Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Never Pitch an Agent in the Bathroom

This Friday I'll be attending SCBWI'S 44th Annual Summer Conference. The last time I went to this event was in 2008, oddly enough, I still have my badge.


In 2008 I had only been a member of SCBWI for three years, but I thought I had this writing thing in the bag, boy was I wrong! It's been ten years now and although I still don't have this writing thing mastered, I have learned a few things along the way like, Never Pitch an Agent in the Bathroom.

When I first heard this tale I thought it was a joke. But it wasn't. Some desperate writer actually slid her manuscript under a bathroom stall to an agent. I've heard of doing that to get an autograph, but an agent? Needless to say that action did not result in a contract.

Enough about what not to do. If you're planning on attending a conference this weekend, or sometime in the future, here are a few things you can do:

Before you go


  • Be prepared - Read other writers’ blog posts describing their experiences so you can get a better sense of how to use your time wisely. 
    • Buy yourself a new journal/notebook dedicated for this event. You will hear a lot of tips and tricks, but you won't remember them unless you write them down. Or better yet, master Evernote and keep all your notes in the cloud.
    • Bring your business cards. You want to have one if an agent or editor asks for it.
    • Dress the part. It's not the office, but it's not your bedroom either. Agents and editors are professionals and they are looking to work with one. 
    • Bring some extra cash for books and social events. 
    • Wear comfortable shoes and bring a sweater. I think whoever sets the thermostats for these events must be from the North Pole.
    • Most importantly, do the work--WRITE. If you're going to share your work, make sure it's your best.
  • Do your research - Time spent researching the guest speakers, agents, and editors is worthwhile. Usually, there are multiple sessions going on at one time, knowing the speaker allows you to streamline which sessions you will attend. 
  • Practice your pitch - Agents and Editors hear hundreds, if not thousands, of pitches. If yours is rambling and unclear chances are they will forget it as soon as you walk away. Make yours interesting, but try and keep it under 90 seconds.

When you get there


  • Smile and be friendly-A warm smile is the universal language of kindness. ~ William Arthur Ward
  • Attend as many events as you can - I've found these events to be exhilarating and exhausting. However, since I've made the financial commitment to attend, I take advantage of as many sessions as I can. I also take prolific notes. So much is happening that it's impossible to take it all in. After the event is over, you'll be happy to have your notes. 
  • Be realistic - While we would all love to leave the conference with a contract in hand, it's highly unlikely this will happen. However, if you play your cards right, you can leave armed with the knowledge and experience that may one day result in that coveted contract. 
What is your best tip for attending a conference? Are you going to the 44th Annual SCBWI Event? If so, tweet me and let me know you're there. If not you can attend virtually by following me on Twitter @JennsScribbles, Facebook, and Instagram @ jennsscribbles


Wednesday, July 22, 2015

I'm Going to Summer School!


What do you do when the summer blues make you want to spend your days lounging around the pool? Go to summer school! As a writer I'm always looking for ways to improve my craft and Kidit's Summer School is just the thing I needed to drag me back to my keyboard. 

kami and sKidit Summer School is run by Co-Founders Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen & Kami Kinard along with a crew of authors, illustrators, agents, and editors, who you can read more about HERE.  It all begin when authors Kami Kinard and Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen started blogging together at nerdychicksrule.com and decided they wanted to create a blog-centric event that focused on craft. They spent a long time brainstorming (a favorite activity of both) before coming up with #KidlitSummerSchool. Kami and Sudipta both enjoy writing, and teaching writing, so their idea was to create a program that offers in-depth writing advice on a particular topic each summer. The 2014 focus was on character development. The 2015 focus is on plotting in children’s literature.

Daily blog posts by authors and writing professionals offer inspiration and help you hone your craft. The faculty includes award-winning PB, MG and YA authors.

Kidlit Summer School is for anyone one who loves to write children’s literature, from accomplished writers, to those just starting out.

The best part about Kidlit's Summer School is it's virtual! This means I can lounge around the pool as I work, but instead of working on my backstroke, I'm working on 30 minute dares, plots, pitches, and more. Best of all this summer school is free! The first day of school was Monday, but registration is still open if you want to join the fun. Yes, there is homework, but no worries, everything is on the honor system so if your backstroke needs more work than your plot, you can always skip a day. 

How is your summer going? Are you working on your plot or backstroke? Thinking about going to summer school with me? You're only a CLICK away from some literary summer fun!


Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The End


Often I've asked published authors, How do you know when you're done? I usually get answers like, You just know or Trust your gut. They are well-intentioned answers, but not very helpful as my knowing gut told me I was done after about two drafts. However, my critique group and beta readers said I wasn't.

