Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Questions A Writer Should Know How to Answer

As I prepare for my first ever big writing conference (SCBWI New York), I'm trying to calm my nerves by thinking about how to answer some questions that might come up in casual conversation. But it occurred to me that I often get asked these questions by non-writers, too. Every once in a while, it’s not a bad idea to take a minute to think about how you’d answer these questions, and even practice them, so you don’t become all tongue-tied if the occasion comes up.

1. What do you write?

2. How did you become a writer/get started writing?

3. What are you working on now?

4. Have you ever been published or where can I find your books?

Of course, you need to keep in mind who’s asking. Some of the writing lingo we use as writers may not be familiar to non-writers. I recently had a conversation where I ended up explaining the term “dystopian” in a hallway of my school. (Lucky for me, I can now refer to the TV series Revolution). And I’m often asked to explain what “middle grade” means – not to be confused with “middle school”, which doesn’t necessarily capture the same age group. There’s also the difference between YA and MG (see MG vs YA: What's the Difference by MiG Writer Debbie Ridpath Ohi for clarification), which isn’t always as clear cut as we’d like to think.

Of course, at SCBWI, everyone will know these distinctions, which will make conversations and explanations that much easier. I can concentrate on what I want people to know about me and my writing. (Because even though I’m an introvert, I do want people to read and know about my work.) It will also be useful to remember that I can draw on these questions when I’m trying to think of what to say to other writers that I meet (since I’m sure they’ll know the answers and feel comfortable talking a little about their work), along with these:

5. Have you been to one of these conferences before?

6. Do you have any tips for a newbie?*

Painful as it may be for someone who spends a lot of time on the computer, it's important to be able to articulate something sensible about what I'm actually doing for all those hours (so I'd better not mention all the time I spend reading blogs and, lately, tweets.) Can you think of any other questions a writer needs to be able to answer?

*For more tips on calming your nerves before attending a big conference, check out Debbie Ridpath Ohi’s comics for conference newbies.

-- Andrea



  1. So excited for you Andrea. I have not been to one of those big conferences. You'll have to tell us all about it. Be sure to practice your one to two sentence pitch too.

    1. Thanks, Natalie. It's a little scary, but I'll be meeting the rest of the MiG Writers, so that makes it less intimidating.

  2. Have a great time, Andrea. I've been to conferences when I've known no one. It is more fun, though, when you have a group to hang out with. And you'll love Debbie in person. She has more energy than the energizer bunny. :D

    1. When I met Debbie, I was impressed by her energy too! I've also met Christy, who can definitely keep up with Deb in terms of energy! Looking forward to meeting the other MiGs.

  3. Great post Andrea! I love these tips and you are so right about us as writers really asking what we do and why.

  4. Hope the conference was a blast - i've never been to the NY SCBWI, but attended the LA one a few years ago (as well as several of their local ones - i'm a conference junkie) and had a fantastic time. Aren't children's authors the friendliest and most supportive group of people to hang out with?

    I think it's not only important to be able to answer those questions, but figure out how to answer them succinctly. As authors, hence storytellers, we can be a bit verbose. haha.



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