The SCBWI-Michigan spring conference took place yesterday and it was incredible. Jay Asher was the keynote. His book, THIRTEEN REASONS WHY is currently #4 on the NYT Bestsellers List at 60 weeks! (if you don't quite get what that means, trust me, it's a big deal). (if you click on his name up there, you will be taken to his blog post about the SCBWI-Michigan conference. Quite entertaining, even if you weren't there.)
Jay gave a tremendous keynote, entitled "How to Sell a Book in 12 years or less!" He said a lot of interesting and inspiring things about the big conference I'm going to which gave me a lot of hope for networking and really making some professional strides through attendance. I'm actually more excited to go than I was before and I was already pretty giddy.
I attended a great breakout on character development by Ruta Rimas of Balzer & Bray. That proved very valuable as I continue the revision process. I also attended Jay's breakout on injecting suspense into your work which was also fantastic.
All of these great talks led up to the pinnacle of the day for me...a 4pm manuscript critique with Jay Asher himself. What I was promised was 10 minutes of Jay's time to discuss his thoughts on the first chapter and 3 page summary of my novel. However, there are advantages to being the last critique of the day, but more about that in a moment. Jay wrote on my critique worksheet, "Fascinating premise!" Who wouldn't be excited to hear a successful author say that the very idea of your work is fascinating? But what really hit home was the portion marked 'notes on marketability'. Jay's comment there: "No problem with a premise like this." Hmmm, where had I heard similar words before? Oh yes, from Paula Morrow, former editor from the Cricket Group and currently an owner of her own publishing business, Boxing Day Books. She also told me that DREAM GIRL was highly marketable. These are the words that make a wannabe author's little heart go pitter patter. So I now have two professionals who think my idea is unique and cool. Jay actually said, (and this part is only from memory) that my novel sounded like a great story about really cool characters. To say I was happy with his critique is the understatement of the year.
But this isn't where the bliss runs out. Oh no. Recall that I said there are advantages to being the last critique of the day? Well, the critique rooms were way on the other side of the hotel from where the main action was happening. When my critique was over, Jay and I had no where to go but back to the other side of the hotel...together...whilst chatting. The final breakout was already half over and as we approached the room, I asked Jay if I could ask him a question about his book. He said sure and we proceeded to talk about his book and a few other fun literary things until the other breakout was finished. All in all, I had Jay Asher all to myself for about half an hour!!! People who sat at his table for lunch had to share him. I didn't! It was totally awesome! I'm even fairly sure that I managed to carry on intelligent conversation and not be a rambling fool. That's a big accomplishment!
Should you ever find yourself in the position to hear Jay speak, I recommend you do it. He is such an approachable, funny, genuine, humble person. His talks were exciting and fun and his advice in my critique was thought provoking and great. As a result, I'm all Jay Asher, all the time at present...except that I'm fired up to polish DREAM GIRL into the jewel I know she can be. After all folks, I've got a marketable story here and, after five years, I still love her. Things are looking good.