Skip to content

Episode 15 – Getting the Most Out of Workshops and Conferences

Episode 15 – Getting the Most Out of Workshops and Conferences

In this episode, Sharon and Christy talk about workshops and conferences, why they’re important, how to decide which ones to attend, and how to get the most out of them.



Sharon’s Action Item

Make a list of the things that you value and that would be most important to you. So when the opportunity comes to attend a webinar or a conference, you have a list that you can go to and say, “Okay, here are the things that I want to get out of it. Here are the things I need to be looking at.”

Put the cost down on one side of the page and put the value down on the other side, and yuse it to determine if this is where you want to put your resources.

Christy’s Action Item

Take a look at what’s out there. A lot of things are coming back in person this year. And a lot of things are still virtual.

There will continue to be virtual options, hybrid options, and in-person options. So take a look at SCBWI’s website. There’s an event section. You can see other regions offer virtual workshops that you can attend no matter which region you, live in, which is great.


Coaching KidLit Transcript

[00:00:00] Christy Yaros: Welcome to Coaching KidLit, a podcast about writing and publishing Good KidLit.

Sharon Skinner: We dig into various aspects of writing craft through a KidLit lens, and provide inspiration and clear actionable items to help writers like you move forward on their KidLit writing journeys.

Sharon Skinner: I’m Sharon Skinner. Author Accelerator, certified book coach and author of Speculative Fiction and KidLit, including picture books, middle grade and young adult.

Christy Yaros: And I’m Christy Yaros, author accelerator, certified book coach and story editor focusing on KidLit, including middle grade and young adult.

[00:00:39] Sharon Skinner: Hey Christie.

[00:00:40] Christy Yaros: Hey Sharon.

[00:00:42] Sharon Skinner: How are you?

[00:00:43] Christy Yaros: Recovering, recovering from a long weekend at the New York conference.

[00:00:49] Sharon Skinner: Oh, excellent. Let’s talk about workshops and conferences today. I think that’s a great topic.

[00:00:55] Christy Yaros: How convenient.

[00:00:56] Sharon Skinner: So tell me a little bit about this conference, the experience and why you chose to go to this specific conference.

[00:01:04] Christy Yaros: Sure. So by the time you are all hearing this, this took place in mid-February. It was the New York SCBWI conference, which is an annual conference that SCBWI does. In the winter they do a New York conference and in the summer they typically did an LA conference. We’ve been virtual for three years, so this was the first time back in person at a very large conference.

So, as our listeners may or may not know, you and I are both part of the regional team from SCBWI, so I am a volunteer in my New England region. And so part of our job is going to these conferences so that we can meet our members. But also, we’re also creators, so we go for craft, for networking for coffee, all day coffee.

[00:01:54] Sharon Skinner: All day coffee. Yeah. So this was one that I did not go to because I could not fit the travel into my schedule. So going to New York from Arizona is a big deal and for you, it’s a little bit more convenient logistically speaking.

It’s a choice which conferences we go to. And you went to this one for multiple reasons, and I know that there were a couple of sessions that you were very interested in, so you want to talk a little bit about that?

[00:02:27] Christy Yaros: Sure. So the format of this year at this conference was different. So this was a pretty intensive conference where we chose, they called them I think Creative Labs and we chose one workshop that we were in three times over the two days.

So it was, I think two and a half hours in the morning on Saturday, two and a half hours in the afternoon on Saturday, and another two and a half hours on Sunday. So, it was like masterclass. Deep dive into topics and I went to beginnings and endings with Cheryl Klein and Sarah Aronson. And I’ve never seen Cheryl Klein speak.

And of course, you know, we’re always talking about her book The Magic Words and how just as an editor she resonates with me the way that she teaches and the way that she explains things makes sense to me. And I haven’t seen Sarah Aronson speak since she was in New England, probably 10 or 12 years ago.

I don’t remember what it was about, but she teaches a lot of workshops at Highlights now on novels. And so it was fantastic. The two of them playing off each other, tag teaming saying the same thing, but in a different way. so maybe the way Cheryl explained it didn’t make sense to you, but then Sarah popped in and explained it from her perspective and that made sense.

It was really good. But I will say it was really intense after being virtual. All of 2020, 21, and 22, we were virtual.

[00:03:53] Sharon Skinner: Yeah.

