Monday, October 19, 2009

Notes on a Conference: RUCCL One-on-One

As promised, here's the full dish on the Rutgers One-on-One conference . First off, I was ecstatic to even be attending, because you had to apply, and only 70-something authors and illustrators were accepted (based off a writing sample and college admissions-esque essay). Which meant that there were 70-something editors and agents in attendance as mentors. Talk about intimidating and awesome.

What did I do to prepare? After the initial jumping up and down when I received the acceptance letter ("They like me! They really like me!"), I knew I was going to do some hefty research. There was a list online of all the mentors, and I wanted to know a bit about them and who they edit/represent before walking into the conference.

* I'm one of those people who need to be organized to feel competent and in control, so yeah, research. Love me some Googling. Plus, it helped me narrow down a list of people I really wanted to speak with.

And then ... it was Saturday.

My One-on-One mentor was Julie Tibbott, an editor from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. She was impossibly friendly, wonderful, and helpful, and has thus prejudiced me against any editor who's anything less. Julie and I spent our 45-minute One-on-One session discussing possibilities for my query letter, which I've been fighting with for months now. She gave me some great suggestions and a fresh perspective, and also had some positive feedback on the pages I'd sent in with my application (yay!).

Julie's responsible for acquiring such lovely books as Sydney Salter's MY BIG NOSE AND OTHER NATURAL DISASTERS, Marlene Perez's DEAD IS... series, and the upcoming THE CLEARING (by Heather Davis, author of NEVER CRY WEREWOLF).

During lunch, we were assigned to the tables of our Five-on-Five groups, but we mentees were free to wander about and chat with whomever we wanted. Now, there wasn't much wandering, which disappointed me because it meant that the mentors rarely had a free moment. Basically my options were: (1) hover and interrupt or (2) seek out the people on my list who were miraculously unoccupied for five minutes. I chose #2.

Look who I met!

Ruta Rimas, Assistant Editor at Balzer & Bray (new HarperCollins imprint)
I looked for Ruta because Balzer & Bray published THE SHIFTER, and you all know how much the FNC loves Janice Hardy. Ruta also loves Janice, and we happily chatted about the book for a few minutes. Ruta = awesome. And we took a picture together to say hi to Janice.

Hi Janice!

Yeah, Ruta's way cooler than I am.
Balzer & Bray is also responsible for Amy Huntley's THE EVERAFTER, so they're definitely an imprint to look out for. (3 of the 6 books on B&B's launch list were from debut authors!)

I also met editor Gretchen Hirsch, who was Kimberly Derting's editor when she worked at HarperCollins. (She's now with Atheneum/McElderry.) Pretty much I just thanked her for helping to bring THE BODY FINDER into existence. Yay Kim! (Gretchen's also responsible for JESSICA'S GUIDE TO DATING ON THE DARK SIDE.)

And since my Five-on-Five table mentors were also fabulous, I spent the rest of lunch chatting it up with both Julie Tibbott and Pamela Gruber. Pam's an editorial assistant at Little, Brown, & Co. She was also born and raised just outside of Philly, which automatically makes her cool. Plus, she let me ramble on endlessly about books I was reading and how the idea of talking to agents intimidated me. Pam currently works with picture books and novelty books, but she's interested in acquiring YA in the future.
And LB&C has quite the YA list! They published this little series called TWILIGHT, but that's not even the half of it. How about - HATE LIST, ONCE WAS LOST, PROPHECY OF THE SISTERS, ASH, TWENTY BOY SUMMER, BEAUTIFUL CREATURES, THE DEVOURING, and THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN?

Yeah, I thought so.

Julie and Pam agreed to take a lovely picture with me so that you guys could see firsthand how nice they are.

I don't look overeager AT ALL.

And then it was time for Five-on-Five.



  1. That sounds like such an awesome (and productive) day!


  2. Great post, Donna. Glad you got to go to the Rutgers conference. And all those contacts you made in the business! That's worth it right there.

  3. You had way too much fun! Plus you totally got to meet one of my favorite people, Gretchen (I <3 her)!!!

  4. Sounds fantastic! Love the recap.

  5. That sounds amazing and so fun! I really want to attend a writing conference someday soon and it's great to hear what one is like. :)

  6. Glad you guys like the notes! More to come later today.

    Julie - This was a fantastic conference, but it's a mentoring conference, which is different from most other conferences. Usually conferences involve different sessions that you attend throughout the day (or days, as the case may be) -- either they're panels on specific topics or craft-centric (where you do exercises to work on certain elements of writing). Both are led by either authors, editors, or agents. Most conferences only offer one-on-one time with an agent/editor (for pitch/critique) for an additional fee.

  7. That sounds amazing! And it's no secret I love Balzer & Bray since they are publishing my husband's picture book too :)


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