A few weeks ago I did a big thing. I took a trip just for me. No kids. No husband. Just my friend and I hopping on a plane and getting out of town. Purely indulgent.

You might be imagining a spa weekend getaway for some much needed pampering. But that wasn’t it at all. Instead I spent my hours confined to the meeting rooms of a Marriott Hotel. And loved it.

You know what writers do when they get away? They go to writer’s conferences!

The weeks leading up to my trip I was so excited. The classes sounded amazing and I was eager to hone my skills. And then little feelings of doubt and dread crept in. What if my expectations were too high? What if the classes were mediocre and a waste of my time? What if I discovered that I was a small little nobody who couldn’t really write? And what if the rest of Denver discovered it too?

Well, it turns out I am a small little nobody, but so were most of the other people there!

The conference did NOT disappoint! (Phew. Wipe sweat from forehead.) SCBWI was an amazing experience. It was worth any anxiety I had leading up to it. And it was well worth the sacrificing I made my family and friends do so I could go. Seriously…best family and friends ever.

With agents and editors and published authors I felt like I was spending two days with people who really speak my language. Or at least the language I should be speaking.

I took a class from Kristin Nelson who is an agent with Nelson Literary. I was impressed with her direct and honest approach. And a little terrified. I came away from her class reeling.

 (At lunch) Me: I’m shaking. I’m shaking from Kristin Nelson’s class.

Fellow Writer: It’s a real physical response isn’t it?

I felt a little better knowing it wasn’t just me.

Kristin Nelson’s approach was brilliant. She could have lectured on what she looks for in query letters, which would have been valuable, I’m sure.

Instead she thrust us in the middle of her daily job. We read through real query pitches in her email inbox, and as a class decided how to respond to them. On average she gets 150 queries a day. A day! That’s a lot of polish and shine in order to catch her attention!

Sometimes we struggled to articulate what felt ‘off’ about a letter. She expertly guided us until we reached the conclusion that her years of experience spotted from the start. I internalized things in a way I may have missed by simply taking notes during a lecture.

My favorite thing about Kristin Nelson was that she didn’t dismiss work based on small mistakes. She acknowledged that she was on guard, but continued reading. She really gave each writer as much of a chance as possible.

The idea of searching for an agent is intimidating. The relationship has to be right. An agent has to believe in your work as much as you do. I got a glimpse of what I’m up against. That should be paralyzing, but it’s not.

Instead it’s just exciting.

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