Guest post – Rena J. Traxel

Today Middle grade writer and poet buddy Rena Traxel is here to talk to you about her recent conference experience. Take it away Rena!

My Journey to Canada West SCBWI Conference

Thanks Catherine for having me on your blog today.

On May 3, I packed up my car and headed west to attend SCBWI Canada West Conference in Burnaby, BC. Two days later and several bear and goat sightings later (I was travelling through he Rocky Mountains) I arrived in Burnaby.

The night before the conference I had a bit of freak out because in the morning I would face not one, but two critiques. I was convinced that the reviewers were going to tell me that I was a terrible a writer. Thankfully that wasn’t the case! Poet extraordinaire Tiffany Stone, reviewed some of my poetry and she was wonderful. Right off the bat she told me that my work has a natural flow to it and that I was funny. She went on to show me how I could improve upon my poems and even told me that one of them was ready to send out for publication. She further boosted my confidence when in response to a participant’s question. “Do you need to write in rhyme?” She said “no, just this morning I read Rena’s poems in free verse and they were really funny.” So that was pretty cool!

During lunch I met up with a girl who I had met through an online workshop. It was neat meeting with someone I had gotten to known online. I didn’t know that the majority of the SCBWI participants had lunch together in a room at the conference. I think next year I will stay behind and eat with the rest of the group. It would have been a wonderful networking opportunity; nevertheless, I had a blast hanging out with my new writer friend.

After lunch and giant cup of Tim Horton’s coffee (what can I say I’m Canadian) there was the first page panel, in which the first page of a manuscript was read out and the four-person panel made up of authors and editors critiqued the first page. I submitted the first page of my fantasy novel, Death of Sleeping Beauty, for critique. I thought my heart was going to jump out of my chest when Ken Kilback (regional advisor) started reading my submission. I was terrified! But somehow I managed to calm the rushing blood in my head and listen to the words being spoken. It was pretty cool hearing a complete stranger read my words! (Seriously, give it a try). Thankfully the crowd and the panel laughed where I intended them to laugh. All of them liked my characters voice, which is super important considering my novel is told in first person!

After the panel Kallie George the editor from Simply Read Books got up and talked about how to annoy an editor. Surprisingly, she said fixing grammar is easy. Fixing voice is not. It’s hard to turn down a project that is good idea, but fixing problems such as voice is too much work for an editor.

After Kallie came author Danika Dinsmore who travelled across the world to sell the international rights to her novel at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair. Apparently, this is not something that is done. Agents are usually the one’s who go to the fair, but Danika didn’t have a agent. She is seriously awesome (I thought submitting one page of my work for critique was brave).

That is my journey in a nutshell. This is second time I have been to a SCBWI conference and each time I learn a lot. I’m hoping to save up and attend SCBWI LA conference in 2013 and finally meet some of the wonderful writers I have met through the 12x12in2012 challenge. Also I ate a lot of beef jerky and drank a lot of Tim Horton’s coffee except for the four hours between Kamloops and Hinton in which there is no Tim Hortons (I was seriously disappointed!) The weather was warm. It only rained for about 15 minutes. The guy behind me, who didn’t notice I was slowing down for the herd of mountain goats feeding at the side of the highway, almost hit me. That was almost as scary as submitting my work for critique.

Wow, thanks Rena! It all sounds wonderful.

Bio: Beware of the fiery haired writer who calls herself Rena J. Traxel. She spends her day brewing up a batch of fantastical stories. To learn more about her check out her blog On the Way to Somewhere @

40 thoughts on “Guest post – Rena J. Traxel

  1. Catherine, thanks for the excellent guest post! Rena – so great to hear about your conference experience in more detail. I know i already said this on your blog, but I think you were so brave to submit that first page to a panel and discussion! Good for you! And it sounds like things went well – how marvelous that Tiffany commented later that your poems were funny, and that she thought one was ready for publication! Thanks for sharing, ladies!

    • I know Susanna, we can live vicariously through Rena’s trip. It’s brilliant that Rena knows her poem is submission ready and I really cannot wait for her MG books to come to fruition. It’s funny about Kamloops. Before I knew where we would be living in Canada I looked into Kamloops, it looks a great place. I do hope one day we can go on conference together Rena!

