Writing Cons: What to Expect

Writing Cons: What to Expect

by Natalie Bright


Writing conferences are no doubt a huge commitment in money, not to mention the time away from family and home. I’ve often heard more than one writer say that their efforts can be better spent at their desk. No doubt about that. Who needs another distraction?

Yet every writers’ conference I’ve attended teaches me something new. And no matter how much I dread the packing and the traveling, or how many times I wonder what in the heck I was thinking, I always feel motivated and thankful after taking part in the event. For example, there’s the recent Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators spring conference, which I attended in Tulsa, Oklahoma several weeks ago. In case you’ve ever wondered what’s the take-away from a writing conference for children’s authors, I’ll review some of the topics covered.

Cheering on Your Cause

Regional Director, Anna Myers, welcomed the group by reminding us that we are all a group of believers: “believers in stories and believers in each other”. Sitting in a room of over one hundred creatives left little room for doubt that there was magic in the air. You can’t help but feel inspired.


The first presentation was by an Associate Art Director who gave an informative power point on the illustrating process. From selecting the artist, to initial sketches, decisions on word placement, and selection of the final cover based on multiple samples by an illustrator and narrowing down the final look with author input. The creative process is a mystery to most of us after it leaves the writers hands. The insight into this procedure was enthralling.

A typical editor’s day is always interesting, which was the topic of the next session. Writers tend to disappear into our world of every day life and our fictional stories, so its good to be reminded that there’s a whole world of business to this business. I realized that publishing takes a team of professionals who believe in the same vision. A writers’ manuscript is where it begins and a book, that everyone is proud of is, the end result.

Story Craft

The process of creating early chapter books was presented by a Scholastic editor.  This detailed review included the finer points of what makes early chapter books so appealing to beginning readers, and so difficult to craft for writers.

Picture books were the main focus of a talk by an editor with HarperCollins.  The differences between the specific genres in children’s literature always leaves me much to think about. It is a complex process as writers try to determine where to go with that spark. Picture book, or maybe an early chapter book, or can this manuscript be expanded into a middle reader?  The possibilities are endless, yet all are so very unique. There’s no one better to explain the differences than an acquiring editor.


A literary agent closed out the day by reminding us to keep going, chase our dreams, never give up. Despite the rejection and rewrites and the distractions of life, I was reminded that successful authors keep pushing themselves to write, to learn story craft.

In between sessions, I talked to other writers about finding agents, working with editors, and all things related to this crazy business. I heard about the struggles, the sparks, the successes, and I came away inspired to keep writing and to believe in a dream. I also came away with a ton of hope that these writers will keep going, because I can hardly wait to read their stories. So many great ideas in one place is contagious!

To find a group for children’s writers near you, check out the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators website at www.scbwi.org.