As I procrastinate plot out my next novel, I have taken to rereading a few of my favorite books on writing. Currently, I'm reading Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird which is helping me overcome my Summer Break Blues. If you've read Anne's book, you know what I'm talking about. If you haven't read her book, and you are an aspiring writer, do yourself a favor and read it.

airstream andreas stavroupolos octopus bed
Andreas Stavroupolos’s current abode‚Äîa 1959 Airstream travel trailer
Bird by Bird is not your typical book about writing, it's a book filled with instructions on writing and life. In fact there's even a chapter tilted, How Do You Know When You're Done. (Somehow I missed that chapter the first time I read the book. Probably because back then, I was far from being done.) In this chapter Anne equates the process of solving final draft problems to putting an octopus to bed. An image used by addicts when referring to controlling their addictions. As I read Anne's description explaining how as soon as you finally get all those arms, plot, character, voice, etc., tucked under the sheets and head to turn off the light, another long sucking arm breaks free. The analogy made me laugh as I thought about my own journey of putting my octopus to bed. It also reminded me that all writers struggle with finalizing that final draft, however, according to Anne, in The End, ...you know you're done when you've run out of steam..., and that it's the very best you can do for now--well? I think this means you are done.

Have you finished a novel before? Was it like putting an octopus to bed? Did you know octopus have arms not tentacles?

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

As I said last week, I'm struggling with the Summer Break Blues. So, I thought I'd share a little something that inspires me to press on when the going gets tough. I hope it inspires you, too.



Ira Glass on Storytelling from David Shiyang Liu on Vimeo.

Did anyone tell you how hard it is for beginners? How do you press on with the going gets tough? Do you just get going?

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Happy IWSG Day, Canada Day, and Independence Day!



Who knew there was so much to celebrate in the first week of July!?! With all this excitement I shouldn't be insecure about anything, right? Wrong. I'm an artist and no matter what's going on around us, we can always find something to feel insecure about.  

Fortunately, it's the first Wednesday of the month, time for a post in Alex Cavanaugh's Insecure Writer’s Support Group. IWSG is a place where writers release their fears to the world – or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the link above and sign up. We post the first Wednesday of every month. We encourage everyone to visit at least a dozen new blogs and leave a comment. Your words might just be the encouragement a lonely, and somewhat insecure, writer needs.

The tireless July co-hosts are Charity BradfordS.A. LarsenAJTamara Narayan, Allison Gammons, and Tanya Miranda.

If you want to wear your support and commitment for IWSG members, The Insecure Writer’s Support Group t-shirt is available. You can purchase your IWSG shirt, designed by the very talented Jeremy Hawkins, at the NeatOShop



Now that you know what IWSG is all about, are you still curious about my insecurity for the month? I have the Summer Break Blues. I just finished a vacation, my kids are home, friends are coming to town, my schmooze is on summer break, it's sunny in So. Cal., the beaches are calling, as is everything else but my laptop, and I just want to be lazy. I want to take three months off the way I did when I was a teacher, well you never really take those three months off, but you get my meaning. I want to be on break. I want to sleep in late, go to the beach, make ice-cream, lounge around the pool with a good book, just relax for the next three months. 

But, I know I can't. My head knows that I need to write every day so I keep my writing muscle strong... now, if I can only convince my heart of that, too. 

Have you checked out the IWSG store or website? Do you have a case of the summer break blues? Do you have a cure for it? 

Wednesday, June 24, 2015



As I may have mentioned here before, I coordinate a writers and
illustrators schmooze for SCBWI in the heart of the San Fernando Valley. For our June Schmooze we spent an evening with published author, Catherine Linka, whose second book, A Girl Undone released this week. It is the sequel to her first book A Girl Called Fearless. Catherine came to share her journey and tips on how to deal with rejection. However, her tips weren't just on dealing with rejection, but how she turned her dream into a successful reality.

While working as a book buyer for Flintridge Bookstore and Coffee House, an independent bookstore in La Cañada, Catherine obtained an MFA from Vermont College and wrote her first book which she described as, "If I can't sell this, I can't sell anything." Soon Catherine signed with an agent, bringing her one step closer to making her dream a reality... or so she thought. After months of rejections, Catherine's dream became a nightmare as she spent her days promoting book launch after book launch, while her own career stalled. But, as Walt Disney said, "All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them." Catherine became as fearless as her main character, Avie, as she continued to pursue her dream. A dream that turned into the reality of a two book deal along with an opportunity to turn the first book into a television series. In the end Catherine's journey on rejection inspired us to hold on to our dreams.  To understand that writing is a business. That rejection isn't about you and if you have the courage to pursue your dream, it can come true.

You can read more about Catherine on her blog. Or buy her books and become fearless yourself.

Are you waiting on a dream? Did Catherine's story inspire you to pursue it? Do you believe that dreams can come true?

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