Today I am delighted to have children’s author Karin Lefranc as my guest. Karin and I met at an NJSCBWI conference several years ago and have enjoyed cheering each other on in the writing journey. Now here are some wise thoughts on conferences and growing as writers. Take it away, Karin!
I attended the NJ SCBWI conference last month and came home pumped with ideas and great suggestions from my critique. My first SCBWI conference was five years ago in New York, and I went proudly clasping a very bad picture book about Cinderella. It was a very, very fractured fairytale! As a local journalist and then assitant editor for a non-fiction publisher, I thought I could write for children. Wrong. My picture book was a mangled mess.
While at lunch at the New Jersey conference, an author at our table said her editor doesn’t come to conferences because “she doesn’t want to come face to face with the slush pile”. We all chuckled out of nervousness and horror. I cringed remembering my early stories and my new picture book that I was having critiqued later that day. I had just finished Wonder by RJ Palacio about Auggie, a fifth grader with a face so deformed that he is only now going to a mainstream middle school. Was my manuscript like Auggie, deformed and mangled?
Like Auggie going to school for the first time, we go to conferences and present our much loved but often misshapen manuscripts to editors and agents for critiques. It can’t be easy for our editors and agents to come face to face with our warped words and smashed up ideas. But what I have also learned is that many incredible authors also came to their first conferences with ghastly manuscripts.
When we have the courage to stay in school like Auggie something beautiful happens. When our critiquers are a little kinder than necessary but still provide us with mindful feedback, and we go home and put BIC (Butt in Chair) as Jane Yolen says, and when we persevere and write more and read more and go to more conferences, eventually our stories come alive. We writers are a motley crue but we all have one thing in common. We had an idea for a story, and we had the courage to try and capture that story with words, and that’s a wonder.
So let’s keep writing and growing and following Mr. Browne’s precept (Auggie’s teacher): “Just follow the day and reach for the sun.”
Karin Lefranc lives in Connecticut with her husband and four children. She self published her first picture A Quest for Good Manners, which won a Mom’s Choice Award Gold. Now she wants to go the traditional route and is thrilled to be represented by Liza Fleissig of the Liza Royce Agency. She has two picture books under consideration and is in the midst of writing a middle grade fantasy about trolls.