1) An unbelievably friendly and helpful staff - beginning with Leeza Hernandez, regional advisor, as seen here giving the welcoming address on Saturday, June 8, 2013
2) An amazing, kind and welcoming membership that made me feel, as a first-time attendee to their conference, like I'd always been part of the group.
3) The ability to communicate with talented writers who have won numerous awards, such as Ame Dyckman, winner of this year's crystal kite award.
4) Access to agents, such as my one-on-one critique mentor, Stephen Barbara, from Foundry Literary. Other mentors that I had the privilege to sit with at lunch, Louise Fury of the L. Perkins Agency and Jessica Regel of the Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency Inc. All were pleasures to speak with, and all, a wealth of information.
5) Access to editors, such as Connie Hsu, from Little Brown Books. I enjoyed finally being able to meet her in person, after not being able to attend the spring retreat hosted by WPA SCBWI in 2011 because I'd taken ill. Jenn Abramowitz, Senior Editor, Scholastic was also there, as was Melissa Faulner, Editorial Assistant, Abrams, and many others.
6) Fantastic and up-to-date sessions -some of my favorites, listed below.
7) Sitting in on a wonderful session by Kathy Temean. Her tips for how to market yourself before you have sold your book, after you have signed a contract, four months to launch, one month prior and launch date were fantastic. There's no doubt I'll use each and every one of them should I be fortunate enough to land a contract.
8) Sitting in on book trailer session by Kim McDougall. Wow! I knew I'd watched some good trailers and some that were awfully bad, but I never knew everything that went into making the really good ones. I'll use all of her fantastic tips.
9) Blueprinting a novel by Wendy Mass. She gave a super interesting approach to outlining a novel. She made it sound so easy, and although I've never had success with outlining before, the whole idea made me think that it might be worth a try.
1 0) Battling your inner censor with Jen Hubbard and Kit Grindstaff. All of us have had scenes we had difficulty writing, some more so than others. We received a few strategies, among them visualization, to help us push through the block.
11) Online registration. It may sound so simple, but the process of registering via computer was made so simple. Paperless. Effortless. Thanks. I hope we soon implement something similar to this with my local chapter.
12) Early registration. I received my initial e-mail on March 10. The preplanning for this conference was fantastic, one of the reasons, I believe, for its success.
13) The ability to select agents you wish to meet. A list of agents willing to give critiques were made available. Applicants were taken on a first-come, first-serve basis, and because I registered early enough, I was able to get the one-on-one critique from my agent of choice.
14) Electronic submissions for all manuscripts needing to be reviewed and a cut-off date for uploading the documents. This gave ample time for the editor or agent to thoroughly review your material. By the way, it was made quite clear, that if you were late uploading the document your timeslot would be lost. Very fair, indeed.
15) Dining arrangements - Editors and agents were seated at various dining tables. All attendees had the option, especially if they registered early enough, to choose the table where they wished to sit. Once again, early registration allowed me to sit with my agents of choice. I learned a heck of a lot about the business while enjoying a couple fantastic meals.
16) Critique groups. Peer critique groups were made available to those who wished to participate. I knew I would've run out of energy, so I didn't sign up for those, but I understand from other attendees that they were fantastic.
17) First page sessions. Editors and agents listened to first pages, which we know are the most important part of the manuscript.
18) Fantastic keynote speakers - Peter Brown, author illustrator - Tara Lazar, (seen here during her keynote speech) picture book author - Lauren Oliver, New York Times best-selling author. All three gave uplifting speeches. My notebook is full of their words of wisdom.
The bottom line is: I was promised by two of my Route 19 fellow writers, Marcy Collier and Kitty Griffin, that I would have an amazing experience if I attended the June 7-9, 2013, New Jersey SCBWI conference.
Wow! Promises kept.
Now, just like them, I recommend this conference to anyone looking for a fantastic learning experience with a fantastic group of people. And... I plan to join them again next year.