[00:03:53] Christy Yaros: And now being in person is a whole different experience. There’s no close caption in person.

[00:04:00] Sharon Skinner: Yeah, it’s hard to take a screenshot.

[00:04:02] Christy Yaros: We had to wear pants and shoes.

[00:04:04] Sharon Skinner: Oh yeah. There you go.

[00:04:06] Christy Yaros: You know, there’s other people around, but no cats and no dogs. So maybe that’s a plus. But of course the keynotes, Marla Frazee spoke and I’m pretty sure they must put in the contract. And maybe you can speak to this because you’re the one who writes the contracts when you do your conferences, is there a line that says, must make people cry at least twice during the keynote?

[00:04:32] Sharon Skinner: We don’t, we don’t have that in our contract. But yeah, the keynotes usually do a pretty amazing job, and it’s always impressive to hear them speak about their journey, their experience, and all of. And then that leads me to say this is one of the reasons that we go to workshops and conferences. You know, both of us, we’ve been doing this for, well, you just talked about at least 10 years ago you saw Sarah speak and you’re still looking to hear what she has to say.

We’re always looking for that next New idea or articulation of an old idea or hearing something again that we may have heard before, but we hear it in a new way or we hear it in the moment that we need it.

[00:05:19] Christy Yaros: Definitely.

[00:05:21] Sharon Skinner: And so there’s a lot of value in going to workshops and conferences, whether they be virtual or in person.

And for beginners especially, there’s a lot of value because you may be hearing a lot of this stuff for the first time.

[00:05:37] Christy Yaros: Yeah. And you just never know who’s going to say something that’s going to resonate with you. So maybe as an author, you think listening to a keynote from an illustrator isn’t going to be useful to me, but it is.

And especially I think, keynotes, they’re telling you a story about their journey and we all love to hear other people’s journeys and find where we connect. You know, we’re always looking for connections and just listening and you feel inspired and you’re sitting in a room with a thousand people, uh, that are here for the same reason that you are.

And being in a space with people who are like you and have the same goals as you, where you’re all feeling that moment together. And it’s cheesy, but when you look and everybody’s crying and sniffling and trying not to let anybody else see that they’re crying and they’re sniffling.

And maybe even more so this time, because it was the first time that so many of us have been in person to hear it right there.

[00:06:36] Sharon Skinner: Still the whole experiential moment of hearing someone speak about a personal journey. I’m just going to go back to Dan Santat. We had him at a virtual conference telling that story about After the Fall. And we all had an emotional reaction to that.

[00:06:53] Christy Yaros: I was bawling during that, but nobody else had to see that emotional reaction except me. Here you’re back with people. And I wonder how it was for Marla. Dan knew he was giving that talk. I mean, he’s given that talk before. He had to know he was going to make people cry, but he didn’t get to see that connect, you know?

He didn’t get to have that connection back with the audience. Whereas you can see Marla feeding off of the energy, the laughing, the clapping. But it’s interesting.

[00:07:24] Sharon Skinner: No, it’s different. And as a presenter it’s different because when you’re presenting virtually, you’re not getting those reactions.

And often on a webinar, you don’t even get to see the gallery of people who are at your webinar. You can’t even tell if their eyes are glazed over or if they’re scribbling furiously to take down everything you say. It’s for people to be able to present virtually and do it well. That’s a mad skill right there.

So when you go to these webinars and you’re getting the opportunity to learn from someone virtually understand and know that this person is giving you more than what they got because they are having to do it without any kind of audience reaction. They don’t get that feedback, that instant feedback that we’re used to as presenters.

That you get in person and there’s something very fulfilling about presenting in person and getting that feedback and feeling that people are with you, and you don’t get that the same way on a webinar. You have to stop, you have to open it up for questions. You have to hear people comment in order to get any feedback at all, and some webinars are setup so you can’t even do that.

[00:08:39] Christy Yaros: Yeah. And as somebody who has done presentations virtually and has not in a very long time since I was teaching 25 years ago, presented in front of people. I’m presenting at our New England conference in the spring, and it’s in person. I’m like, I don’t even know I’m used to sitting in a chair and talking at a screen.

Mm-hmm. So, I mean, that’s going to be interesting too, but like you said, it will be nice to, hopefully nice, to see the feedback from the people live.

