Saturday, July 12, 2014

Conference Notes and Insights: Part 1

By Lacey Gunter

Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers - 2014 Participant I attended the conference Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers (WIFYR) in June, my very first writers conference. It was a very enjoyable and enriching experience and I am grateful for all the faculty and staff who put in such hard work to make it happen. Here are some of the notes and insights I got from the conference. I will probably share a few more the next time I post again.

General Insight:  The best way to get real access to agents and editors at a conference is to be part of the conference staff.

Notes and insights from Editor Kristin Ostby:

What editors are looking for when they read your manuscript:
1. Strong voice
2. Captivating language
3. Compelling Narrator/Protagonist
4. Tension
5. Interesting Setting

You don't have to have all of these on the first page of your manuscript, but you should have more than one (likewise for any page in your manuscript).

Notes and insights from agent John Cusick:

1.  Have a small goal for every day - something manageable

2. Measure your success in your daily goals first by whether you sat down and started, not necessarily by whether you finished or did well

3. Writing is a process, forget you are writing a book and just work on writing a page

4. Create a literal or virtual space that you reserve just for writing; for example, you can pull out an object to set on your desk or by your computer that tells your brain this is writing time

5. Turn off your phone and the internet on the device you are using (you can download the program Freedom if you have trouble enforcing this on your own)

6. To keep yourself from going edit crazy while you are trying to write, give your inner critique voice a name, for example,  Paige,  and when needed tell yourself  "That's just Paige talking, and I don't have to listen to her right now."

7. Be tough on yourself, but feel free to let your mind wander and take breaks from writing all together, either periodically or after the completion of a big project

8. When you are feeling tortured in your writing, you might be writing your best stuff

9. Periodically write things for yourself that you have no intention of sharing with others; this will free you to let your creativity go in any direction it wants and can bring back your joy or passion for writing

10. Allow yourself to be strange, different or eccentric, these are the things that often make you a great writer


  1. I love that we MMWs are all over the country/world, because whenever any of us attend a writing conference we come back and share the wisdom we gained and it’s like we can go to ALL these great writing conferences! So fun. Thanks so much for sharing- these were all things I needed to hear right now!



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