Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
After Page One: Conferences

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A guest post to motivate, encourage, and inspire...


What a Writer's Conference Means to Me

I almost didn’t attend my first writer’s conference, the Society of Children’s Writers and Illustrators Winter Conference in New York. There was the cost of the conference, hotel, meals, and travel. I had only started writing children’s books the summer before and realistically, I knew I probably wouldn’t recover the cost from a future writing career.

But I knew that if I was ever going to have a chance, I needed help. I had story ideas and a great online critique group, but something was missing. I didn’t know if I’d find it at the conference, but I wouldn’t feel right if I didn’t try.

Photo by Jena Schwartz

Photo by Jena Schwartz

The three-day weekend felt like a blur in the best of ways. Besides two critiques, I attended panels and presentations by agents and editors, and speeches by well-known, published authors. The author speeches were funny, inspiring, and enlightening. How many rejections the authors had received before an acceptance were often noted somewhere in their talks, to the appreciation of the pre-published folks in the audience. The agents were honest, forthright, and practical. There was no sugar-coating their advice, but they were all filled with insightful nuggets about the submission process and how to successfully work with them. The editors were informative, encouraging, and hopeful. They wanted the attendees to learn and succeed.

One of the best parts of the conference was meeting and becoming friends with so many other writers. Some were agented, some were even published, but many were like myself and just starting to understand the industry. It’s been easy to keep in touch online and I’ve become critique partners with a few.

I came out of the conference somehow feeling both overwhelmed and energized. After taking a couple of days to de-compress and settle into my normal routine, I turned on my computer. The story I began writing was one I thought of while at the conference. My first draft wasn’t great, but I knew why it wasn’t great because of what I’d learned. And I understood much better how to fix it.

When registration opened for a SCBWI conference in New Jersey, I signed up without hesitation. I wouldn’t tell another writer they have to attend a conference to get better at writing or to find success. Many published writers never attended a single one. But all writers I know find ways to keep learning and figure out how to push themselves to grow. The energy I find attending conferences gives me a wealth of inspiration that lasts much longer than one amazing weekend. And that’s worth signing up for.


Join our After Page One series. We’re looking for 300 to 500-word guest posts that motivate, inspire, and encourage other mama-writers, and we’d love to feature YOUR thoughts about getting started, getting back to a writing project, integrating writing with motherhood, reading, or having a positive attitude. The list is endless, but here are some questions that might help you get started. We’ll publish a short bio so readers can learn more about you and your projects. 

Ariel Bernstein is a children’s book author and her debut picture book, I Have a Balloon, illustrated by Scott Magoon, will be published by Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books in Fall 2017. Her chapter book series, Warren & Dragon’s 100 Friends, will be published by Viking Children’s. Find her at her website or on Twitter at @ArielBBooks.

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