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Rutgers Conference Goes One on One With Industry Pros

Like many of us at the start of a year, I always take stock of the year before and the year to come. And like most professional artists part of that evaluation is examining how and where we presented our work. One of the best ways I’ve found to connect my work with potential clients is at conferences. As a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators I’ve attended SCBWI conferences for many years and can’t speak highly enough of them. However for a few years I’d been hearing about a conference called Rutgers One on One Plus. It’s put on by the Rutgers Council on Children’s Literature and it is what it says – one on one time with a professional from the publishing field.

Rutgers attendees wait to find how who their mentors for the day will be.

Rutgers attendees wait to find out who their mentors are.

The conference is held on the Rutgers New Brunswick campus in New Jersey and attendees must apply with their work to be accepted. It’s only a day long but they pack a lot into that day. In the morning mentors and mentees are paired up and then grouped together into 5 on 5 sessions .

These are groups of 5 attendees and 5 mentors in a round table discussion. Mentees have the chance to ask questions of and present work to any of the editors or art directors at their table.

A group of 5 mentors and 5 mentees get to know each other

A group of 5 mentors and 5 mentees get to know each other

Equally important, the industry professionals are seated at the same tables for lunch and attendees are encouraged to find art directors or editors they are not paired with and network, network, network. After lunch each mentor/mentee pair is given 45 minutes together. During this time the mentor reviews the materials submitted and the attendee has a chance to ask questions and pitch other projects. Each attendee is given submission information about every mentor for after the conference.

An illustrator mentor reviewing submitted work

An illustrator mentor reviewing submitted work

At less than $200 to attend, I found this conference to be a significant value. The submission process starts in the spring. There’s about 70 editors, agents, and art directors who agree to be mentors (with a handful of authors and illustrators agreeing as well) and only one attendee for each mentor. Visit the Rutgers Council On Children’s Literature to get submission information. I posted about my personal experience on my own blog here. Be aware that if your work is chosen it’s highly recommended to research every mentor prior to the conference. This is a hugely valuable but VERY time consuming process. It’s valuable because it makes it very easy to start up a conversation in the sandwich line. However having crammed it all into the 6 weeks between being accepted and attending the conference I highly recommend starting the research process soon after submission closes and Rutgers posts the list of mentors. Then you’ll want to recheck the list a few times as the names sometimes change. At the end of the day Rutgers is an easy train ride from Newark Airport or New York City. Taxis and hotels were very reasonable and you can usually hook up with other attendees before or after to share notes.