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013 SCBWI-Montreal Conference Report (Part 1): crepes, Bookstore Bash readings, comfort zones…and my opening keynote (!!)

Pin I designed for this year’s conference, crafted by Alma Fullerton.

Part 1 – Part 2 – Part 3

I just got back from the SCBWI Canada East conference in Montreal. Huge thanks to Lizann FlattAlma FullertonPeggy Collins, Michelle Jodoin and Rachel Eugster for creating such a wonderful event! I’ve posted my photos on Flickr and on Facebook.

Peggy Collins, Alma Fullerton, Jennifer Lanthier (Crystal Kite recipient) and Lizann Flatt 

This was my first time attending a SCBWI regional conference, which was much smaller than the national conferences in LA and NYC. To those of you who find the national events somewhat overwhelming, I strongly encourage you to attend regional events like this one. The size made for a less intimidating atmosphere, with more opportunities to meet industry professionals in a quieter setting.

Hanging out by the koi pond on Saturday night. This casual gathering (open to all attendees) included Laurent Linn (Simon & Schuster), Linda Pratt (Wernick & Pratt), Bonnie Bader (Penguin) and Jill Santopolo (Penguin).

After I arrived on the Friday, I met up with some of the organizers and faculty at Creperie Chez Suzette in Old Montreal:

Linda Pratt (Wernick & Pratt agency), Jill Santopolo (Philomel/Penguin), Alma Fullerton, Bonnie Bader (Grosset & Dunlap, Price Stern Sloan/Penguin), Lizann Flatt

I helped them finish a decadent caramel-ly crepe (yummmm).  My room was ready when I got back to the hotel, yay! I checked in, unpacked, and then headed downstairs to see who was around.

Top row, L to R: Lizann Flatt, Kelley Fairbank, Niall Eccles, Ellie Arscott, Caroline, Jasmine, Alma Fullerton. Bottom row, L to R: Alice Yen Yong, Robin Walton, me, Laurent Linn.

Some of us met in the lobby and introduced ourselves before having a fine dinner at a Chinese restaurant (Laurent Linn and I split a Magical Dancing Shrimp dish…ok, I can’t recall the exact name) and then heading off to the Bookstore Book Bash.

SCBWI-Montreal conference attendees were invited (along with the public) to a book reading by SCBWI authors/illustrators at Babar-En-Ville, a children’s bookstore in Montreal. I met Maya Byers, owner/buyer at the store, as well her son. Maya was already familiar with my sister and her books!

So enjoyed hearing readings from so many different types of children’s and YA books, including authors Rachel EugsterJennifer LanthierCaroline PignatUrve TambergPeggy CollinsJill Santopolo (who is also an editor at Penguin), Alma Fullerton and Lizann Flatt.

Also great to meet Carol-Ann Hoyte in person at last…

as well as other familiar names/faces.

I felt a bit of pressure reading I’M BORED in front of my art director for the first time! But Laurent said I did fine:

Thanks to all who came out to the Bookstore Bash! It was a great way to start off the weekend.

The next morning, I woke up extra early to test out my tech set-up before my opening keynote. I wanted to make sure my slides worked with the projector … and they did (*whew*). I had a brief brain spasm at one point during setup and forgot how to assign Keynote presentation to a different monitor, so woke up Jeff with a phonecall to ask him something he had already explained the day before. I do have a patient husband. 🙂

Registration table, manned by Ellie Arscott & Peggy Collins.

After the welcome and opening announcements, it was my turn! As some of you may know, I was nervous about my opening keynote. I’ve always avoided public speaking, mainly because I used to have a bad stammering problem when I was younger (it was a struggle even saying “hello” on the phone). Although I’m fine these days, it still crops up occasionally and especially when I get stressed or tired.

I started to say yes to public speaking invites, though, because I figure it’s good for me and my career. I try to step out of my comfort zone on a regular basis, to do things that terrify me every once in a while, because it keeps me from getting too complacent.

Giving my opening keynote at SCBWI-Montreal! Photo credit: Urve Tamberg.

My sister, who is super-experienced at speaking in front of both grown-ups and young people, gave me some tips, and so did some of my Torkidlit friends. My husband helped me finetune my talk as well as providing tech support.

And guess what? Not only did my talk go well (according to later feedback), but after the initial few moments of sheer terror, I actually (*gasp) started HAVING FUN. I talked about my career path, what I’ve learned along the way, advice I wish I could give my younger self, and some tips on how to get the most out of the conference.

Here was an example of what NOT to do:

Above: one of the slide sequences I created for my keynote. J = Jill Santopolo and B = Bonnie Bader, the two editors on the SCBWI-Montreal faculty. 🙂

Continued in Part 2

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