[00:09:08] Sharon Skinner: It is because you can, modify how you are presenting things a little bit. I mean, yes, we have a canned presentation to some extent, but most of it is talking to people.

And when you’re in person you get much more opportunity for shifting your presentation or the way that you’re doing it or , if you see people are not quite getting it, you can re-articulate. So I think you’re going to enjoy it. I always do. I’m looking forward to this summer, I’ll be presenting workshops at the local library.

I’ve been selected as one of the Arizona State Library Writers in Residence for 2023, and I’ll be at the Chandler Library System and I’ll be doing public workshops two a month for the three months that I’ll be doing that. And I’m really looking forward to it because I love teaching and facilitating and doing workshops, but I really like the in-person version best.

[00:10:04] Christy Yaros: It was nice after the first session with Sarah and Cheryl to be able to walk up to them at the end and say, Thank you. I really liked the way that you talked about this and this really resonated with me. Where on a webinar, people say, thank you, thank you, thank you in the chat. But it’s not that same kind of instant feedback.

[00:10:23] Sharon Skinner: Yeah.

[00:10:23] Christy Yaros: And so as a presenter virtually I know I will get off a presentation and have no idea how it actually went. Right. I don’t know how other people felt about it. But here, to be able to say , oh, that was so great, hearing that from you.

[00:10:36] Sharon Skinner: This really hit home. Thank you so much.

[00:10:38] Christy Yaros: Right.

[00:10:38] Sharon Skinner: Yeah.

[00:10:39] Christy Yaros: Right. Or you know, when your friend introduces you to Sarah the night before and you have to say, just so you know, tomorrow. I’m here as a coach and not as a writer. And so when you’re making us do partner work , I’m going to hide, which I did.

[00:10:55] Sharon Skinner: Oh boy. Well there’s that. Yeah. So there’s a lot of value, whether they’re virtual or whether they’re in person, and whether you’re a presenter, for us, we do a lot of presenting, but as an attendee, I think there’s a different energy in it in person, but it can also be very distracting. Right.

[00:11:16] Christy Yaros: Oh, so distracting. We’re all used to being by ourselves now, right? I mean, I am very sensory sensitive, so I get overloaded very quickly. And I forgot what it was like to be in a room full of people with laptops all taking notes at the same time and hearing “click-click.”

[00:11:33] Sharon Skinner: Well, because everybody’s using a device now.

[00:11:35] Christy Yaros: Right. Or even the people you know, who are trying to write. I struggled to sit, honestly, to sit for that long. Whereas at home, if my camera’s off, I can shift in my seat a lot, I can stand up. Right. You try not to distract the other people that are with you. I’ve gotten used to close caption where if I miss something, I can look back at the transcript on the screen and see what we were talking about. So I was struggling a little to take notes.

[00:12:01] Sharon Skinner: It’s nice also to know that on virtual, a lot of times you’ll get a recording. So if you do have to run to the bathroom or if you do miss something, you don’t have automatic playback, maybe, but you’ll have the ability to go review it again.

And there’s value in that. So I think for when you’re deciding. Whether or not you’re going to attend a conference or a workshop, some of the things that you want to take into account are what’s the value for you? What’s the return on your investment? Because there’s cost of resources, time, money, sometimes travel.

If you’re travel averse, maybe you don’t want to do the in-person thing. You may be looking more for virtual. And if you really are a people person, you may be just chomping at the bit to get out there and be with people. And so maybe in-person has an additional value to you for the socialization and networking above and beyond what you’re going to learn from the presenters or get out of the sessions.

There’s that social aspect. So when you’re deciding on, am I going to go to this conference or. Workshop, am I going to take this? I think it’s important to look at all the aspects of what you’re getting out of it and what you have to put into it.

[00:13:21] Christy Yaros: Definitely. And then, and not at this level of the national conference, but the regional conferences, there are often opportunities to submit to faculty, to agents and editors who were there.

You can submit your work to them, query them. There’s critiques that you can do in addition to the workshops. And I get the feeling sometimes that people go to that conference just for those opportunities to get that critique, but then they’re missing out.

That’s a great opportunity to be able to submit, but you’re going to learn so much that whatever you walked into that conference thinking, I’m ready to query this. if you pay attention, I bet you’ll walk out of there with something that says, huh, maybe just take another look at what I did because now I’ve learned this thing that I hadn’t thought of before and my work can get better.

