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A Letter From Carol Lynch Williams

Director of Writing & Illustrating for Young Readers

Hello, My Dear Friends!

I cannot believe that I’m writing a letter for  WIFYR 2024–especially because this will be our 25th year together learning about writing, publishing, and who we are as wonderful humans on this earth.

When I look back at the past 25 years, I’m amazed at the good that has come from this conference. In all of that time, we have only had an agent or two and an editor or two who hasn't loved being here. Why have we had such amazing success? Because the people who attend this conference are amazing. You all are talented, you all are smart, and you are willing to work hard. Quoting Chris Crow, “This conference is not for the faint of heart.” And it isn't.

This coming year will be a little bit different. We won't have as many specialized classes. We'll have more plenary sessions. We’ll still have the same number of afternoon sessions. We'll have Zoom guests and those visiting from out of town as well as local authors, editors, and agents. 

I'm excited. I'm excited for what's to come, for the success I know we will see again. As I am writing this in November, NaNoWriMo is almost over. That means you have a month or two or three to work on the novel you wrote this month–to get it ready for the agent/editor's eyes.

I want to remind you of the success we have seen at this conference because of the diligence of faculty and students. Not only have there been two people who left here and went on to win a Newbery Honor for their books, but we have had so many people get agents, and also secure book contracts without agents. In fact, this happened in June! At least two more people found success from coming to Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers.


If you've never been to this week-long conference, I invite you this year to come and find out what WIFYR is all about. What makes this writing conference different than others? Why is it mentioned in places all over the country? And how is it a community of writers stays friends for decades? If you have been to WIFYR, we welcome you back! We have a place with your name on it. 


Join us!  WIFYR promises to be amazing!

With much love and great hope for us all as writers,


Advice from Carol:
How to Get the Most Out of Your Conference Experience
  • Listen and do not speak when you receive critique in your morning workshop group. Write down all the comments that are given, both suggestions and compliments. 

  • Don’t argue. This time you have with other writers—and especially ones who know about good writing—is so valuable. Listen carefully to all comments.

  • You are not the boss of the four-hour morning sessions. The faculty leader is. Keep your comments to specific points. Don’t monopolize conversation. Don’t interrupt. 

  • Don’t beat a point into the ground. Once a point is made (e.g. your character doesn’t seem realistic in his conversation) there’s no reason to hash and rehash that statement for the writer. Give a strong example of how this bit of the story is not working, then move on.

  • Pay attention when others are being critiqued.   Some of the best help I’ve received on a manuscript was listening to my peers discuss what fellow members of the group were working on.

  • Don’t focus only on the negative. We all want to believe there’s hope for our stories. Say what works in the piece and what doesn’t work. There’s no need to say, Be kind, but be honest.

  • Don’t only sing praises for an author either. Everyone wants to have a publishable manuscript underway by the time they leave this conference. If you don’t point out trouble spots, a writer can’t improve. 

  • We all like different things. Just because I don’t write fantasy doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy a well-told fantasy tale. Don’t let your personal opinion color your professional opinion.

  • Don’t try to incorporate every single persons’ comment in your story. This is your work. Yours. So pick and choose. 

  • Make a list of questions you want answered before you come to the conference. Make it a goal to get these questions answered by the end of the week.

  • Listen more than talk. I don’t know how many times I hear the same things asked over and over from the editors and agents. Your questions may be answered in plenary sessions, during other people’s critiques, mingling, in the halls, in afternoon sessions, during the time with the agent and editors, etc. etc. Pay attention.

  • Set specific goals. 

  • Have fun and get out of your comfort zone! Mingle. Talk to others. Stretch. Writers and illustrators tend to be loners. We’re shy. We want to put on our jammies and go draw or write. But here at Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers there’s an opportunity to learn like crazy. So put yourself out there and gather up all the tidbits to help you succeed.


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