I did not get as much out of the conference this year as last, but after a year of writing, I know a little more. So stuff was more repetitive. I guess that's a good sign that I'm learning my ropes. There were a few overarching themes, however, and a piece of good news that had me leaving thoughtful and even a little uplifted:
1. Get an agent. This is a new idea for me. I'd heard over and over again it is as hard (if not harder) to find an agent than a publisher, so you might as well send to publishers. This time, the editor, agent, and a few other presenters were pushing for agents. Okay, this makes sense to me, but it's an education in selling yourself. My impression is that it is easier to get an agent if you have at least been writing for awhile, because they want to see someone who has more than one work to sell. So that's my goal. Get 5 good stories together (I have at least three now), send the best out to some great agents, turn three times, kiss my left toe, and hope for the best.
2. Focus on character. Okay. This is hard for me. I'm not an English major, so talk of character, plot, sub-character, narration, pov, and so on, scare me. I can't help it. But I can understand the appeal of a great character. Looking back on my own childhood, my fondest books all revolve around a really great character: Curious George, Amelia Bedelia (my absolute fav), and Raggedy Ann. And the books my children love now have strong characters: Olivia, Duck, Franklin, Percy Jackson. I get the message. Character-driven books are a slam dunk. (It shouldn't be too hard to pull one of those out of my hat, right???)
3. Picture books are coming back. Hallelujah. After years of hearing the picture book is dead, Jennifer Mattson predicts a comeback. Thank you and thank you. I love the picture book. I'm almost embarrassed to raise my hand at conferences when asked, "Who writes picture books?" Because I know there are a lot of people out there writing a lot of mediocre picture books about puppies and frogs and jumping over logs, etc., etc. But I think picture books can be one of the most beautiful forms of literature around. A perfect blend of text of pictures is an awe-inspiring thing (insert my audible yearning for being someone who can pull this off). So Ms. Mattson has inspired me to stand up among the proud and admit I write picture books.