Monday, November 14, 2005

Sharpening My Ax

Back before children, I lectured regularly about self-promotion and marketing for small businesses. One story I told often featured a man so driven to cut down enough trees for his woodstove for the winter that he forgot to sharpen his ax, and in the end collected far less than he needed to keep his family warm.

The moral of the story: to increase your chances of success in life or business, take time out for yourself. Sharpen your ax or risk failure. Time out might mean taking a class or two to grow your skills or keep them updated. Time out might mean reading regularly in your field of expertise. Time out might mean taking time away to help bring perspective to a situation.

Last Saturday, I sharpened my ax by attending the Illinois SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) First Annual Prairie Writer’s Day at Dominican University in River Forest. The event featured talks on a variety of topics, a panel of acquiring editors, and one acquiring agent. Two of the sessions focused on trends in children’s publishing, and what’s new in kid lit. Another featured author-editor teams, and discussions about their working relationships. My favorite part of the day was the segment in which editors responded to anonymous first pages of manuscripts after they were read to the audience.

I imagine the editors felt a bit uncomfortable with the silence that followed some of the readings, but I’m so grateful they played along. Hearing their off-the-cuff reactions to what hooked them, what irked them, and why, gave me invaluable insights into my own work.

One of the first pages was my own. In the end, after they discussed the questions my opening had raised, they all wanted to read more.

I arrived home feeling energized about the day. A big reason why: attending the conference gave me permission to wear my writer’s hat the entire day without guilt.

Appetite for writing today: Ravenous.


Chris Barton said...

Sounds like a great day -- there's nothing like that post-conference high, and I love seeing behind the curtain of author-editor relationships.

Who were the guest authors, editors and agent?

Kim Winters said...

Hi Chris,

Editors in attendance included Eden Edwards of Houghton Mifflin with Hillary Frank, author of Better Than Running at Night, I Can't Tell You, and the upcoming Hedonophobia and Other Shades of Fear; Kevin Lewis of Simon and Schuster with Julia Durango, author of Dream Hop and three more upcoming picture books; Sarah Ketchersid of Candlewick with Carmelo Martino, author of Rosa Sola; and agent Rebecca Sherman from Writers House. (By the way, according to Rebecca's fact sheet, the majority of her clients are first-time authors, and she is reading unsolicited material.)