I mean, I know our New England in-person conference, this is our first in-person event since the pandemic. So we are not doing in-person critiques. And I know some people are upset about that. But I hope that that would not make people not come because there’s still all of the other opportunities, especially at a regional conference, right?

You’re meeting people who live near you, who do the same thing as you do. I went, so many years. Without knowing that there were people in my own town, who also wrote for children. So that community, you really get that sense of community at these local conferences and just the networking, even when you’re not looking to query, it’s almost easier, I think sometimes, if you’re not ready to query. There’s no pressure in talking to people because you know you don’t want something from them. You know what I mean?

[00:14:57] Sharon Skinner: Yeah.

[00:14:58] Christy Yaros: Where you feel like you could just talk as a human being to another human being, without feeling like you need to slip them, your manuscript, which you should never, ever, ever do ?

[00:15:07] Sharon Skinner: Yeah. So when you’re registering, and you’re planning on going to a conference, it’s really important to think about. You may have to register three months out, say for the conference, and where are you today, but where are you going to be in three months? Right? Yes. That’s a question that you should ask yourself.

[00:15:26] Christy Yaros: Right. You know, there’ll be multiple tracks at conferences, multiple things that you can go to. So, I had some friends who, at the time when they registered, were starting a draft and so signed up for, say, the beginnings and endings one like I went to, but ended up finishing their draft. Yay, for them before the conference, and now felt I’m at this moment where revision is what I need help with, and switched to the revision workshop because that’s what made the most sense and it worked out well for them because it may not have even been things that they hadn’t heard before. In that moment, it’s relevant to you. This is what’s on your mind. And so you get more out of it.

[00:16:08] Sharon Skinner: And they were in a position to be able to do that. you can’t always do that. Sometimes there are limited seatings, for specific tracks or specific presenters. So definitely you have to be judicious about thinking ahead and what is it that I really think I’m going to get the most value out of?

And again, when we talk about value, it’s not just the opportunity to submit. It’s not just the critique. Sometimes you get an opportunity to specifically request someone to critique your work. You can sign up for that specific critiquer. Some conferences, you don’t get that opportunity. You just get assigned because that’s just the way that it’s set up.

And sometimes you have to pick a first, second, and third choice for things. So knowing that, going in and knowing what would be of most value to you, I highly recommend that when you see an opportunity for a conference or a workshop that you’re interested in, that you really look at the whole thing and decide, is this where I want to put my resources?

Because again, we all have limited resources. We talked a little bit about this when we talked about book coaching. You have limited resources and do you want to put your resources into maybe some coaching before a conference if you have the opportunity to submit? Or do you want to wait? And then after the conference maybe get a book coach on your side to help you with some editing because you’ve learned some new things and you want some feedback on what you’re doing when you’re doing whatever it is that you’ve learned that’s new or that’s come to the surface at that moment in your journey.

Because I hear things in a different way or at a different point in time , and this happens to me to be honest, even when I’m teaching. I’ll be teaching a workshop, or I’ll be in a workshop as an attendee and I’ll hear something or I’ll say something and I’ll go, oh, that’s what I need to do to my manuscript or my story.

[00:18:04] Christy Yaros: I’m not going to say that I absolutely had those thoughts all weekend, even though I told myself I was not there as a writer, but as a coach. Yeah, I always have notes in my notes.

Uh, little boxes of when something sparks a thought about a work in progress or now clients that I’ve worked with and I’ve got little like, oh yes.

[00:18:27] Sharon Skinner: All that’s on our radar now. It’s fascinating. I’m always seeing the things that, oh, I have to save this for this client, or I have to make a note of that for that client.

Oh, I have to send this link to that client or this article. It’s always on my radar now.

[00:18:40] Christy Yaros: Yeah. Or that’s why this story didn’t work that I was trying to write five years ago. . Mm-hmm. that makes sense now. Madly scribbling. And that’s what I’m saying. That’s how then I lose my attention because, You’re trying to absorb what you’re hearing, but it’s also, you want to be able to apply it, right?

Because knowledge by itself does nothing for us. I try and write down what they’re saying because I want to make sure I have written it down accurately. But then we need to take that next step and go back through our notes and rewrite them from our own point of view of what it means to us.

 And we forget. I think we forget. That’s a total side tangent, but I think that’s when I come back from conferences, I forget to take the time to go back while it’s still fresh.