  2. Thanks for this post, Catherine! I live a mere half hour from Burnaby and was seriously considering going to the conference, but was a little cash strapped. That’s the thing about these writer’s conferences…the price tag! (at least for me…) I would have loved to go, but glad to hear about it through Rena. Tiffany Stone is a talented poet, and funny too…that’s so awesome you go have her critique your work. Cheers!

    • I can understand that. I’m dying to go to LA for a conference but it’s stupid expensive. I have family in Kamloops so it’s nice to go seem them and go to the conference at the same time. I also seem to learn a lot so if you can I would suggest going one year. The group is small so it’s easy to talk to everyone. Tiffany was the main reason I went to the conference. She is so funny and nice.

      • Oh it’s wonderful you could have two motives for going Rena. Too bad you couldn’t go Jackie, but I understand about the cost. For me not going to Niagra this year a lot of it was that I don’t have as much to pitch so I didn’t want to show up with nothing. One year I must do it though.

  3. Wonderful to read your experiences, Rena! Thank you for hosting Rena, Catherine! I am so impressed that you not only submitted poetry for critique (and passed with flying colors — that doesn’t surprise me at all) but also submitted a manuscript page that was read aloud. Brava! I have met Ken Kilback (at SCBWI LA last summer) and he’s a great guy. Puts people at ease.

    If you get to SCBWI LA next year, be sure to go to the Canada gathering — you’ll meet writers from both Canada West and Canada East. The international connections you’ll make are fantastic, too. For example, the person I sat beside in the very first session, the orientation for new attendees (Darshana Shah Khiani) and saw umpteen times passing in the hallways, etc., thereafter, much to my delight, is now in the same critique group as I am, through 12×12. Isn’t that just ultra cool? I so hope you’ll be able to have the same wonderful experience in 2013, Rena!

    • Thanks! Ken is really nice and he does a wonderful job of putting the Canada West events together. Thanks for the tip. I’m trying to figure out if I can afford to go to LA this summer. I’m surprised by how small the writing community is.

  4. This was a wonderful guest post, Catherine. Lovely to hear Rena’s view on her conference and wow, so brave going to not one but two critique meets first up. That would have scared me. As Beth said, very brave to have your first page read out to everyone by a panel. Amazing advantage for you Rena… good luck with your writing. Thanks again Catherine.

  5. You are brave. I’ve never entered my work into a panel discussion. I’d rather face the readers. :) I’ve thought about joining SCBWI. I can’t afford all the groups, so I’m considering dropping RWA next year and trying SCBWI. It sounds like a great group.

    • I’ve been part of SCBWI for two years and I think it’s worth the money. I find it more useful then my local writers guild because it’s specifically for children’s writers. I figure this will help me later when I have to face the readers.

  6. Thanks for sharing your experience with us Rena! I’ve never been to a SCWBI conference but hope to soon. You seemed to have gotten a lot of out it. What a good feeling it must have been to hear that you don’t have to change your “voice”! Best of luck with your ms

    • Thanks Jen. I did. If you get a chance I say go! It’s a lot of fun to connect with other writers and hear their stories. I suggested to Ken that having a workshop on graphic novels would be interesting so hopefully next year that will be on the agenda.

  7. Hey Rena – you ARE brave! And look what it got you – congratulations! I’m trying to picture you sipping coffee and biting into the beef jerky instead of biting off you nails! lol

  8. Great post ladies. I’m glad you had Rena share her experience at the SCBWI in conference in Canada. Rena, congratulations for getting such good feedback — makes all the hairpulling worth it! I attended LA last year, and you will have a ball. So much networking. If you can take advantage of the extra day, so. It is more hands on like you experienced. And, you work with agents. Best of luck. Love your excitement!

  9. I enjoyed reading this, Rena and Catherine! I love to read about others journeys in writing…whether it be conferences, getting that agent or publisher…etc. Of course, I wish you the best as you apply this experience to your writing.

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