This conference offers just as many great editors, agents, accomplished writers, and special speakers. This year's keynote speaker was Linda Sue Park, the Newberry Award winner for "A Single Shard," Clarion Books 2001. She lives in New York City with her husband and family. What impressed me most about her was the fact that she writes about children in places she has never been herself. Although she does not normally do this as a rule, she did make this one exception because of the extraordinary true story. This was encouraging to me, since I have done the same thing in another book project. She is fortunate in that her husband is a journalist who has traveled to those areas and therefore has given her first hand experience and information hot off the press. That coupled with a lot of interviews with her subject and sound research on her own is how she wrote "A Long Walk To Water," Clarion Books This is a middle grade fiction novel based on a true story that takes place in Africa, where she has never visited. It was encouraging to know that editors are completely open to writers who write about people in other cultures and places even if you yourself have never had the opportunity to visit there.
Linda Sue Park presented break out sessions that were filled with ideas on how to improve your fiction manuscript and how she went about developing her own. Other breakout sessions offered lots of good information to those who are new to writing in the children's book arena. There were sessions for illustrators as well. This conference gave me the opportunity to mingle and brush shoulders with the best of the best of them. I got email addresses of editors, agents, and several accomplished authors who offer lots of great advice on their blogs. These are agents and editors who do not accept unsolicited manuscripts, but offered to allow submissions from conference attendees. There are many advantages given to writers who will put in the time and investment to attend conferences. The networking with other writers is invaluable as well. I walked away with a bag full of business cards, session notes, and reading material that will carry me through until the next year's conference rolls around.