My First Writer’s Conference!

Well I did it. I finally attended my first writer’s conference! I attended CANSCAIP’s PYI conference a couple of weekends ago.
I have been on my children’s literature journey for two years now, but I had never been to a conference.
I’ve always been advised to go to one, because it is important for creatives to gather together. Writing is a lonely job, and putting yourself together with other writers and comparing notes helps make the journey easier.
So what was my conclusion? Is it worth your while? Yes! Go to a writer’s conference! You will learn so much!

Next year I'm sitting closer!

Next year I’m sitting closer!

One thing that I really enjoyed learning was that all those people who are wildly successful are human too. That was pointed out in the opening speech by a wickedly funny Teresa Toten, who talked about how she was once at the conference as a prepublished writer, not daring to say anything. Now look at her: recent recipient of the Governor General’s award with nine books to her name.

I attended three seminars:
1. Rob Laidlaw
Rob is an animal rights activist who talked about not shying away from writing difficult stories for children. Although Rob has had no training in children’s writing, a lot of what he said made sense.
Rob mentioned that children these days know way more than we give them credit for, and so we don’t need to “sugar coat” the issues. However, his way is to not show graphic images, which he says turns people off. Instead he makes people fall in love with the subject matter.
His latest book is Five Elephants, a copy of which I purchased and which he signed.
2. Ashley Spires
Ashley is most famous for her “Binky the Space Cat” series of graphic novels. She talked about creating her graphic novels, including why she prefers graphic novels over picture books. For example, you can have a bigger, more sophisticated story in a graphic novel.
Ashley left plenty of time for questions and answers. She is very funny and open, and talked honestly about her creative process, including what happens when she doubts herself.
3. Editors Panel
Susan Rich, editor-at-large for Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Tara Walker, editorial director at Tundra Books
The editors answered several questions in the (too short) time they were allotted and were very refreshing, engaging, and down to earth. They are real people too!
For example, you should shop your story out to traditional publishers first before considering self publishing, because traditional publishers offer a wide range of services such as submitting to awards and book reviews.
Discouraging as it is, very few people are published from the slush pile. Yet there is still no need for an agent if you live in Canada.

Another great part was meeting other writers in all stages of their careers. For example, I met Kira Vermond, who has had three books published, one of which is again up for an award. I met Andrea Mack, who is also taking the 12X12 challenge and who also wrote about the conference. I met others who live in my region. And it was great to talk to them about all things writing. It’s my tribe.
It’s great getting to know the Canadian children’s literature scene. I can’t wait for next year’s conference!