At this time last Friday, I was standing in a hotel conference room in the middle of a state park, perusing books and chatting with other attendees at the Indiana SCBWI conference. Only a week has passed and already I’m wishing that I could go back and experience that weekend again. This was the first conference I’d been able to attend since 2011 (!!) so it was a big deal for me to get back in the saddle and try my hand at all this again. It was such an inspiration to spend an entire weekend surrounded by other writers and talk about nothing but writing nonstop. I guess for some people that might sound extremely tedious, but I so rarely get to spend more than an hour or two on my writing that this felt like pure luxury.
Going into the conference, I told myself that I should take advantage of every opportunity, even if those opportunities made me a little uneasy. There were definitely some times when I wished I hadn’t made such a promise, but ultimately I was pretty proud of myself. I forced myself to talk to some of the authors who were invited guests even though I was very intimidated (although I know that’s silly), stuck up many conversations with complete strangers, and did an “open mic” reading where you stand at a microphone and read your manuscript for 3 minutes and then get anonymous feedback. I also had my first one-on-one critique with an editor from Abrams Publishing. I had to wait outside in the hallway before the critique and it felt a little like I was waiting to go into the principle’s office…except the principle ended up being younger than me and many of the fellow “students” waiting in the halls were old enough to be retired teachers. J I ended up having a surprisingly reassuring (if not 100% positive) critique. I was relieved…beforehand I’d had some visions of me limping out of the room with tears streaming down my face.
Overall, I think the best thing to come from the conference was an increase to my “self-efficacy.” As I’ve written before in a previous post, this is basically your belief about your capability to perform particular tasks. I definitely had some reservations going into this conference…
Could I drive to another state alone and navigate through a state park to find my hotel? Check.
Did I have the courage to make friends with strangers and exchange information? Check.
To network? *cringe* Check.
To read my book aloud to a room full of strangers? Check.
To sit face-to-face with an editor and take her criticism with a nod and a smile? Check.
To be quite honest, seeing that list of “checks” surprises me in the best possible way. I’m realizing that I’m more capable than I originally thought, and this makes me even more excited for all of the conferences to come!