Member Monday: NESCBWI Spring Conference Buzz with Joyce Johnson, Conference Co-Director

Here at Creative Chaos, the NESCBWI 2012 conference buzz is building. “Keeping It Real,” takes place from April 20-22 at the Sheration Springfield Place, in Springfield, Massachusetts. Today I’m happy to have Joyce Shor Johnson, Co-Director for the conference. She’s agreed to answer some of my questions about the conference and if you have more, please put them in the comments!

Hey, Joyce!

Springfield, Massachusetts is a new location for the conference. What did NESCBWI gain by changing venues?

NESCBWI gained space to expand our conference offerings. This year, we are able to offer more opportunities for manuscript and portfolio critiques, Agent Quick Queries and brand new opportunities to help improve your chances for advancement in the industry with Submission Strategy meetings and NetWit Social Media and Promotion consultations. The way the traffic flows in this space allows for more interaction among attendees and faculty and makes networking easy.

Since Springfield is a transportation hub, did that make editor and agent recruitment easier?

I don’t know about making recruitment easier, but it certainly makes transportation to and from the conference less complicated. Recruitment this year was more about fielding request to participate from agents and editors. They want to be here as New England holds these industry professionals in such high regards.

So now that we have all these great industry professionals, I see that NESCBWI is offering more critiques then ever before! Tell us about the walk-in, and other new options for critiques.

Yes, On-The-Spot critiques are a go. They are with Elizabeth Carpentiere and will be 3-5 pages for 15 minutes. You can sign up at registration. Also the registration desk will have sign ups for NetWit Social Media and Promotion consultations and other high demand bonus offerings. I’d say that this year, people should bring with them a large stack of business cards, the very polished first five pages of a completed manuscript or portfolio and their checkbook so they can jump on any bonus item opportunities they may arise.

We have Sara Zarr, and Harry Bliss as Keynoters this year. What other speakers can attendees expect?

Okay just so you know, we have AMAZING panels this year. Our Friday night Keynote is an Independent Editor Panel: What’s Going on in Children’s Publishing Today and How to Navigate It with Harold Underdown, Tamson Weston, Eileen Robinson, J.L. Bell and Lionel Bender. Kate Mesnner is presenting her TED talk, and there will
Keeping it Real After the Signing: Author/Agent Relationships with Vickie Motter, Jennifer Laughran, Stephen Fraser, Kate Messner, Chris Brodien-Jones, and Kristine Carlson Asselin. The list just goes on-and-on.

I love that there are so many intensive options this year: novels, picture books, nonfiction and illustration. I’ve even had other regions ask me how we do it. How do the intensives change kind of learning that goes on at the conference?

I think the intensive offerings elevate the level of our conference by helping writers and illustrators really dig into their crafts. The downside is having to limit it. This year intensives offerings were pretty much full within 36-48 hours. We were all shocked at this. Really, none of us thought they would fill up as quickly as they did.

The schedule is just packed with great workshops. At the national conference they used the Guidebook App so people could keep track of everything they have to do and everywhere they have to go – on their smartphones. Will NESBWI be using it too? How do attendees get it?

Funny you should ask. I have been working on the NESCBWI Guidebook app for a while now and it should be ready for unveiling any day now. There will be an E-blast and an announcement on the website. This app allows you to personalize your itinerary to your conference needs. it lists faculty, bonus items, and special interest groups. You can even post photos of your adventures at the conference.

What other conference related technology should members know about? Is there a Twitter hashtag people should use to tweet about the conference?

The Twitter hashtag is #nescbi12. I do urge everyone to make sure they use it. Technology is evolving so quickly, I think we will see many more people with ipads and other devices. I hope attendees will keep a lot the technology at bay so they can reap the benefits of being in a building with close to 750 people who are all like minded and work on their networking. This is a tremendous opportunity to get away from the social media and technology for a short time and immerse themselves in just being with other authors, illustrators, editors, and agents who think being in children’s publishing is the best thing ever!

I hear there might be some surprises in store for the conference. Can you reveal any clues?

I’m not ready to reveal the cool additions, but people should be prepared. Bring first pages, bring portfolio items. You just never know what additional opportunities might pop up this year. We are still working out some of the details!  I do urge anyone with a Cat In The Hat hat, to wear theirs.

It may be too early to ask, but can you give us a sneak peek into your thoughts for next year? When and where will the Call For Proposals (CFP) be posted?

The NESCBWI 2013 Conference is Word By Word – The Art Of Craft. The Call for proposals will go out June 1, 2012. You can sign up through NESCBWI’s Constant Contact email lists (if you haven’t already) to be included in the Call for Proposals. It will also be announced on the website and tweeted. The conference date is set for May 3-5, 2013 and will be at Sheration Springfield Place, in Springfield, Massachusetts.

Thank you so much for visiting Creative Chaos, Joyce. Having been in your place, I know that the Co-Directors give up tons of their own time to basically create a college for the weekend. NESCBWI puts on amazing conferences all with volunteers. A huge thank you to everyone who plays a part in creating this incredible learning and networking opportunities for SCBWI members. Let the countdown begin… 17 days and a wake up! If you have questions for Joyce, please leave them in the comments.

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