[00:19:24] Sharon Skinner: Also when I’m taking notes at a conference, one of the tricks that I do, because I don’t want to ever use somebody else’s words without attribution if I possibly can avoid it. So I will put quotes around their s statements and then my personal notes of the aha moments and all of that, I do not put quotes around. So I can differentiate later when I do come back, I can go, oh, they said this, but this is what I got out of it, or this is how, I interpret it, or this is my version of that.

So how I would articulate that. I want to be careful. As an person who instructs and teaches and coaches that I give attribution wherever possible to people I’ve heard things from.

[00:20:08] Christy Yaros: Absolutely.

[00:20:08] Sharon Skinner: So that’s one of my little tricks, and that way I’m interpreting it right away too. So, I’m internalizing what they’re saying. I mean, it’s hard to do.

[00:20:16] Christy Yaros: Yeah. My brain can’t do that on the spot like that. I need the time. By the time I’m processing it, they’re onto the next thing, and then I will lose where I was.

[00:20:24] Sharon Skinner: True. But there are those moments where you’re going aha. And you want to make sure that, that’s your thought. That you capture it as your thought. I do, anyway. Those are a couple of good practices.

[00:20:35] Christy Yaros: Another useful thing that a bunch of people that I know that we went to the conference together is we got together afterwards and even though a lot of us were in the same workshop, we talked about the things that we got out of it.

And, you know, teaching something is a good way to solidify the things that you have learned, right? It shows that you have gotten something out of it if you can explain it to somebody else in your own words.

[00:20:59] Sharon Skinner: Right.

[00:20:59] Christy Yaros: So that was like, that debrief, finding a buddy and just telling them everything, you know, here’s everything I learned.

[00:21:06] Sharon Skinner: As a region, when we do our social for the virtual that we’ve been attending the last few years for SCBWI, we don’t do just a basic social. We get together and do a debrief about what everybody got out of the conference, and people go to different sessions, they go to the same sessions.

We all hear things differently. We hear different things that resonate and so we get to hear it again in a different way, or we get to hear something we didn’t hear because we were in a different session. And I think the debrief is hugely important and helpful for learning, the learning that you get out of a conference or a workshop, so yeah, absolutely.

[00:21:48] Christy Yaros: The synthesizing part of learning,

[00:21:50] Sharon Skinner: If you don’t have a group to do that with. Yeah, definitely grab a buddy who was there or who’s attending and definitely do that. Buddy notes are really a great way to get more out of a conference. Because the SCBWI LA conference is always so big when it’s in person, I’ve always grabbed two or three people and we would talk about, what sessions are you going to? Will you notes and share your notes with me for that and I will share my notes with you from what I’m going to. So that’s another way to get more out of a conference is to have buddy notes.

[00:22:23] Christy Yaros: Yeah, as long as you know you have good enough handwriting that other people might be able to read the notes that you have taken, assuming you can read them yourself.

[00:22:31] Sharon Skinner: Now we have devices.

[00:22:32] Christy Yaros: I have to hand write. If I’m typing, I’m mindlessly typing. I need to hand write if I’m going to remember. So it’s process, you know, we all have to know what works for us. Even in person, I find I write a lot of like insert screenshot cause I’ve taken a picture and then I go back and I like, you have 500 photos. Which photo in particular were you talking about at that moment?

[00:22:55] Sharon Skinner: Okay, so we talked a little bit about good practices. Let’s talk about best practices for how we behave at a conference, because, you know, we want to make sure that we are presenting the best version of ourselves wherever we go.

And I know, I just want to put this out there that, some of us after being isolated and not doing in-person things, especially for a number of years, are a little socially awkward getting out there.

[00:23:24] Christy Yaros: Some of us were socially awkward before the pandemic.

[00:23:27] Sharon Skinner: Yes. But even, but more of us now and even more so. We talked a little bit earlier about this and part of that was, don’t shove your manuscript in everybody’s face. That’s not good social behavior.

[00:23:41] Christy Yaros: No, and it’s kind of a joke because like why would you do that? But people do, and I don’t think they realize that that’s what they’re doing. It’s just, you’re eager, right? You’re there. This maybe is your first conference. This is the first time you’ve been around other people that are doing the same thing as you, and you see an opportunity and you want to grab it. But as an attendee, as an RT member, it’s overwhelming as just a person being there. Someone coming at you with, here’s my manuscript, it’s even more so.

