Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Recap of the Southern California Writer's Conference in San Diego 2012

When my husband gave me the trip to the Southern California Writer’s Conference (SCWC) in San Diego for Christmas, I was thrilled! As the dates got closer, I became very excited and very nervous. I had signed up for two Advance Submissions, which means that I sent in the first fifteen pages of one of my books and an Agent and/or Editor would review it and then sit down for a one-on-one with me and give me a critique. I was ready for the workshops and to network with the other attendees, but the Advance Submissions scared me to death. What if they laughed in my face? What if they told me I was wasting my time? These were the thoughts running through my head on that three hour drive to San Diego. I arrived early and surveyed the property, to get comfortable in my surroundings. I went and had some lunch and headed towards registration at 11:59 am. I started with the Publishing Now workshop with Lynn Price, followed by Rewriting Novels with Jean Jenkins, and Killer Queries & Snappy Synopses with Maralys Wills. I learned a lot on this first day of workshops, but was so nervous that I sent my husband a text, wondering what I had been thinking coming here. There is no way I was as talented and capable as these people. He basically told me to put my big girl pants on and get involved… so I did. By the mixer that evening, I had met some other newbies to the conference and we kicked off the evening with an adult beverage and learned more about each other. We went into the ballroom for the Welcome from Michael Steven Gregory and Wes Albers. They were entertaining and funny, and it was obvious to me that they truly cared about this conference and all who attend. I stayed for the evening speaker, Frederick Ramsay, and then I attended my first Rogue Workshop. The Rogue Workshops are headed by Author’s. Each attendee brings pages of the stories they are working on and get the chance to read them aloud and have everyone in the room give them feedback. That first night I just watched and listened. The wonderful Laura Taylor was running the Rogue Workshop I attended, and it was a joy to listen to her read the passages aloud. It was such a safe and productive environment, that I decided I would return the next night and have my work critiqued. After about six hours of sleep, I awoke ready for a full day of workshops. My doubts from the day before were gone and I was eager to see what the day would bring. I started the morning with Charmaine Hammond, the morning speaker. Next, I decided on Creative Intelligence for Creative Age with Orna Ross. This ended up being a wonderful workshop and I was so pleased that I had chosen to attend. When I came downstairs, I saw a familiar face setting up in the lobby. I had never met Jessica Therrien in person, but we were in the same group in the Writer’s Campaign Challenge last fall. She posted about her attendance of the SCWC in Newport Beach and I asked her what she thought of it and if she thought it was worth attending, because I was thinking about attending SCWC San Diego. When she had attended SCWC San Diego in 2011, she had an Advance Submission with Zova Books and they had offered her a contract. She was setting up at this year’s conference with her paperback, oppression, available and on sale for the attendees. So, obviously, when I asked if she thought it was worth attending, she had raved about the conference, so I decided to give it a try. After a short visit with Jessica I attended The Truth is in the Detail with Judy Reeves and finally Pitch Witches with Marla Miller and Jennifer Silva Redmond. The workshop with Miller and Redmond was a lot of fun and very helpful. They play off of each other very well and offered us fantastic advice about perfecting the elevator pitch. My next stop was the Agent Panel. There were five Agents in attendance and they answered questions from the group. Having never met an Agent in person before, I found this panel very informative, but I knew my first one-on-one was coming up next, so I was having a hard time concentrating. I listed to Kathleen Rushall’s answers and tried to get an idea of what she looked for in a writer. She is the Agent that I was about to meet up with. We sat down to go over my critique and she was really very nice, not the mean and judgmental person I had been expecting. She gave me tips and advice and was very easy to converse with. I survived my first one-on-one. That night we enjoyed a banquet and our evening speaker was T. Jefferson Parker. My nerves started dancing again, because next on the agenda was the Rogue Workshop with Laura Taylor. I decided not to submit the same work I had submitted for my Advance Submission. I was getting feedback on my Contemporary YA Series, and I had brought pages from a different manuscript with me, just in case. I wanted to find out if I had a good idea and should continue to work on this other novel. It is still YA, but fantasy, and out of the comfort zone I have established over the past couple years. I gave the pages to Laura, and I could feel my face flush in embarrassment as she read my words aloud. I would survey the room periodically, to get a feel of the audience and then glance back down at my hands. When she was finished, the feedback I received was lovely. They liked my idea, said it is original, and gave me some suggestions on how to make it better. I left feeling elated! After about six hours of sleep, I awoke ready to take on the day. I sat and listened to the morning speaker, Cathy Lebenski, and then I headed to the Alliance of Independent Authors workshop, with Orna Ross. Finally, it was time for my second one-on-one, this time with Editor and Author Deborah Halverson. I learned a lot from Deborah. She gave me a typed out page with her recommendations, so that I could take it with me and review it as needed. I found her to be wonderfully approachable and relatable and I am so grateful that she took the time to give me such constructive feedback. Next, I attended Self-Editing 101 with Linda Thomas-Sundstrom, before meeting back up with Deborah Halverson for her Writing for Teens workshop. This workshop was the one most suited to my genre and I really enjoyed learning from Deborah. Finally, I attended my final workshop, The Social Creative: Embracing & Building Online Community, with Justine Musk. I went to enjoy the afternoon speaker, Wes Albers, and learned about his road to publishing, before finishing the Conference with the SCWC Awards and the closing by Michael Steven Gregory and Wes Albers. For my last night, I decided to forego the Rogue Workshop, and meet up with the “veteran”attendees at the bar. I spent the evening getting to know Marla Druzgal, Tameri Etherton, Gayle Carline, Claudia Whitsitt, Rick and Linda Ochocki, Judi Heidel, Jennifer Carlevatti Aderhold, Heather Gerard Barnes, and even spent some time speaking with Wes Albers and Michael Steven Gregory. After about six hours of sleep, I packed up and started the drive home. I decided that I will continue writing and Self-Publishing my YA Series, therefore fulfilling my desire for instant gratification. And, over the next eleven months I will work on perfecting the manuscript for my YA Fantasy. Then, I will submit the pages for that manuscript for next year’s Advance Submissions and come back for another round of conferences, inspirational speeches and fellowship! I cannot wait! Now... I need to go take a nap!

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