Sunday, January 29, 2012

Back from SCBWI's Winter Conference

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As usual, the SCBWI winter conference was part marathon, part emotional roller coaster. The timing for this conference is always hard for me because for whatever reason, the jobs I've had  have prevented me from taking time off around it, so I go straight from a full week of work to one and a half very full days of presentations and self-examination. The self-examination isn't a requirement, but it's inevitable for me because this conference always makes me wonder why I continue to try to get published when it's hard to write and it's even harder to get noticed.The children's book market is not what it was even five years ago. Harry Potter transformed the landscape of the market, and The Hunger Games and Twilight helped take young adult from a genre that publishers were seriously thinking was dead to one of the fastest growing genres in the publishing industry. Speaking of YA and genres, several editors and agents confirmed something I've suspected for a while now: YA is unique. Unlike adult, most YA novels are like a genre of their own because they tend to be a blend of romance, mystery, and possibly a little sci fi or fantasy. I know that happens sometimes in adult books, but YA does seem to be more resistant to conforming to the conventions of one traditional genre. That's totally appropriate though. I wouldn't expect anything less from books meant for teens. Now if we could just convince Barnes and Normal to get rid of that annoying Paranormal Romance section. Really, you guys? Who's into that?

When I seriously re-committed myself to writing around this time last year, I thought I was close to finishing my revision and getting an agent. Now, I feel farther away than ever. Nothing has happened to make me believe that my writing is getting worse or that I've become ridiculously inept with publishing industry professionals. It's just impossible to ignore the rejections everyone else receives and the years it takes to get an agent---10 and 15 were common numbers for successful authors. That sounds like a very long time.

To reflect back on Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods, maybe I'm on a trail uphill and it's too steep to see the view. I just hope that it's sensational and doesn't come with a nasty drop-off.