by Sonja Anderson
The first writing conference I ever went to was a Renewal Conference for the NCWA, back in the day when it was held at Seattle Pacific University. I had applied for, and received, a scholarship, which was the only way I felt comfortable about attending—I felt like too much a pretender to tell my husband I was going to spend money on a writing conference, of all things.
I had a draft of a novel, a bundle of nerves, and a lot of misplaced hope. Misplaced, because I thought the novel was ready, and because I thought that this was my one chance to get it published. Both were decidedly untrue.
Most people do come to a conference hoping for a connection that leads to a contract. My experience, after many conferences, both at NCWA and the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and most recently at Connecting Writers with Hollywood, is that sometimes—sometimes—that dream is realized, and a lot of other good stuff can happen even when the dream of a contract isn’t realized.
My first children’s novel, Sophie’s Quest, was published without the benefit of meeting someone at a conference, but maybe going to conferences helped anyway. I was reminded, at the Renewal conference, of the Christian Writers Market Guide. I purchased a copy from the book table, contacted all of the relevant publishers, and ultimately got a “yes” from a publisher in England!
When Keys for Kids editor, Courtney Lasseter, led a workshop on writing devotionals for children at a conference a few years ago, I stopped by her room where she was giving appointments. When someone didn’t show up for their appointment, I was able to talk to her for a few minutes. I didn’t have a story, but I liked her, and we had a fun chat about what she was looking for. After a rejected attempt, this relationship has led to six published—and paid—stories for the magazine, and now she writes to me when she needs a new story.
Best of all, God used the 2019 Renewal conference to introduce me to a new publisher for Sophie’s Quest and the entire Adventures of Sophie Topfeather series, the same month my British publisher quit the business and gave me my rights back. What a blessing!
Looking back, my hopes at that first conference weren’t exactly misplaced. The conference was the right place to be. I had to bring my work up to industry standard and to stay in the game long enough for God to bring the right information, the right people, and the right opportunities to me, each at the right time. The Renewal Conference has been a faithful companion on the journey, helping me all along the way.
Sonja Anderson writes children’s literature from Burien, WA and lives with her husband and two daughters. She works full time in a local elementary school library where she feels like a spy, learning about all the newly-published books and seeing what books kids love.
Find out more at www.sonjaandersonbooks.com.