Monday, June 17, 2013

21st Century Children's Nonfiction Conference

Faculty from Charlesbridge, Cobblestone, Lerner, Pearson, Time Home Entertainment, National Geographic and Highlights
    This past weekend I attended the first ever 21st Century Children's Nonfiction Conference.  I had a great time! It was at Suny in New Paltz New York, an appropriate setting for writers who frequent university libraries.   I listened to lectures on pitching, the Common Core, making the most of book fairs/conferences (how fitting) and school visits.  All of them will be helpful as I move forward in this writing journey of mine.

     The conference was Chautauqua-style, where editors were accessible.  The biggest surprise were the "mystery editors" that lurked anonymously among the tables.  Boy, was I ever floored to find out I was sitting next to an editor at Harper!
Chalk petroglyphs (this was the only chalk art I found)
       The conference was an excellent place for meeting other nonfiction writers.  One of the nicest things is that although our resumes differed, I never felt inadequate or unwelcome in the rather large crowd of published authors.  In fact, a prolific author of 180 books came up to me and noted that we were Facebook friends.
One of the entertaining signs in the ladies room of the dorm
      There was quite a mix of people in attendance.  Aside from writers and editors, there was a rep from an assessment company, book packagers, a Publisher's Weekly rep, educators, folks from the Highlights Foundation and Highlights magazine and those "mystery editors."  It was a conference that represented the needs of nonfiction writers and the various markets they write for.  Perfect for me!
      By Saturday afternoon, I was yearning for some solitude.  I longed to take a walk around the little ponds near the Student Union where the conference was held.  I resisted the temptation because I didn't want to waste a moment.  On Sunday morning, I got my chance.  I took an early morning walk and was absolutely delighted with the wildlife I found.  I will post those rather amazing photos next time.
      The thought of hurrying home to salvage Father's Day was on my mind as I pushed it to meet two more editors (we're having a Father's Day, observed).  It was a little intimidating knowing they were sizing me up as I spoke.  I have replayed those conversations, over and over, picking them apart like owl pellets.  Why didn't I say that?  Why DID I say that (open mouth, insert shoe)?   I learned I need to polish my approach and not be in haste.
The world's largest vending machine is the size of a bus depot!
     I put a lot of thought into whether I wanted to plunk down a good chunk of change and commit to this.  I'm glad I went.  Although I have nothing but good things to say about the regional conference (NESCBWI), I feel more at home in the throngs of other people with the same passion for research.  After the evaluation forms are read and reviewed, I expect that next year's conference will be even better.

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