Well, today is the start of one of the biggest conferences in the children's book world, the SCBWI Summer Conference in Los Angeles...and I'm hanging out with the Muses and thousands of other awesome kid-lit folks in Beverly Hills. Plus, this year is mega-sized since it's the 40th birthday. Can you say, "Legend - wait-for-it- Dary"? *High-five*

If you like the new blog design or the Muses in general and are in LA, feel free to say 'hi' (we look like the cartoon avatars on the left). Also, head over to the free swag table and grab a bookmark or sweet button. Here's a sneak peek of the bookmark:

So in honor of this event, I selected my first ever post - back when I was merely a guest blogger (I know, I avoid remembering those days too...sad, lonely times). For those of you who've read this many times, I've added new pics of the Muses at various conferences over the last year for spice.

Oh, and don't forget to check in next week for highlights from SCBWI - LA, plus a chance to win an ARC of Veronica's UNDER THE NEVER SKY. (I'm seriously peeved that I can't win - this book is truly awesome.) Here's the details for those that missed it:

Contest Rules
To enter, receive one ticket for the following:
· a blog follow
· tweet with a @yamuses
· a blog comment

Limited to one ticket per action, each day until contest ends. Current followers are 
automatically entered once. This contest is open internationally.

Contest Dates: August 4 to August 21

Winner will be announced on August 22nd! Good luck!

Without further banter, here's my"Best of..."

Posted February 2, 2011

Ahem. [tap tap tap]. Is this thing on? Can you hear me?
Ok. Good. Thanks.
I’ll get started then.
My name is Bret. And I’m a Conference Junkie.
Whew. That felt good to get out. Now, onto to my uber-special-YA-Muses-guest-blog post.

As most of the readership knows, SCBWI Winter Conference occurred this last weekend in New York. Of course, I wasn’t going to miss it. I signed up on the day the registration went online, madly clicking to get into the intensives, quickly deciding which breakout sessions to attend, and tapping in my credit card number from memory.

I couldn’t wait.

Now, I’m sitting on a plane on my way back home. I can barely keep my eyes open. My mind and soul are all the colors-of-a-bruise rainbow. I spent almost a whole paycheck, braved one of the biggest blizzards in NYC this winter, rode an emotional roller coaster, and slept the number of hours in four days that I shoot for on a normal Saturday night.

What fun, right?

So why am I a Conference Junkie? What’s so great about these things?

As a Junkie, I generate so many reasons to go: An idol is speaking, a friend is guilting me, and/or the is venue right in my backyard. However, at first, the strongest pull for me as a “pre-published” writer (don’t you love that term), was simple: The shot.

Conferences are where things happen. Chance meetings with editors on elevators that lead to bestsellers. Drinks with famous authors where they drop your name to a couch full of agents. Critiques where agents DEMAND to see your full manuscript as fast as you can get to a computer. Even as pooped as I am, I just got chills.

I confess, it hasn’t happened for me yet. (I’ll pause for the collective sob – done? Great. Moving on). In fact, the chance of being that super-star are super-slim. At the international conferences a handful, among thousands, get chosen. At a local conference, they probably are better with fewer attendees, but there are fewer of the big-wigs there, so it’s a trade-off.

Yet, I still subject myself to so much pain/exhaustion with so little hope. And I won’t lie, until I achieve that next level, I probably still wonder if the next time is the time. But it’s not really why I go anymore. I go because every conference has been a milestone in my writing life. I come out a different writer than I went in.

These conferences have defined my career in so many, unexpected ways. And since the Muses will no doubt expect a bulleted list from me, here’s a sampling of what I mean:
• One horrible critique sent me into all-night rewrite frenzy. The revision blew the critiquer’s mind (or so, I believe). I consider this as the defining moment where I stopped being a hobbyist and started being a writer.
• A presenter flashed a tool J.K. Rowling used to help shape one of her books. The image appeared for less than a minute, but it rocked my world, and now is a my own very powerful/very geeky tool.
• At few of these conferences, some very smart people gave me some solid encouragement. I keep these compliments close to my heart so they generate that critical, but elusive, “butt-in-chair” glue.
• I’ve used conferences as landmarks to finish a draft or force myself to polish something for a critique.
• And most importantly: Through a series of “coincidences,” I’ve connected with the most wonderful people (yes, including the Muses). Now, I consider them my most trusted of trusted in writing and life. (I totally think of us a Crash of Hippopota-Muses…see, we even have inside jokes).
There are so many more “random” run-ins, tidbits of knowledge, and inspirational networking that have come from my conference experience that I could go on for another 600 or 6000 words. But the flight attendant is on the speaker, demanding I power off my laptop.

So before she slams it closed for me, I’m a Conference Junkie because they’ve shaped me to become who I am in my writing life. They are the chapter breaks
in my story. I never know what’s going to happen, but it’s always something. And a high like that is worth every penny and travel-related headache.Add Image

I’ll sleep tonight. I’ll get another paycheck. I’ll recover from the mental bruises with the help of my friends. And I’ll be first in line for the next conference.


Love this post and as I write this I can see you all walk by :) Thanks for all the great posts guys, I do heart the YA Muses!

Great pictures, great stories! Keep them coming.

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