[00:24:16] Sharon Skinner: It’s one thing to connect. Have a little conversation, get to know the person, and then say, I would love to connect with you online, or I would love it if you would reach out to me as a book coach, or I would love it if you would allow me to reach out to you as an illustrator.

And you exchange contact information there on the spot, but it’s not the place to be trying to make a deal. It’s not the place to say, will you read my manuscript? It’s just not the place for it.

[00:24:48] Christy Yaros: Right. And that’s in the guidelines usually. In the past, in the before times, we’ve had situations where people have followed faculty into the bathroom and here, can you look at my pages and it’s not going to work and it’s just going to make you look bad. And even if your pages are amazing, I would not want to work with you because you just made me feel uncomfortable.

Right. It’s, it’s, it’s also about the interpersonal relationships of an agent wanting to work with someone, of an editor, wanting to work with someone, even us when we’re working with clients, it’s got to be a connection on a human level as well as a connection to the story. And if you put yourself in a position where you’re making someone physically uncomfortable, not only are they not going to want to work with you, but they’re going to tell other people and other people aren’t going to work with you.

I don’t think I’ve seen it as malicious or intentionally trying to do that, but I know that we are eager, we want our stories heard, we want to be published, and you feel like you have this opportunity, you need to grab it .

[00:25:54] Sharon Skinner: And, as an author too, I can’t read everybody’s pages.

I can’t recommend you to my publisher. I can’t refer you to an agent. I can’t do those things. There’s only one of me, and I have people all the time come up to me, even at book festivals and say, oh, I’m writing this book. Would you read my manuscript? And I don’t even know you. I’m not going to do it for my friend for free because I don’t have the bandwidth for it.

How am I going to do it for you? You know, it’s a big ask. If it’s a picture book, it maybe doesn’t feel like a big ask. It’s still a big ask because what do you really want? You don’t want people to just read it. You want them to assess it. You want them to analyze it. You want them to give you feedback on it. That’s a big ask.

[00:26:40] Christy Yaros: So, I know personally when I am looking at which workshops I’m going to go to or I sign up for the workshops, I look up the presenter. I will find their social media. I will follow them on social media. If they’ve written books, I will get their books and I will read them.

When I signed up for that workshop, I tagged Cheryl Klein and Sarah Aronson and was like, I just signed up for this workshop. I can’t wait. And then a little dialogue happened. So before we were even there, maybe they don’t remember who you are, that’s fine, but you’re starting a conversation. Afterwards, you go home, you tag them and thank them. The relationship gets established over time, right? Mm-hmm. It’s not a, we just met, here’s my stuff.

But I think that’s also important too, is definitely trying to read the stuff . If it’s an agent, look at the things that they’ve represented.

If it’s an editor, look at the things that they’ve published. If it’s an author, look at what they’ve written and so that you can feel even more of a connection when you’re sitting in that workshop that you’re getting more out of it because you know where they’re coming from and you know if it will resonate with you.

[00:27:41] Sharon Skinner: Absolutely. And it’s just like with querying. Who are you going to query is who’s going to be the most appropriate? Who do you want to be in a workshop with? If you have options, you probably want to be in a workshop with the person that reps or publishes the things that you write. It’s not absolutely necessary because craft is, craft is craft in many ways, but it can be really helpful to be in the place with the person, learning from the person who you may someday want to query.

And. It also helps to say, I saw you in a workshop. Mm-hmm. , and I just really loved what you said about blah, blah, blah in a query letter. So now you’ve got something you can put in a query letter to show the connection of why you’re querying that specific person. So that’s one more added value to going to that conference and choosing that workshop.

[00:28:34] Christy Yaros: But it’s organic. Not forced.

[00:28:36] Sharon Skinner: Right. We touched on a lot of things I think that are really important. You know, craft being craft. I’ve gotten a lot of value out of picture book illustrator workshops. I’m not an illustrator, but understanding how the illustrators approach their craft, the kinds of things they’re looking at in the work, how they’re going to bring their piece to a picture book. I think it’s been incredibly rich for me to get that side of it, to understand that, and I think it’s really helpful, especially early on with picture book writers to understand how much the illustrators bring to that project. So I wouldn’t rule out going to a workshop or sessions that are outside the norm of what you would think of as what you are looking for in a conference or a workshop. Again, there’s value in hearing a lot of information from a lot of different sources about the craft that we’re working in.

