Member Monday: 5 + 1 Tips on Conference Proposals (the inside scoop)

I spent most of yesterday either driving to, being in, or driving from an NESCBWI RA/Advisory Board meeting. The driving I really hate, but the people I get to work with on the Advisory Board are wonderful.

We spent a great deal of time processing the evaluations from the most recent annual spring NESCBWI conference. Yes, we really do look at all of the comments so thanks to everyone who filled out an evaluation. Your workshop feedback helps us choose the Encore! schedule. You comments on how to improve the conference are implemented by the next conference director. This year, that person is Joyce Johnson. All conference communication should go to nescbwi13 at gmail dot com.

As an RA, the first question that I start to field about next year’s conference is, “When will you put out a call for proposals?” I can tell you that the announcement will be out sometime this week, and I’ll certainly post the info link that Joyce publishes.  If you are interested in presenting, now is a good time to get your ducks in a row. Below I’ve listed some tips to help you hone your workshop proposal idea.

  1. NESCBWI caters to many different constituents: writers, illustrators, industry professionals, beginners, intermediates, and PAL published. You will not be able to meet everyone’s needs. Don’t try. Be specific about your audience. If you say your workshop is for the most advanced members, be sure to be sophisticated, dig deep, and expect a high level of prior knowledge. We are eager to involve PAL members and would love some expert workshop presenters for this crowd.
  2. Also consider the time you will need. Too much time and you’ll be fumbling for enough info to fill the slot, praying that someone has a question for you. Not enough time and you’ll deliver your information so fast that no one will glean the benefits of your knowledge.
  3. Your MFA is awesome, and your graduation lecture/critical thesis was great but that doesn’t make it an SCBWI lecture. People want workshops that give craft-based how-to’s that inspire them to go home and get to work. MFA work is often very theoretical. See if there is a way that you can make your expertise more practical. If not, come up with another idea.
  4. If NESCBWI is going to pay you to come to teach at the conference, they want to get their money’s worth. If you have more than one AMAZING idea, or if you have an idea for something so popular that the conference committee would want to run it twice, that’s a benefit. In this same vein, panels are expensive. If you can do it yourself, and do it well, submit alone.
  5. Consider craft issues that you and your fellow writers/illustrators have faced and surmounted. (Humor in picture books, the omniscient narrator, multiple narrators, ripped from the headlines plots, diverse characters, showing emotion, rhythm in prose) How did you do it? How did others do it? Gather that info, analyze it, and present it in a direct and succinct way with clear examples, humor, time for questions, work time and …
  6. Never forget chocolate for the attendees.

Member Monday: Spring Cleaning

Perhaps it is because we lost an hour this weekend, but I’m only just getting to my computer today and it is 9:40 at night. I have to admit that when the sun comes out, and warms the Earth (it was 60 degrees here in Maine today) it becomes harder and harder to put butt in chair.

Nevertheless, we all have to move forward with our work despite the weather. Spring does put me in a clean up mode. This weekend I hosted my book club which resulted in an epic “sh*t-out” session. For the moment, I have clean kitchen counters that look like this…

Anything that stayed, got moved to my office though so now it’s time for some office organization. Whether you have an actual office space or desk in the corner of another room, it is good to have some sense of order, even if it is an order only you understand.

Here are ten quick tips to help you out with your spring cleaning whether you are a piler or a filer:

1. I tend to be a piler but piles take up a lot of space on my writing desk. Recently, I picked  up these binder clips at the clearance shelf of Staples.

(What writer doesn’t love office supplies?)
As I clean, I plan to clip these babies onto my piles and hang them on the wall with easy to remove hooks.

2. I find that my bulletin board gets covered in layers of paper. Strips of cork attached to the wall gives me space to hang plot charts and illustration sequences. 

3. I have a dedicated book shelf for books that I’ve borrowed from the library or from friends. That way the loaned books don’t get mixed in with my books. The library books move from the shelf in my office to a tote that I keep in my mudroom. This way, I can grab the bag and go. (Finding my kid’s library books is another question.)

4. I’m lucky to have a skinny but longish space for my office. I have a corner desk for my computer then I have another desk that I try to keep clean for journaling by hand, correspondence, bill paying, editing and revision. I still need to feel the pen in my hand from time to time.

5. My printers are on a wire shelving unit that also holds my paper. I keep a recycling bin and ink and toner in bins under the unit. I can easily grab already printed paper for quick drafts so that I’m reducing paper use.

6. I have a basket on my writing desk that holds all of my bills. Twice a month I do as much as I can online then write checks. (Don’t ask me about taxes. My only advice there is hire an accountant. Best thing we ever did.)

7. My family teases me incessantly about my love of tote bags but they help keep me organized. In addition to the library tote, I also have a tote with the folders (my handouts and syllabus in one and a second for collecting work that needs to be graded) and books I need to take to the college class I teach.

8. When I’m at conferences, I tend to collect a lot of business cards and illustrator postcards. I try to write a little something to remind me of the interaction I had with each person then I slip them into plastic baseball card protectors. If I was really good, I’d have specific separate and divided sections of the binder for industry professionals (agents/editors), authors, illustrators, and other Regional Advisors.

9. Google Calendar is my lifesaver. I hardly do anything without checking the calendar and the fact that I can sync my iPhone and my calendar is a lifesaver. Each kid has his own color for his events, I have school calendar info on there, I even use it as an editorial calendar for my blog– noting book release dates and when I hope to post reviews.

10. I’ve never been able to keep my To Be Read list as well as I do with Goodreads. Again, I can access the list on the go, with the Goodreads App, when I’m at the library or indie book store. This helps with getting books that are on my list, as well as adding to my list. (And adding, and adding.)

Still, projects take over my life and my office, and I’m okay with that. There’s a sense of satisfaction in cleaning it all up and starting over again. Ahh… spring! What tips do you have to stay organized. Please share in the comments!