Answers! (Part Nine: CONFERENCES)

It's not often that I have so much happy news to share within such a relatively short time, but late summer has been fantastic to my friends and me, and I'm thrilled to announce:


Many of you already read her blog, but for those who don't, Natalie is a stellar writer (her entries have made me both laugh and cry), her novel has one of the most awesome titles ever (Relax, I'm a Ninja), and she's just an all-around solidly NICE PERSON.

If you've been reading my blog for a while, you know how highly I think of people who are nice. To everyone. And not just because they have to be, but because that's just how they are.

And . . . not only did Natalie get an agent, but she got her DREAM AGENT
, Nathan Bransford. Yes. The Nathan Bransford of the insanely popular blog. That very one!

If you haven't congratulated her yet, I encourage you to do so. Getting an agent is one of the most exciting things that ever happens to a writer. It's the first real sense of validation and accomplishment — Someone LIKES me. Someone thinks I can make a career out of this! — and it's a huge cause for celebration.

Natalie loves Miyazaki. Here's Kiki, mojo intact.

I still have a few questions left, but I'm answering only one today, because Things Are Busy en la casa de Perkins.

The fabulous Myrna asks:

Have you ever attended a writer's conference? If so, did it make a difference?

I touched on this topic a bit here, but I shall elaborate now.

I've attended exactly one writer's conference. I'm not the model spokeswoman for them, obviously, but yes. It made a difference. That conference changed my life.

I didn't think I was ready for one — I hadn't finished my manuscript, I wouldn't know anyone there, I didn't know what to expect — but a good friend encouraged me to go. She said I was exactly the type of person who should be attending conferences.

And she was right.

I chose my conference carefully. Since I write for teens, SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators) was the natural choice, but there are TONS of great conferences for all types of writers — mystery, romance, science fiction and fantasy, etc. It's important that you chose the right organization first.

After you've found . . . Your People . . . you'll probably have several choices of conferences to attend. You can attend one of the giant national ones (held once or twice a year) or one of the smaller regional ones (each region usually has one big yearly conference plus several small gatherings).

Budget will probably play a role in what you choose to attend.

I was lucky enough to be able to afford a plane ticket, so my next decision was, "Which national conference should I go to?" With SCBWI, I had two choices: the summer conference in Los Angeles or the winter conference in New York City.

I chose neither.

I made a slightly peculiar decision and went to a regional conference not in my region. But with good reason! I only had the cash for one trip, which meant it had to accomplish several things at once: I wanted to (casually-but-professionally) introduce myself to my dream agent, I wanted to meet a bunch of cool published writers, and I wanted to travel someplace interesting.

(I should have looked at the list of offered workshops, but frankly, I didn't care. You probably will, so read the schedule of events carefully! Luckily, mine turned out to be great. Phew! And if you have no idea what agents/editors/publishing houses/etc you're interested in, conferences are one of the best places to learn.)

Anyway, my criteria led me to Western Washington. The conference was two days, and it was INCREDIBLE. It's difficult to describe the feeling you get when you suddenly realize you're surrounded by Your People. Where everyone knows who Jon Scieszka is and worships at the altar of Arthur Levine. THIS is what you'll love about attending a conference.


I can be rather shy, but it was easy to make friends — everyone there has something in common, after all — and the workshops were helpful. I was surprised by how easy it was to talk to the published authors and illustrators (how normal they were) and how down-to-Earth the people from the publishing houses were (including, yes, Arthur Levine). I'd always imagined these Big Shot New Yorkers as scary and intimidating, but no one I met fit that description.

Basically, the conference made my dream of getting published seem a lot less scary and a lot more attainable.

It gave me hope.

Of course . . . I also did talk to my dream agent, who later became my real agent. I met super-couple Laini Taylor and Jim Di Bartolo, who are now two of my favorite people on the planet, and I met my west coast doppelganger Mindi Scott.

So yeah. Conferences?

ABSOLUTELY worth it!*

One last thing. Today I was looking through a list of this blog's followers, and I ran across this site: Hey! Teenager of the Year

I think we can all agree that's pretty much the best blog name ever.

(From this Steph to the other, thanks for following me!)

*Conferences are also way fun. Just so you know.


  1. Congrats to Natalie!

    And, hey! I was at that conference, too! It was actually my favorite ever (and that's the truth)!

  2. Jolie — Of COURSE it was your favorite! You kicked butt putting it together!! Seriously, WOW. It was wonderful. And it was so nice meeting you (as very, *very* brief as it was).

  3. Aw, I love you! You're pretty nice yourself. Okay, you're ridiculously nice and supportive. Thanks for all the kind words to keep me going:)

    I really want to go to a conference. Someday. Me, you, Kiersten, etc. It'll crazy FUN.

