Next week I'm headed to New York for the SCBWI conference (you can still sign up). For the first time, I'm signed up for a manuscript intensive, so I asked my friends who've done it for their tips.
I thought I'd share the great advice I received from Holly Cupala, author of the novel TELL ME A SECRET, Lee Wind, an author and one of my fellow team blog members, and Sara Easterly, an author and former SCBWI member of the year.
From Holly Cupala
The Writer’s Intensive is a golden opportunity to show your very best work. Polish those 500 words until they sparkle and stand out and can’t help but capture your audience (and practice reading them!). Even if the editor or agent isn’t quite the right fit, they might help you make a connection that is.
The intensive is also great time to connect with peers as well as the editor or agent, so bring plenty of your business cards to exchange. Several of my tablemates have become friends and allies in the children’s book world.
Above all, be polite and professional. The most brilliant manuscript in the world probably won’t be requested if the writer behaves abominably. I’ve seen it happen!
From Lee Wind
I'd share two pieces of advice:
Specifically in New York for the writer's intensive, certainly participate in the discussion of other people's work, but please make sure to defer to the editor or agent at your table, and make sure they have the time to share their expert knowledge! You wouldn't want some other writer talking so much about your work during your precious minutes that you never got to hear what the agent at your table thought! If you have something you're bursting to share with another writer and there isn't time, you can always get their contact info and get together to chat about it later--they'll be flattered, and it might even be a way to make a new friend or critique buddy!
And most important, when your work is being critiqued--just listen! Don't argue or explain what you meant. The important thing is to listen to their reaction to what is on the page--after all, you'll almost never be standing by an agent or editor's chair to chime in while they're reading your manuscript! Oh, and take lots of notes, so later, you can consider the feedback from a more private and less emotionally charged place.
From Sara Easterly
Bring copies of more than one piece of work, if you have multiple manuscripts in the hopper. And do your best to research the conference faculty ahead of time. While the editors and agents who participate in the intensives aren't always listed as part of the official conference faculty, many are. If you're familiar with the tastes and interests of the editor and agent you're assigned to (you'll find out who when you pick up your registration materials on site), you'll have options for which manuscript is best to pull out.
Read over the intensive detail carefully. There's usually one person in each group who's misread the instructions and only brings two copies of his or her manuscript, or who doesn't bring complete sets of copies for the two different groups. For the rest of the group, it can be hard to follow along without a copy or while looking over a copy that someone else marked up in the previous session. And, frankly, not being a careful reader and griping about the unclear instructions (which inevitably comes next, even though nine others at the table seemed to understand them just fine) looks unprofessional.
Finally, have fun! It's refreshing to hear the work of others and benefit from an editor or agent's perspectives for improvement -- which almost always can relate back to your own writing in some way.