Avoiding the Biggest Post-Conference Pitfall

Over 1,200 children's authors and illustrators are coming down off the high that was #LA14SCBWI this past weekend--the 2014 SCBWI Summer Conference in Los Angeles. At any given time, hundreds and hundreds of other children's authors and illustrators are coming down off the highs inspired by the myriad of writers and illustrators workshops that are going on all the time all around the country and all around the world. Inspiring speeches are ringing in our heads and our hearts. Thoughtful critiques are giving us confidence. Amazing meetings are translating into new friendships. Smart experts are giving us the tools and techniques we need. And we're ready to get back into our work wholeheartedly. And it's all great great great...except for one thing: Impatience.

The downside to a successful workshop or conference is often the fear and panic (mixed with genuine enthusiasm!) some authors and illustrators feel that if they don't do what an editor suggested right away, or if they don't follow up with an agent right away, or if they don't submit their work right away, their opportunity to be published will be lost. And so, before the jet lag's even worn off, they rush rush rush to revise those first ten pages that were critiqued or the image in the portfolio that was critiqued...and then they press "send" to submit the manuscript or art samples. And what's just happened? That author or illustrator has just started to unravel the threads that the conference or workshop had so expertly knitted, and they've done themselves a huge disservice--they've stepped right into a post-conference pitfall, one from which it's not always so easy to get out.

Here's the thing: there's not one editor or art director or agent out there who wants to see a project before it's ready. There's not one editor or agent who gives a critique of the first ten pages of a manuscript and expects to see a revised manuscript within the next few days! Nor is there any art director who gives feedback on an image in a portfolio and expects to see a fresh new portfolio within the next few days! In fact, quite the opposite.  What any editor or art director or agent expects after a workshop or conference during which they've offered advice is that artist will take their time, will think, will craft--and will do whatever is needed in the way of time and work to apply what they've heard about ten pages or one image to the entirety of their work, be it a complete manuscript or a complete portfolio.

This is what I know to be true: You can't write the best first page of your work without writing the best last page of your work.  So that means if you're excited about doing revisions on the first ten page that were suggested during a critique, then you need to be excited about doing revisions on all the other pages of that manuscript, all the way through to the last page, and then back to the first page all over again.

Take your time. Respect the process. Respect the people from whom you've gotten the feedback to begin with by not rushing without thinking. Avoid the pitfalls. Do your best work. Be your best. The rest will follow.