Conventions and Conferences: The YA Perspective

Cropped Me Looking Over CreekGuest post by Rachel Hanley

Literature conferences fall into three categories: academic (focused on analyzing and exploring texts and authors from various perspectives), fan (focused on celebrating common interests), and professional (focused on networking as well as writing and publishing advice).

SCBWI, for those who don’t know, stands for The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. If you want to publish picture books, middle grade, or young adult, I suggest joining.SCBWI conferences fall into the professional category. The programming focuses on improving your writing and publishing your work. Writers, published and unpublished alike, as well as editors and agents attend, and you can sign up for helpful critiques of your work.I primarily write young adult fantasy, and I attend both conferences focused on young adult literature and conferences focused on fantasy literature, but it’s important to remember that, marketing-wise, my work is young adult first and fantasy second. So, from a publishing angle, SCBWI has probably been the most useful conference for me, giving tips about specific agents’ and editors’ current needs.However, writing-wise, even non-YA focused conferences can be fantastic for YA writers. One of my favorite conferences is Sirens, which fixates on strong female writers and characters in fantasy. This includes, but is not limited to, young adult fantasy, but regardless the vibrant discussions in the programming always leave me inspired and motivated. Sirens also deliberately blends elements from the three types I mentioned above, so if you don’t have much conference-going experience this one can give you a taste of all three.

In general, though, I advise attending many different conferences. All of the types – academic, fan, and professional – because they all offer different things. Big versus small. Narrowed focus versus wide focus. I’ve learned useful things, but the best part about attending conferences is meeting new people, people with similar interests and goals. Some of my best friends these days are people I met at writing conferences years ago!

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