1. Who is on the conference faculty?
Faculty bios are included on the Midsouth conference website, but before the conference you should also research faculty members and consider reading their books, so you can ask informed questions during and after presentations.
2. What should I do to prepare for the conference?
• Research and read books by conference faculty.
• If you’re an illustrator showing a portfolio, watch Three Steps To A Better Portfolio at the Illustrator Lounge page.
• Download your conference schedule on the SCBWI website:
➜ Log into the SCBWI website.
➜ Click the event history button on the left side of the page.
➜ Click “view registration confirmation” for the Midsouth conference.
• Use this year’s conference hashtag on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram for a chance to win prizes.
• Join Hilton Honors to get free Wi-Fi in your room if you’re staying in the hotel.
• Check traffic and weather before you leave home in case of delays.
• Allow extra time. The parking lot at the Embassy Suites Cool Springs is massive, so you might have to walk a long way to your car. Translation = showing up at the last minute could make you ten minutes late.
3. When should I arrive at the conference?
If you are taking an intensive or have a critique on Friday, you will obviously need to arrive on Friday. If not, the only other event that day is the regional meet-and-greet with the Midsouth social directors, the Midsouth conference committee, and the Midsouth critique coordinator from 5:30-6:30 p.m. Friday night. (This meet-and-greet is optional.)
If you do not want to attend the Friday night regional meet-and-greet AND are not attending an intensive or critique on Friday, you do not need to arrive at the conference until Saturday morning.
4. How do I pick up my registration folder?
Your individualized conference folder may be picked up from the registration table in the lobby of the Embassy Suites at any of the following times:
• 8:30-9:00 a.m. Friday
• 11:30 a.m.-12:00 p.m. Friday
• 2:00-2:30 p.m. Friday
• 5:30-6:00 p.m. Friday
• 7:30-8:00 a.m. Saturday
Your conference folder will contain:
a) a name badge
b) a personalized letter with the breakout sessions and any critiques you selected during online registration
c) a summary of faculty bios
d) a conference program (with breakout session locations)
e) a map of the hotel
f) a map of nearby restaurants
g) any volunteer assignments (if applicable)
Conference folders are alphabetized by last name. If you registered online with a pen name, your folder will be under that name. Changes to breakout sessions are not possible due to space issues.
5. Will food be provided at the conference?
Complimentary beverages—Complimentary coffee and hot tea will be available throughout the conference near the bookstore.
Saturday lunch—Lunch on Saturday is NOT included in your conference tuition. You have several options for lunch on Saturday:
a) You can bring your own lunch.
b) You can purchase your own lunch at the hotel or in a nearby restaurant. (See the Midsouth dining map and be aware you only have 75 minutes for lunch unless you are willing to skip our door prizes.)
c) You can order a box lunch for $29 when you register for the conference.
Saturday dinner—The Silver and Steam Gala Dinner on Saturday night is included in your conference tuition. Get excited!
Embassy Suites breakfast buffet and happy hour—If you are staying at the Embassy Suites, your hotel room includes access to a complimentary happy hour in the hotel bar every evening from 5:30-7:30 p.m. and a complimentary breakfast buffet in the hotel lobby (including things like an omelet bar, fresh fruit, and biscuits and gravy) from 7:00-10:30 a.m. on weekends.
The Athletic Club Bar and Grill—Food and drink may also be purchased at The Athletic Club, which is located on the lobby level of the Embassy Suites and is open from 11:00 a.m.-11:00 p.m. daily.
6. What do I need to know about my face-to-face manuscript critique?
We guarantee all critiques will be conducted professionally. Each face-to-face manuscript critique will be held at a private table in a meeting room with several critique tables. The person conducting the critique will bring notes and discuss your work for 15 minutes. You should:
a) arrive five full minutes before the time scheduled in your conference folder,
b) come with an open mind,
c) be prepared to receive constructive feedback, and
d) have questions ready in case there is time for them.
If you did not choose your own critiquer, pick up your registration packet as soon as possible so you will have ample time to research the person doing your critique. Please also be sure to read The ABCs of Paid Critiques.
7. What do I need to know about my portfolio review?
First, watch Three Steps To a Better Portfolio. Second, during your interview be ready with these dos and don’ts: DO ask which piece is the strongest and which is the weakest. DO ask what should I take out and what would you like to see more of. DO be ready with short clear explanations of each piece if you are asked. DON’T be defensive of your work. DO realize that while valuable, this is still one person’s opinion.
8. When is the conference bookstore open?
The conference bookstore will be open during conference hours in the lobby of the hotel and will have both cash and credit card payment options, but please note that SCBWI swag can only be purchased with cash or check.
