Going to NESCBWI is a lot like attending high school. At least, if high school was a heck of a lot friendlier.
I came to this odd realization a couple days ago, as I thought back on how I've progressed and matured as a writer through the past three years. Let me explain.
My Freshman year of NESCBWI (2011) I was innocent, excited, and had zero idea of what I was actually in for. I knew a few people from my critique group...sort of. I didn't know much about agents or editors or the publishing process. I just knew I wanted to experience it all. I was overwhelmed that year, but nevertheless learned a ton and became much closer with my fellow writers.
My Sophomore year (2012) I knew what to expect. I took it up a notch. I attended sessions aimed at authors further along in their careers, and I hung with my critique group "clique" most of the weekend. We even initiated a new member that Sunday. However, I was still finding my way in some regards during that conference. I didn't know it, but I still had a bit of "frosh-writer" innocence left.
...That innocence got crushed after the conference, as I spent the rest of 2012 and the beginning of 2013 querying a manuscript that received little interest. But you live, you learn, and I'm coming in hot this year with something newer, stronger, and shinier.
2013 will be my Junior year. I may not be agented yet, but many in my critique group now are. People with agents and book deals are like the Big Men On Campus at NESCBWI...they're basically demi-gods to the rest of us. And if you've got a book published already? You're in a whole 'nother tier. You're like a COLLEGE student. Whoa, man.
Anyway, this year I'm a Junior with Senior friends, and that gives me a bit of extra pride heading into the conference. I'm not at Senior level yet, but I'm the next best thing, and I'm not going to lie--I'm a little cocky about it. They're all so talented and badass, I feel awesome just by association. You'll understand after you read the works of my agented friends (debuts coming out over the next couple years, including Tara Sullivan's June 27th, 2013 debut: GOLDEN BOY).
I'm hoping the trend continues. With any luck, next year I'll be a Senior. But for now, just like I did last year, I'm going to set out some more humble goals for this coming conference:
1. Learn techniques to continue to improve my writing. This should go without saying, but I am particularly excited to embrace this year's "Art of Craft" theme.
2. Continue to explore the mysterious waters of nonfiction. I love writing fiction, but with my science background, I really shouldn't shun the idea of writing nonfiction just because it scares me.
3. Increase my professionalism. Make new connections and learn from everyone I meet.
4. Get useful feedback on my query letter and first 10 pages of my new manuscript. If I'm going to put it out there later this year, professional advice now will be of tremendous help.
5. Enjoy bonding time with my awesome writer friends. :)
So, what high-school year do you see yourself as? And what are your goals for the conference? Answer or link to your own NESCBWI 2013 blog post in the comments! Looking forward to seeing everyone this weekend!