Last weekend I attended the COSCBWI conference in Columbus, Ohio. It was that group's first conference and they did a wonderful job setting up workshops with agent Erin Murphy, editors Ruta Rimas from Balzer and Bray and Kaylan Adair from Candlewick, as well as writers Cinda Chima, Shelley Pearsall and Tracie Vaughn Zimmer.
However there was one part of children's literature that they neglected -- nonfiction. That was very apparent when in the Q & A someone asked about picture book biographies and the entire panel fell silent and just looked at each other. Although I learned a lot at the conference, the most pertinent information I gleened, not from the scheduled workshops, but from talking to other nonfiction writers during lunch. Kerrie Hollihan (author of Isaac Newton and Physics for Kids) and I exchanged editor information and talked about sales over a nice hot chicken buffet. And I met Nancy Roe Pimm (author of The Heart of the Beast) and John Becker (author of Wild Cats Past and Present) while they signed their books. I wish they had been giving a workshop too. Like wallflowers at a dance nonfiction writers tend to seek each other out at conferences and gab on the fringe of things trying to figure out how to take what the editors and agents say and adapt it to our projects.
I know that the nonfiction workshops are sparsely attended compared to one about fantasy or picture books, but nonfiction is half of the market and should be addressed. Perhaps those of us who speak at writer's conferences need to come up with catchier workshop titles to bring in the audience. Or maybe when we go to conferences we just need to get over the feeling of being the ugly step sister at the ball, and get out there and dance!
I am a nonfiction writer and I am proud of it.... And I am available to speak at writer's conferences!