If there is a book you know you want signed, you will have to purchase it before or during the Saturday night Cocktail and Autograph Party.
9. What should I bring to the conference?
• Three paper-clipped copies of the first page of ONE of your manuscripts IF AND ONLY IF you wish to submit it for the first pages session for which you registered online. Paper clip all three copies together and place them in the submission box you signed up for (YA, MG, or PB) at the registration table between 7:30 and 8:00 a.m. on Saturday.
• Note-taking materials, preferably paper and pen/pencil.
• The first five pages of your manuscript, double-spaced, IF AND ONLY IF you registered for the optional peer group critiques.
• Printed critiques of your peers’ manuscripts if you’re participating in an optional critique group at the conference.
• Business cards to exchange with other authors and illustrators. (Please do not give your business card or postcards to editors and agents at the conference unless they ask; they do not have room to take them home from every conference attendee and will just have to recycle them before they leave.)
• PAL members might want to bring copies of published books (up to three) and business cards/promotional materials for display in our PAL Showcase. See PAL Opportunities for more info.
• Illustrators might want to bring postcards of your work (in addition to business cards) to exchange. You might also want to bring supplies for sketching during the conference.
• If you registered for the Saturday portfolio showcase or a portfolio critique, then bring your portfolio to the conference.
• Do not bring query letters or manuscripts to submit to faculty members while at the conference. If you would like to query an editor or agent who is on the faculty, you’ll be given guidelines on how to do that after the conference.
• Food for lunch on Saturday if you don’t purchase a box lunch when you register or do not want to buy your lunch at the hotel or at a nearby restaurant.
• Layers! The conference rooms are air conditioned and tend to be quite chilly, but the atrium is warmer, so be sure to dress in layers.
• A hotspot. If you’re staying in the hotel and you’re a Hilton Honors member, you’ll get free Wi-Fi in your room, but the free Wi-Fi does not work in the conference rooms. So you’ll need a hotspot on your phone if you want internet access at the conference.
• New or gently used books for the annual book drive, benefitting Book ‘Em Nashville.
• Your wallet. The conference bookstore takes credit but SCBWI swag can only be purchased with cash or check.
10. What can a pre-published author/illustrator expect from the conference?
SCBWI conferences are a place to learn more about the industry, improve your craft, and network with other writers and illustrators to help you succeed. This means talking to people you don’t know. The Midsouth Fall Conference is a great place to have fun while learning and making new contacts. The people you meet at the conference will likely be able to help you on your publishing journey down the road.
11. What questions should I ask? What questions should I avoid?
During the Q&A portion of a presentation, you should ask questions about process, craft, or the industry of children’s literature. Please do not give into the temptation to share your personal story/manuscript ideas or ask personal questions that only apply to your own work.
12. Can I pitch to agents, editors, or art directors at this conference?
Under no circumstance should you pitch to the agents, editors, or art directors at any time during the conference. Doing so is considered highly unprofessional and will only make you look like a newbie who doesn’t know the ropes. If a faculty member asks what you’re working on, you need to be prepared to answer that question in one brief sentence (also known as the elevator pitch).
13. How should I talk to an agent, editor, or art director?
If you get an opportunity to speak with agents, editors, or art directors while at the conference, don’t tell them about your work unless they ask. If they do ask, you’ll want to be prepared to answer by telling them what you’re working on in one sentence (again, the elevator pitch). If they don’t ask, use that opportunity to ask them questions about their work in order to help you understand their personal tastes and interests. After listening to the editors and agents at the conference, only submit to those who seem like a good fit for your work. Also please remember that agents, editors, and art directors need their downtime as much as the rest of us. Remember to respect their privacy when they’re not on duty. (Or when they’re in the bathroom. Seriously.)
14. What should I wear to the conference?
Everything goes at the Midsouth conference—from business casual to nice jeans. You want to feel comfortable yet be professional. Because some conference rooms will feel warm while others will feel cold, you will want to dress in layers.
15. What should I wear to the Saturday night gala dinner?
The theme for Saturday night’s dinner is “silver and steam,” so dress appropriately. Think dinner attire with a bent toward steampunk—leather, gold, silver, steel, etc. Everything from a top hat or goggles to a leather jacket or a full-on costume. You are free to wear the same thing to the dinner on Saturday night that you wear to the conference during the day, but consider dressing up a little for the fun of cocktails and dinner!
16. Can I volunteer to help at the conference?
We love it when attendees sign up to volunteer at the conference! The Midsouth conference could not happen without the help of DOZENS of volunteers (including the entire volunteer conference committee). We try to utilize each person who offers to help, but sometimes we don’t need to tap everyone. If you sign up to volunteer and don’t hear from us, don’t fret. We’ll probably need your help the next year instead.