Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Jennifer Simms' Conference Experience

            Every time I attend the SCBWI Rocky Mountain Chapter’s fall conference, I receive encouragement to continue on my writing journey. At my first conference, a critique session with an enthusiastic editor confirmed that, YES, I was in the right place. The next year a woman who introduced herself by saying, “You look so young, I thought you were here with your mother,” became a good friend and treasured member of my critique group. Another year, author Julie Anne Peters’ inspiring dinner speech lead me to apply to work with her in the annual mentor program, and her insight helped make my novel submission-ready. In fact, this encouragement has come so regularly that I no longer wonder if I’ll be inspired but how. This year, I registered for the conference in search of encouragement to get my butt in the chair and get back in the writing game after a six-month leave. With my previous conference experiences, plus the news that my agent, Karen Grencik, would be on the faculty, I was confident I would not be disappointed.

            Saturday started with several uplifting experiences, like chatting with a brand new writer at lunch and receiving advice on a dusty manuscript in my critique. As I kept my eyes pealed for Karen, I confess I wasn’t sure how to act. Should I hang around her like we were already friends or give her space to mingle and work? Karen answered that question the second I introduced myself by wrapping me in a huge bear hug. But as I observed her throughout the weekend, it was clear her kindness was not only for me. As a speaker, she was warm and genuine. As a critiquer, she was able to validate the person while still providing an honest evaluation of the work. Just being in her presence made me feel valued, and listening to her share the inspiring story of selling Double Luck, Memories of a Chinese Orphan made me proud to have such a tenacious agent.

            The encouragement continued as I assisted Karen during her post-conference workshop, Writing From the Heart and Finding Your Authentic Voice, on Sunday. The purpose of the session was to help us better understand ourselves so that we could connect to that heartfelt space from which our voice originates. Karen’s sincere introduction set the stage for the twenty attendees to get deep, get personal, and let their unique voices be heard. Volunteers shared pre-prepared answers to a thought-provoking questionnaire. This provided each of us with the opportunity to receive validation from the group and to better connect with one another. Listening to others share what they had overcome to pursue writing reaffirmed my quest for publication. And hearing others give similar answers to questions like, “What beliefs have kept you from achieving your dreams?” helped me to consider the fallacy of my own doubts and realize that I wasn’t battling them alone.

            Next Karen asked us to write a poem to complete the phrase, “I come from…” to test her theory that a stronger connection to self and others will help your writing flow. I started by brainstorming individual words and then suddenly the phrase, “Born in the mountains,” appeared in my mind and the rest of the poem just poured onto my paper. It was an otherworldly experience I can only describe as inspired. And it was evident from the work produced in that short time that the other attendees had been equally moved. The poems shared reaffirmed that when we consider who we are, we can better access our own voice.

            After a weekend with Karen, I can see her authentic voice in the way she interacts with people and in her approach to agenting. Her example inspires me to seek out my own true voice as I draft my new novel and to write about the themes that resonate most with me. With my butt now firmly in my chair, I may or may not write the next Harry Potter or Hunger Games, but I am confident that what I do write will be authentically me. I am grateful to the RMC-SCBWI for giving me the opportunity to meet Karen and for hosting a wonderful conference. I look forward to another large helping of encouragement next fall.




1 comment:

  1. Such a lovely post, Jennifer...

    And I absolutely love the idea of asking ourselves where we come from... I totally believe that having strong connections to ourselves and others will translate to the page... I wish you would've shared the poem! I'm intrigued with the mountains! <3