, and added stacks of books to my to-read pile, and numerous followers on Twitter. And I've read some AMAZING writing that I really hope is going to be snatched up soon.
And I have to be honest, I love attending a conference in my house, taking time out whenever I want to go to the bathroom, take a walk to clear my head, do some laundry (yes, I did get some laundry done!). Maybe I'm flying my introvert flag a bit too avidly here, but I liked being in control of my day.
And I even got a Ninja Agent request for my novel! (Yes, the agents stalking the forums really are called Ninja Agents... kidlit people are just so much fun). Who knows if it will lead to anything, but the encouragement is very welcome.
Already I can't wait to dive into WriteOnCon next year, no matter what stage my work is in, no matter what other previous commitments I have. I'll be there! and I strongly recommend you join me!
In the meantime, I'm going on a well-needed summer vacation next week, so the blog will be silent for a few weeks. Happy writing!
Hah! File this under: Doomed to Fail. I wrote a draft of this post on Tuesday, in between breaks from WriteOnCon, and planned to come back Wednesday to add a few more links and tidbits. Then, because clearly the Universe thought I was way too on top of things, I spent the night in the hospital with my husband. Don't worry, he's fine now, safely home, and feeling much better. But I wanted to add a brief note to say, this post only includes links to the first day of WriteOnCon. But thankfully for ALL OF US, everything is archived here.
Oh, and we should never get too sure of ourselves when it comes to life. It happens. Take care of yourselves.