  4. Relax, I'm a ninja... Brilliant. Good name, no, great name.

    I was at that conference too Stephanie. Where Jolie and Sarah were touted endlessly for being so WELL ORGANIZED. It was bitchin'. Truly.

    And complete agreement about Arthur. The most approachable guy imaginable, providing you're not shoving a manuscript into his satchel (yeah, I used the word satchel, what?) or interrupting him when he's mobbed by a crowd of cooing writers. Incredibly tender-hearted guy.

    So you and I probably met Stephanie and I was probably like, "hey nice to meet you, I'm a writer too," and you were like, "pssh, whatever, I just got mad love from my dream agent and am ON MY WAY pee-on!"

    Or something like that. And you kicked sand in my face. If there had been any sand at that insanely nice and spotless conference center.

  5. Just stopped by Natalie's to say congratulations!!!

    Thanks for sharing your conference story :D My favorite line? "THESE ARE YOUR PEOPLE." Hahahaha! Even though I know it was meant in all fun seriousness. And I agree on Steph Bowe's blog's name--it's awesome. And a neat place to stop by.

    (And I just noticed my blog under your Read Something list. It gave me a smile; thanks!)

  6. the fabulous myrna10:06 PM GMT-5

    I love you, Stephanie! Thank you for giving details. You already answered my question a while ago, and I know how busy you are.

    I'm so happy for Natalie. Her writing and artwork are amazing.

    Happy/productive vibes going your way! You are one of the nicest, most encouraging people out there.

  7. Good morning, Stephanie.

    I just thought of a question...I know Q and A is over, but I was just wondering what the whole "natural/artificial" thing was in reference to......some kind of Dan Brown Lost Symbol thing? Or perhaps your stance on sugar substitutes? A code word that only really cool people know (which I guess leaves me out...sigh)?

    September is a great month for editing and revising, you know. Everyone's inner back-to-school kid is awakened and put back to work!


  8. That was fun to read since I am attending my regional SCBWI next weekend. They sent us a list with all of the "rules," one being not to corner editors/agents in the bathroom. Funny.

  9. Congrats Natalie! And Jessica for your early deadline!

    And yeah - conferences are the total bomb! I go to LA every year which is ultra fun, but this month I am doing my first "out of my region" one.

    So, wish me luck! I'm hoping to meet some cute peeps and get some new inspiration.

    have a great weekend!


  10. Dear Stephanie, You have been dubbed. Signed, I, uh, think I killed my muse.

  11. Stephanie,
    I linked here from BJW's blog. You definitely deserve the dubbing!

  12. Natalie — Love you too :) I can't *wait* for that conference.

    Ben — ("yeah, I used the word satchel, what?" Mwahahahaha! And that's why we're friends.) And it's funny, because I do vaguely remember kicking sand in someone's face. Was that really you? I wasn't looking at nametags, being so Self-Important and all. Also, of course you were at this WELL ORGANIZED event! I should have known. All — or at least 95% — of the cool kids were.

    Sarah — Oh, you're so welcome. I love your blog!

    Fabulous Myrna — You're very welcome. I wanted to talk about it sometime, so I was glad you asked! Also, thank you. It might sound cheesey or hokey, but I swear it's the truth when I say that the reason why I blog is because I love to receive comments like yours. In other words, the encouragement goes both ways.

    Shelley — Ooo, excellent question. (And one I've never talked about here.) I added it to my list, thanks! Also, it's definitely not a cool person thing. If it were, you would know what it meant!

    Jessie — Oh, awesome! I hope you have a GREAT time. (And, yeah, I can imagine the bathroom thing being pretty uncomfortable! I've also heard of people slipping manuscripts under agent/editor hotel room doors. Can you believe??)

    Katie — Have fun & good luck! I hope we run into each other at one of these someday. Us Southern gals need to stick together!

    Ben Again — THANK YOU!!!

    Ben Again Again — !!!!!!!!!!!!

    Lazy — Thank you so much! And welcome to my blog!

    Shelli — *Natalie High Five*

  13. Thanks for this. I've been to a few conferences, but nothing national or out of my state. I definitely need to do that.

  14. We ought to hold our own conference. You can do a session on hot British men. I'll come to it.

  15. *oops, put this on the wrong post, but anyway I wanted to tell you that I just got my Publisher's Weekly email and saw your announcement in it! It was pretty cool to think, I know her. :) Congrats!! Your book sounds fantastic. I'm personally a huge fan of Hot British Men. :)

  16. Elana — You're welcome! And yes, I bet you'd love them. The conference was great but getting to travel someplace cool was even better!

    Carrie — Our conference is ON, man. I can't wait for your Richard Simmons panel.

    Renee — Wow, thank you! I'm so happy (and flattered) you noticed me. Kiersten & Natalie say such wonderful things about you. I can't wait until I get to read your work, too!

    Steph — You are very, very welcome! (Seriously. Great. Blog name.)