Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Benefit of Small Conferences

I spent last weekend speaking and critiquing at the SCBWI Canada East conference in Niagara Falls--and it got me thinking about how much I love small conferences.

I'm standing just above the waterfall. 
We all slept, ate, workshopped, and socialized (the best part) at the Mount Caramel monastery and retreat center.

My roomie Fran Cannon Slayton and I could hear the waterfall from our room.
Before the conference, SCBWI volunteer extraordinaire, Jackie Garlick-Pynaert, took the faculty members on a tour of the falls. We got really close to all that thundering water.

Getting soaked with author Terri Farley.
But we also grew close to the attendees. By the end of the weekend, I'd had the chance to talk to nearly everyone. Small events allow the faculty to get to know you as a person--you're not just a face in the crowd or 5 critique pages. You're the person with school-aged kids (like me), or the one who tells hilarious bear stories.

Post-workshop Q&A time. I talked about character development.
Small workshops create a cozy, intimate atmosphere. Even a shy writer (and aren't we all a little bit shy) won't feel intimidated about asking questions. I also had the chance to talk to people about their work after my workshops. We chatted about stories, writing, and balancing writing with family over lunch, dinner, and during evening socializing. Only a small conference offers so many of those moments.

During our sight-seeing tour, I wondered if the American Falls, which would be a truly impressive waterfall in any other location, felt like the sidekick to a much more beautiful, impressive friend.

American Falls is downstream from the huge horseshoe-shaped Niagara Falls.
I used to feel overwhelmed by all the writers filling the ballroom at big conferences. I'd think, all of these people share my dream? Yikes! And I've never been good at squeezing myself into a group of professional schmoozers to chat with faculty. Small conferences allow me to be my quieter self. And I've made friends who've allowed me to connect with even more friends at bigger conferences. (I'm learning to schmooze.)

Veronica Rossi, Terri Farley, Hilary Breed Van Dusen, Josh Adams, me, and Fran Cannon Slayton.
So, if you've been thinking about attending a conference, but aren't sure if you're ready, try a small conference. I know Jackie already has a great lineup for Niagara Falls next year!

Much thanks to Jackie Garlick-Pynaert, Lizann Flatt, and Alma Fullerton for a wonderful weekend.

4 comments:

  1. LOVED hanging out with you!!! And your presentation was so very helpful.

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  2. Thanks, Julie! It was really a treat to meet you :)

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  3. I love small conferences. This one looks fantastic. What's not to love about having Niagara Falls outside your window? What a beautiful setting for a conference.

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  4. I'm so out of the loop. I didn't even know you were going there. I'm glad you had fun!

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