Big sur conference 2021 review

Seeing that it’s New Year’s Eve, I wanted to make sure I get in this blog post before the new year rolls in.

I’m absolutely happy that I was able to go to Big Sur Conference. I was originally on the waitlist, and when I was notified that a spot opened up, I asked my agent her thoughts. She said she thinks I would love it, so that convinced me to register and plan what I wanted to wear. I haven’t been to any conventions or big events for nearly 2 years now, and it feels weird for me to go to an event like this and not dress up. It’s not an event to me if I can’t dress up! I packed my Excalibur Night Parade of One Hundred Demons wa-lolita dress, and a reversible kimono dress that I sewed a couple of years ago. One side features a pattern inspired by Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven, and the other side is a pattern depicting the story of Snow White with a Japanese-inspired flair.

My printed manuscripts ready to be critiqued, and my two dresses to be packed!

On Friday morning of the conference, I woke up at 5am to start heading down to Monterey and beat the traffic. I screamed in delight when the Princess Mononoke theme played on the classical radio channel! On the way, I called the hotel to let them know I’d be arriving a bit early. The gal on the phone named Tiffany was SO NICE and asked me about my writings and said she has a 9 year old son named Joe (similar to me lol!) and wants to keep an eye out when my book is published. I was so very touched! I do hope my book can get in his hands sooner than later.

All the agents, editors, and authors

Even though I am already agented, Big Sur Conference was a very valuable experience. Attendees came from a wide variety of backgrounds, and writing experiences ranged from those who were starting out to those who were already agented and published and wanted feedback on new work. What I appreciated about the conference was getting to meet the Andrea Brown agents, editors, authors, and fellow writers, and collect so much personalized feedback and implement them during revision time. The two mentors I was paired with were agent Jem Chambers-Black and author Victoria Piontek. I was in groups of 5 people (not counting the mentor), one group with 2 sessions with Jem, and another group with 2 other sessions with Victoria. This was so great, because I got such valuable feedback from groupmates and unique perspectives both from Jem and what she looks for as an agent, and from Victoria and her author perspective. When one of my critique mates asked me for spoilers, it was great to hear Victoria say, “Wait, I want to read it first!”

Working on revisions in front of the Christmas trees made me so cheery.

The Q&A panels with the editors on Saturday and with the agents on Sunday were great, too! At the agent panel, I asked them what happens when they go on submission with their client and they encounter an editor who turns down their client’s work, either because the editor has something that’s too similar, or because they are already publishing a work by an author who’s of a similar ethnic background. It was really great to hear their response and their actual encounters with those editors. They’ll blacklist editors who outed themselves as racist, discuss it amongst themselves and other agents, and keep track of which editors to not send to. It was so wonderful to hear them acknowledge that a culture and ethnic group are not monoliths and just because there’s an author from that specific background already published, it doesn’t mean that other authors of that background can contribute with their own perspectives. In the white-dominant publishing industry, it was so great to hear them say that to the conference audience.

The triangle of a good story: Character, Theme, and Plot

Dinner served each night was absolutely delicious and served buffet-style. Since we’re still in the midst of a pandemic and Omicron is around the corner, masks were worn, and everyone was very respectful. Unlike a convention crowd where there’s always someone who’s ruining it for everyone else (ahem, Anime NYC), this crowd was mindful of covid guidelines, and everyone had to provide proof of vaccination when registering for the conference.

Mmmmmm, tempting my sweet tooth!

Since it was December, with the holiday season in swing, my favorite place to work on my revisions was in the hotel lobby. There was a giant Christmas tree by a roaring fireplace, and I could sit on couches or at a table. It was almost like being able to work in a cozy coffeshop again, though I did love how upscale and beautiful the hotel atmosphere felt while also being warm and welcoming. I must say, receiving and implementing all the feedback I got throughout the conference sparked new ideas for revisions for the rest of my story and made me fall in love with my manuscript all over again. I felt so blissfully immersed in my new novel, I never wanted that feeling to end.

Cozy!

Would I choose to come back to Big Sur Conference? Maybe not 2 years in a row, but I wouldn’t rule it out. I’m at least very happy I had the chance to attend and experience this conference for myself, and would definitely recommend any children’s author with the goal of traditional publication to attend at least once, whether in California or in Massachusetts. This conference was a great highlight to the end of 2021 for me. Here’s to a bright new dawn in 2022!

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