Saturday, August 9, 2008

Networking and Making Friends

As part of the SCBWI conference in LA, all of the attendees had opportunities to meet in small groups, some of which were organized in an ad hoc fashion, others which were structured as part of the conference program. I took part in two groups: a group for nonfiction writers and another group for International Attendees. I was truly surprised (due to the fact that Canada is a close neighbour of the USA) to find out I was considered an international attendee. 

Regardless, it was a lot of fun to meet writers from Ireland, Australia, Netherlands, Singapore and many other parts of the world. I spent a good portion of that night chatting about favourite books for teens with YA author, Jane Mitchell, from Ireland. Other conference attendees met with their regional groups: e.g. writers and illustrators from Western Washington gathered together, as did creators from Alabama and other southern states, and so on.

The nonfiction group was also interesting. There were about 25 writers who turned up for a lunch meeting on the topic and to do a little sharing and brainstorming. Some of these folks published mainly for magazines or educational publishers; others were aspiring writers and a few more wrote nonfiction books for the trade market. One woman was the author of 115 books! Wow! That's something to strive for. Everyone was keen to see greater representation of nonfiction publishers and editors at the next SCBWI conference, and there may even be a conference coming up in the near future that will be devoted strictly to nonfiction. 

While in LA, I noticed that many of our Canadian nonfiction books for kids have a larger visual and design component than the US books. I'm not sure why there is this difference. Maybe it's in part because Valerie Wyatt, award-winning, senior nonfiction editor at Kids Can Press, came from a magazine background (Owl Magazine), and when she moved into books for kids, she brought her understanding and appreciation of lovely visuals.

Before I left for LA, I "met" a science writer, Ana Maria Rodriguez, online and we had the good fortune of finding each other at the conference and sharing a lot of our impressions about publishing (especially nonfiction) today. She also put me in touch with a list- serve for nonfiction children's authors, called NFforKids. So, it's true what they say about networking. It's a very worthwhile way to make new friends and find out what's happening in publishing in other parts of the world. Note to self: Do more networking. :)

That's all for today. Have a great weekend!

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