Posted by: Kathy Temean | May 16, 2011

Countdown to the Conference

I asked Connie if she could write something for my blog, letting people know about her journey.  Connie is a good example of a new member stepping  in an making things happen.  Here’s Connie:

We’re just a few weeks away from the annual NJSCBWI conference in Princeton and I can’t wait! What a difference from when I attended my first one with the NJ chapter back in 2007. Not knowing a soul had made me a little nervous. I already had a National SCBWI conference in NYC under my belt along with a week at the 2006 Highlights Writers Workshop in Chautauqua – but this was still something “new” for me.

I learned so much, made a bunch of new friends, and signed up to volunteer that very day. The volunteering definitely has its perks. For instance, upon arriving the night before the 2009 conference to help with a number of things, Kathy had arranged a dinner for a few of us. Agent, Jill Corcoran had just flown in from LA and had joined the group. Jill and I hit if off and had a number of things in common and boy, did I want her for an agent after that. Unfortunately, she didn’t sign me on that year. (Hang tight, it gets better…)

I kept writing, revising, and searching for an agent while in revisions with an editor I had met through a First-Page Session at NJSCBWI. Fast forward to the 2010 NJSCBWI Conference when I saw Jill again and told her how that editor loved my series but couldn’t take it on in his new job at another publishing house. She told me to send the revised manuscript along with book #2 to her and guess what? She loved it and is now my agent! Along with my middle-grade work, Jill has given me advice, guidance, and a kick in the pants to try my first YA novel which I’m currently having a blast writing. I’ll be using the beginning pages of that work in progress for a hands-on workshop at this year’s conference in June.

Rewind back to the Highlights workshop I had attended where I had been selected to work one-on-one with Jerry Spinelli. (I still can’t believe my good fortune!) I wrote an article about Jerry’s advice, and Kathy accepted it to run in NJSCBWI’s, Sprouts! (I’ve written others for Sprouts since and if you haven’t seen our publication, you should – it’s gorgeous!) Pitching an idea during that same week with Highlights resulted in an ongoing monthly feature called “Dear Tommy” that I’ve been doing for FACES magazine for over four years. Several SCBWI RA’s, here in the US and abroad, have helped me find pen pals for my son, Tommy, to correspond with for this article series. Eager to return the favors, I have helped some of them get assignments with FACES. If you hear people say that children’s writers are a helpful and nurturing group, I can attest that it’s true!

One of my several volunteer duties this year is coordinating the Peer Critique Groups. This is an area near and dear to my heart since my trusted critique partners were met through NJSCBWI as well. So now I hope you can see why I’m so excited about the conference. The networking opportunities, the advice I’ve received, the friendships I’ve formed, the agent I signed with — all priceless.  Old friends: I look forward to seeing you. New friends: I look forward to meeting you. Faculty: I look forward to working with you.

I remain positive and hopeful that we will all have success stories to share soon! See you in June!

Connie Colón


  1. Connie, I actually got choked up reading this. See? Dreams CAN come true if you work hard, have talent and make opportunities work! You have angels in your life, my friend and I, too, am really looking forward to the conference—and seeing YOU! 😀


    • Donna, you’re so sweet — I think you’re one of the angels in my life!! Looking forward to seeing you again in June!


  2. And here I thought I was the only newbie in 2007. Had I known you were there….. So many blessings have come to me since that first conference, I never would have made it this far. And I never would have had so much fun, nor laughed so hard over stories about Jerry the paver man and Rodrigo, or learned so much and gathered the courage to put myself out there and end up with a Writers House agent to represent me. So many friendships, so many blessings, so much hard work and even more fun have come my way, too. Thanks for a wonderful tribute to the NJSCBWI conference, Connie. You’re right ~ hold tight, it keeps getting better!


    • Nanci, my awesome friend — feels as if I’ve known you FOREVER! We need to both make sure we wear waterproof mascara because you know we’ll laugh until we cry again!


  3. What a nice blog post!

    I think you and I had dinner together in Princeton college town a few years ago because you look so familiar. If I am right, we walked over from the hotel on the seminary grounds to a dinery kind of restaurant and a hot and sunny day.

    And we were in a session with Rebecca Sherman…. does that ring a bell??

    When you see my picture shortly you can confirm that!!

    Great post, thanks! Barb


    • Yes, I do remember that! It was my first conference and I was so thankful to have someone to eat with! I don’t have to worry about that any longer because one of the other perks about doing lots of volunteering for the conferences now is that I get invited to the faculty dinners. Are you coming this year, Barb? Hope to see you there!


  4. I was a newbie at the 2008 Conference, with only an interest in picture books. I was inspired to try my hand at a middle grade novel and met Connie in my very first Peer Group Critique the next year. She showed her wisdom and has since been generous with her time in helping me with my writing. And all the NJSCBWI functions throughout the year have helped me grow and will be there to make sure I keep growing. thanks Kathy and Laurie. Can’t wait until June!


    • I was happy to help, Mary — and glad that we’re still contacting each other for an occasional critique! See you soon, my friend!


  5. Great post, Connie. We read over and over again that the difference between published and unpublished writers isn’t so much talent or luck or who she knew, but persistence. Yours is paying off. So excited to hear that you’re writing YA!


    • Thanks, Miss Laurie — you’ve been one of my heroes since 7th grade!!! (which was only a few months ago, huh?) I’ll keep you posted on things after the conference — and we need to get together soon (right after baseball season!!) Love ya!


  6. Great post Connie and I remember when we were first introduced at the NJSCBWI conference and we’ve been friends ever since. Looking forward to this year’s conference and more great things to come!


    • It’s such a great chapter, isn’t it, Linda? See you soon — yes, more great things await!


  7. Yes, I do remember that! It was my first conference and I was so thankful to have someone to eat with! I don’t have to worry about that any longer because one of the other perks about doing lots of volunteering for the conferences now is that I get invited to the faculty dinners. Are you coming this year, Barb? Hope to see you there!

    I’ll be at the dinner, and staying overnight. Look forward to seeing you, again. Barb


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