[00:29:39] Christy Yaros: Absolutely. And perhaps this New York conference isn’t a good example of that because you did have to choose one track. You were in one intensive all weekend. You do want to choose something that’s going to be immediately helpful to you, hopefully.

But, for example, our New England conference in the spring, like there’s multiple options in each time slot. So I always try to go to at least one thing that’s like completely out of my comfort zone , that I would think I would have no interest in. And like you said, you do, you definitely get something out of it.

And I think it’s a very good point about the illustrator. If you’re a picture book writer, it’s so hard as a writer, to leave that room for the illustrator to add that other layer to it, that a lot of beginning picture book writers will put all of the things on the page expecting that the illustrator will reflect the exact words that they have written as opposed to adding that new element and making two or three stories happening at the same time through the illustrations and the words. So hearing how they learn things, how do they illustrate the words that you have written can help you see what they need on the page and what they need off the page to better get it.

[00:30:51] Sharon Skinner: Yeah.

[00:30:51] Christy Yaros: I have gone to nonfiction workshops. I have gone to poetry workshops. Even though I know picture books, I’ve studied them, they’re not my writing thing, I still will go to picture book writing. Understanding a story arc is understanding a story arc, and sometimes it’s easier to see that in a picture book because it’s short. you can then take that and extrapolate that into your novel. World building, even if you think that’s just for fantasy.

Every world in a story is a world. Even if it’s contemporary, even if it’s our world. It’s our world through the lens of our narrator, our point of view character. So what are the things that we need to show and what are the things we need to leave out? When you have these opportunities to take things outside of what you would think make sense to you, you leave space to learn things that you never thought you needed to know until you hear them. Right. You don’t know what you don’t know until you hear it.

[00:31:43] Sharon Skinner: Yeah. Until you hear it. Yeah, absolutely.

[00:31:46] Christy Yaros: One last thing I just wanted to bring up because if you can hear the strain in my voice, is self-care when you’re in person at a conference.

Where a lot of us are introverts, we may become extroverted at conferences because like I said, we’re with our people, we’re excited. Just the energy in the room can carry you to be more extroverted than you would be normally, but you really have to make sure that you give yourself the space that you need and don’t overwhelm yourself.

These conferences can go very long. Last weekend, there were days I left my room at seven in the morning and I didn’t get back until midnight, except for five minutes here and there. And it sounds silly and like I’ll just be the mom for a minute. But I mean, hydration so important. Taking space for yourself to just have some downtime is important. Food. You don’t realize, when food is not in front of you, how hard it is to go get the food. You don’t know how long it takes you to recover from a conference sometimes until you get back and realize like, Ugh. Cause you’re in it, you’re in it, you’re running around. Everybody’s got that energy.

Until you stop, you don’t know how long you were going for. So, at this point where we are, I’m five days. And I’m still recovering. And that was with trying to take the time for myself. So just keep that in mind that going back into person can be a lot. Rewarding. No regrets, but…

[00:33:14] Sharon Skinner: Yeah, it is a lot.

Even a virtual conference, if it’s a couple of days long, you’re sitting a lot. I actually, when I’m off camera at virtual webinars and conferences, I will get up and move around and I will lift my little free weights or I will at least do stretches or something like that.

Something I can do while still paying attention to the speaker so that I can get my blood moving because I know I’m sitting so much. Even virtual you’ve got to take care of yourself. And if it feels like you just need a break, take a break. Especially virtual, because those are recorded. So I think that to your point, self-care is an incredibly important component of being able to get the rich learning out of these opportunities without hurting ourselves or making ourselves ill.

[00:34:08] Christy Yaros: Especially if you have chronic illness already, if you have mental health issues already, you don’t know what kind of toll it’s going to take on you. This weekend I stepped out of the workshop and went and got a cup of coffee by myself.

Everybody else was already in workshop, so it was a few moments, but I felt myself starting to get overwhelmed, and before it got to that point, I stepped out and then I just asked somebody what I missed while I was gone. You know? And maybe it was something brilliant that I will never get back, but if I hadn’t, maybe I wouldn’t have been able to hear anything else the rest of the weekend, because I didn’t take the time to keep myself healthy.

