What NOT to do at an SCBWI Conference

I’m a big fan of Dear Teen Me, and believe me – there are about a million things I wish I could go back and tell the me of {bleep} years ago. But sometimes I’d just be happy with talking to the me of six months ago.

Dear Holly,

Just a few last-minute tips before you hop in the car and drive six hours to a conference where you don’t know a soul.

HAVE A PITCH READY. Don’t know what it is? It’s called Google – USE IT! When the uber-talented super-agent special guest asks you for it, you’re going to kick yourself in the butt for saying “Ummm, I’m not sure, didn’t really think of one.” Really? REALLY?

DON’T BOTHER TO PRINT OUT THAT SYNOPSIS that you wrote in a half-hour if you’re too embarrassed to give it out to anyone. You just wasted cardstock and ink, dummy! At least you can turn them over and let your kids doodle when you get back home.

WHEN YOU GET TO THE HOTEL early and want to figure out where you’re supposed to be so you’re not late, and the girl at the front desk tells you the conference starts at 6:00 with dinner in the restaurant instead of the 8:00 that is written on every other piece of information you have – DON’T BELIEVE HER!

WHEN YOU DO BELIEVE HER and head to the hotel restaurant at 6:00 and there is only one other person there, tell me the truth – any bells going off? Any whistles?

WHEN THE WAITRESS TELLS YOU TO ORDER ANYTHING YOU WANT BECAUSE IT’S ON THE HOUSE remember back to when your momma told you that nothing is ever free. She’s smart. She knew what she was talking about. Do you really think that the organizers of the event are going to pay for you to eat/drink anything and everything you want? Yeah, yeah, I know you’re nervous. Sweating so hard you’re about to slide out of the seat, nervous. But just calm down long enough to use the brain you did NOT leave back in Ohio.

WHEN TWO OTHER PEOPLE FINALLY ARRIVE, talking about traffic from the airport and start name dropping names you’ve only ever seen on the shelves of your local library, put the that fork full of shrimp pasta down long enough to catch their names and what they’re talking about so you can figure out that you’re not supposed to be there.

WHEN YOU TELL THE LADY ACROSS FROM YOU that you feel so out of place – think on that a minute. Is there a reason you should be feeling out of place? MAYBE BECAUSE YOU’RE NOT SUPPOSED TO BE THERE?

WHEN TWO OTHER CONFERENCE GOERS WALK IN THE ROOM, asking if this is where they should be for the conference and the lady next to you tells them “No,” that it starts at 8:00 down the hall – OH NOW YOU GET IT? How’s that for a delayed reaction? Ummm…hello! That’s not just Sally Q. Conference-Goer sitting there to your right, its Miss Big-time editor of power-house children’s magazine that’s going to be sitting at the long table on the stage tomorrow with the other special guests. The same person teaching the class you signed up for tomorrow.

DON’T EXCUSE YOURSELF TO RUN BACK TO YOUR ROOM and call your husband in tears – he’s a state away and can’t do a single thing to console you. But I bet you a hundred dollars he’s glad he stayed home to watch the kids.

WHEN YOU DRY YOUR TEARS AND GET TO YOUR AGENT CRITIQUE and she so kindly lets you know what you need to work on and tells you to take some time with it before sending it to her, don’t change things in the hotel room and send it to her two weeks later. Let it sit, silly. Let it simmer. Look over it again, then again, and again. Then once more for good measure. When she said she won’t forget your unique concept, she really meant it. Even if it is months and months later. Don’t send it to her in two weeks. It’s not ready and you’ll get a rejection faster than ants on a gumdrop.

Don’t worry, you’re going to make mistakes in this whole publishing adventure you decided to take on. I’m sure every one does. One day I’m sure you’ll look back on this conference and laugh at how naive you were. One day.