I promised details of the conference. So here goes. The conference was five days long and held at the Waterford School in Sandy. (Previous years it’s been held at BYU.) Morning workshops were available but I only attended the afternoon sessions.
Monday’s plenary session was an introduction of the faculty, which are all amazing and if you want you should look them up individually. They included Bonny Becker, Kristyn Crow, Mike Knudson, Alane Ferguson, Sara Zarr, Ann Dee Ellis, Emily Wing Smith, Brandon Mull, Dave Wolverton aka David Farland, Cheri Pray Earl, Rick Walton, Kevin Hawkes and then the organizers Carol Lynch Williams and Lisa Hale. I think they also introduced Mary Kole (visiting agent from Andrea Brown) and Jennifer Hunt (Little Brown Books). They had another Editor Kate Angelella (Simon & Shuster) who pulled out at the last moment due to illness. However she said she would accept queries from conference attendees for 2 months. And they had a local editor Christopher Robbins (Gibbs Smith Publishing) fill in her.
Next, I attended the mingle with Kristyn Crow, Sara Zarr, Rick Walton, and Carol Williams. I know these authors so it was just fun to chat with them.
Next, I went to a session by Cheri Earl entitled: From Teenage Angst to Vampire Romance –the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly in YA lit. It was excellent. A favorite quote was: Storytelling reveals meaning without committing the error of defining it. Hannah Arendt.
Tuesday’s plenary session was Christopher Robbins from Gibbs Smith Publishing. Christopher is an exceptional speaker. Very motivating. He talked about the business part of the book industry and about all the possibilites with media and media marketing. When he finished I think everyone felt like they could be successful. Favorite quotes were: Think beyond the paper and “written word forces clarity of thought.”
Next, I attended the mingle with Christopher Robbins, Kevin Hawkes, Mike Knudson and Alane Ferguson. My friend Annette went with me. We didn’t talk to Kevin as he is an illustrator and we got so caught up with Alane that we stayed with her twice. This was probably the best part of the conference for me. Alane writes forensic YA mysteries. I think she has 30+ published and has quite a following. She is very energetic and enthusiastic. Anyway for her mingle she said she wanted to critique first pages because she thought that would be more beneficial then just answering questions and she asked if anyone had something for critique. I handed her Timeweavers and she LOVED it, to put it mildly. She was so encouraging. She said there wasn’t anything wrong with it and said I should get it to Mary Kole and if Mary wasn’t interested then she (Alane) would send it to her agent. I ended up not going to the third session but hanging around and talking to Alane more.
Wednesday’s plenary session was Jennifer Hunt. She spoke about her experiences as an editor and how to be “kid smart” and “write for excellence.”
Next, I went to the mingle with Jennifer Hunt, Bonny Becker, and Ann Dee Ellis. Dave Wolverton was recovering from an auto injury so didn’t make it. Again, the mingles were good. People asked questions and we learned how they got in the business and/or how they got agents, and/or their experience working with various editors, what to put in query letters, what their writing schedules are, if they do school visits, what they wished they knew when they started, etc. Very informative and great networking!
Wednesday was a short day –no third session– to allow for attendees to write. I spoke with Alane Ferguson again and she told me that Timeweavers was the topic of discussion at their lunch and Rick Walton later confirmed that. Imagine my excitement! I went home and called my co-author Jane and we quickly revised the first 15 pages to tighten and polish every word. And I took a copy the next day.
On Thursday, the morning workshop classes went to lunch together so the plenary session was omitted to allow them more time, plus to give extra time for everyone to check out the conference bookstore that was onsite, sponsored by a local independent bookseller, The King’s English.
At 3 p.m. they announced the winners of the First Page Contest (not me) and we had the keynote address by novelist Mary E. Pearson. It was entitled Always a Work in Progress. She said we “have a calling to create a story.” She quoted a NY Times poll that stated 82% of Americans say they want to write a book. But wanting to write is very different from actually doing it. She said “Real writers write!” Favorite quote: Even a book that only reaches one person changes the world forever. She said we should write the book to please ourselves whether or not it ever gets published and when we write to make every word count.
The next session was a book signing opportunity with all of the faculty available. I made a point of speaking to Alane again and thanking her for her kind words and help. She said no thanks were necessary that the manuscript was excellent. After getting some books signed, Annette and I went outside on the lawn to talk, relax and enjoy refreshments. They had large fancy cookies and punch (or water). It seemed so appropriate for children’s book writers!
Friday’s plenary session was with Mary Kole (Andrea Brown Literary Agency). She explained in detail how to sub to her and what she was interested in aquiring. The policy is to get back to authors after 6-8 weeks, and if you don’t hear than it is a “no.” (I was able to sub Timeweavers so I guess we’ll wait to see what happens.) Mary said she is trying to build her list and actually used the phrase that she was “hungry,” which I loved. She talked about marketing, and the condition of the industry. She talked about various genres. She talked about writing with confidence with authority. She talked about the importance of reading a lot and of writing a lot. Favorite quote: “If I can resist a book, I resist it. Ursula Nordstrom.” Mary said: Write a book that can’t be resisted. Oh, the most interesting thing we learned was that Andrea Brown is opening an East coast office in three weeks and Mary is moving there to run that office.
I next went to the mingle with Mary Kole, Brandon Mull, Emily Wing Smith, and Cheri Earl. Again, it was a good session. Mary’s part was more/less a continuation of her talk. I know or had heard Brandon and Cheri speak before but it was fun to get to talk to Emily. One thing that Brandon said that I hadn’t remembered is that he writes in “scenes.” Someone had asked him how he knew where to start a book and he said he starts with the first scene. I found that interesting because Jane and I write in scenes. I skipped the next session to continue talking and listening to Mary Kole in an impromptu mingle.
Then we had the “Closing Extravaganza” where dozens (two large boxes) of books and other door prizes were given away. The bigger prizes were certificates for free critiques from various faculty members, and the grand prize was a certificate to submit 10 pages to Mary Kole. Then the organizers wrapped up and announced the final bit of entertainment: Cheri Earl and Carol Williams singing Lady Gaga with made up words about writing a bad romance novel with backup singers and dancers from the faculty assistants and Alane Ferguson and Mary Kole joining in. It was wonderfully funny and energetic and over-the-top fun!
Then we all went home to collapse and try to digest everything we’d learned and to start writing our next best seller. I was so glad my friend Annette came from Ohio and we had a wonderful time. She said it was the best conference she’d ever attended. I do think WIFYR is a great one. I’ve never done “mingles” except at this conference and I think they are amazing. I’m a little surprised that everyone doesn’t go to them, but somehow they don’t so the groups were small, ranging from 6-20 attendees per faculty member. I would encourage every aspiring childrens book writer to attend this conference.