[00:34:45] Sharon Skinner: I think it’s easy to get all wrapped up in I’m going to miss something, especially when it’s early on your first few conferences, but you learn as you go that, exactly what you said, if you don’t miss that little bit, you might miss so much more because you just can’t focus or you’re just not going to hear it. Or you may be having to go to your room and lie down.

[00:35:07] Christy Yaros: And we don’t always have the luxury. We may have to go to work the next day. We go home and our lives start again. Our children, our spouses. But still so much fun.

Totally recommend just being able to connect with other people, who do the same thing as you do, where there’s that base level of not having to explain yourself. Like, yes. We all write for kids. We all know how important that is. We all know how hard that is. Nobody has to justify what they’re doing.

Everybody’s in a different place in their journey, but you’re all just people who love the same thing being together, and yep, it fills your soul.

[00:35:43] Sharon Skinner: And learning the craft and what the trends are and what people are looking for, that’s what you get out of a conference also and a workshop.

So it’s valuable to go and do these things, but again, choose wisely. Which brings us to our action items. I recommend that you make a list of the things that you value and that would be most important to you. So when the opportunity comes to attend a webinar or a conference, you have a list that you can go to and say, “Ookay, here are the things that I want to get out of it. Here are the things I need to be looking at. You can listen to our podcast again and get some ideas about that.

But the bottom line is you get to put the cost down on one side and you get to put the value down on the other side of a page, and you get to determine if this is where you want to put your resources.

[00:36:37] Christy Yaros: That’s great. I love that. Especially since there’s so many different opportunities out there, small conferences, large conferences, one day workshops, retreats.

What is it that you need right now that’s going to help you? So then I guess I’ll piggyback off of you as I often do. And then the next step, once you do that is take a look at what’s out there. A lot of things are coming back in person this year. And a lot of things are still virtual.

And I think it’s going to continue to be that way. There will continue to be virtual options, hybrid options, and in-person options. So take a look at SCBWI’s website. There’s an event section. You can see other regions offer virtual workshops that you can attend no matter which region you, live in, which is great.

[00:37:21] Sharon Skinner: Or if you want to travel, you could go to Christy’s region, you could sign up for her conference.

[00:37:26] Christy Yaros: Come to New England April 28th to the 30th. When you hear this, registration opens. March 6th, come hang out in person. But a lot of regions are offering things like that and that’s great. So, maybe look at the rest of the year and see what it is that you have the bandwidth for.

Also like Sharon said, what you can get out of it. What is it that I need right now? Don’t go to a revision workshop if you’re still drafting , like maybe save that for next year, but yeah, and then get business cards. Totally forgot about business cards.

Did not take my phone out of my pocket. Trying to remember who everybody is at the end of the conference. If I met you there and we didn’t connect, please find me on Instagram.

[00:38:10] Sharon Skinner: Oh, yeah. I always recommend that we take business cards. That’s a great point. Business cards, whether you’re just a brand new author who just prints them on the sheets where you can print them and then they’re perforated and you can pull them out just with your name and what you do if nothing else.

Or go online to one of these places that’ll print them for a reasonable price. For 20 bucks, you can get a hundred cards. And at least have something that you can hand to somebody and say, let’s connect when you meet the people that you really want to connect with. That’s a great point.

[00:38:43] Christy Yaros: One of our workshops we had to break into small groups and we were sharing our first pages and so you instantly can see if you connect with one of these people, if something they says resonates and we all exchanged email addresses, and a little critique group might come out of that.

You know, like , this is your opportunity to find people that you connect with. So as long as you can remember who they are afterwards.

 As with anything, we can talk about this all day. So thank you so much.

[00:39:12] Sharon Skinner: I think we’ve really covered the ground here, so yeah, it was a great conversation. So thanks for being here and, we’ll see y’all next time.

[00:39:21] Christy Yaros: Thank you. Bye.

We hope you enjoyed this episode of Coaching KidLit, a writing and book coaching podcast for writers who want to level up their KidLit writing game.

[00:39:30] Sharon Skinner: For more about us and to discover what a book coach could do for you, check out CoachingKidLit.Com and follow us on social media.


Are you interested in working with a Book Coach on your KidLit book? Check out my KidLit Coaching Page  or fill out my inquiry form for a FREE Consult call and let’s get started!

Published inCoaching Kidlit Podcast Episodes