If any of you reading this are writers for children, one of the best things you can do for your writing career is join SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) and attend conferences. The one day conferences around the San Francisco Bay area are affordable and give writers (and illustrators) an opportunity to have their work critiqued by professionals and to meet agents and editors.
At the annual October Oakland SCBWI conference, I received a very helpful critique on the first ten pages of my immigration story, Shell, Crossing the Border, from Bethany Strout, editor with Little, Brown, Books for Young Readers. I’ve since revised and improved the manuscript based on her comments. Everyone who submitted work for critique was automatically entered in a contest for the best first page. To my surprise and delight, the first page of Shell was the winner! There was even a small monetary prize. Here’s the first paragraph:
At first, Papá was only gone longer than usual to work in el Norte. His letters came farther apart. There were no more calls to the tienda on the corner where the shopkeeper lets neighbors use the telephone. Money came less often. Then, nothing.
Conferences are the best way to reach agents and editors with your work. My friend Eric, in my critique group, met his agent at a conference last year. He now has one of his picture books signed on for publication, and interest in others. One of the agents at the Oakland conference has expressed an interest in Shell, and requested the full manuscript. Wish me luck.