A Challenging Proposal

Wednesday, August 03, 2016
I like to challenge my writer self on occasion. It keeps me from falling back on complacency, which is a fancy way of saying that I’d rather sip on umbrella drinks than work in the summer.

Anyway, I decided to send in a proposal for a workshop for an SCBWI conference. And I thought I’d share with you the steps I took, in the event that you, too, are up for a writing challenge. (Which is a polite way of saying that perhaps you, too, would rather just have an umbrella drink but maybe it’s time to shake the sand out of your writing brain and start a new project.)

Step 1: Coming Up With An Idea

Okay, yes, coming up with an idea does seem to go without saying. But I mention it because whether you get accepted for the proposal starts with a great idea.

A great idea does not have to be an idea that no one’s ever thought of before (though if you’ve got one of those, good for you!). A great idea can be a tried and true topic, but it helps to come up with a new and interesting spin on it. Look for the unique angle so you’re offering something fresh, something original on your writing topic. If it’s a conference you’ve attended regularly, take a look at the schedules from previous years. What’s been done to death? What’s missing?

And P.S., it helps if it’s a topic you’re passionate about and that you are uniquely qualified to share. So on to the next step…

Step 2: Selling Yourself

A proposal for a workshop is much like a pitch. You have an idea and you must sell it. Not to an editor, but to a committee looking for qualified speakers. So you must pitch yourself, too. What is special about you? What is it about your qualifications that will make that committee all nod their heads in approval?

This is not the time to be demurring. It’s possible that someone on the committee will know you and love you. But someone else on the committee might have his or her champion, too. So put your best writing foot forward, giving special attention to the qualifications that will help you sell your pitch. And then you are ready for the final step.

Step 3: Writing a Perfect Proposal

Your proposal should give details about what you plan to share and how your workshop will help a writer grow. Be specific enough to show that you know your topic well, and that you can demonstrate it equally well. But what will really put you in the program is the title of your workshop.

Yeah, I’m not joking. A boring title might mean a boring workshop, and no one wants to sit through boring. Would you rather go to “A Short and Tweet Look at Social Media” or “All About Social Media”?

See? So load up your personality into your presentation, beginning with the title. And don’t be surprised if you get an email inviting you to present at the conference.

Which is another way of saying, “Congratulations!” Or maybe, “Enough with the umbrella drinks—get back to work.”

~Cathy C. Hall


Sioux Roslawski said...

Cathy--You are sooo right about the title. I've been to lots of conferences (mostly teacher ones) and the title CAN make or break a session.

So have you heard yet? Did you get the "Congratulations" email yet? If not, I'm sure it's just a matter of time.

(And I'm sure you know this, but we're all glad you're back.)

Margo Dill said...

Thanks for sharing this. It is helpful and also reminds us all to get out there!

Cathy C. Hall said...

Thanks, Sioux, I'm glad to be back. And yep, I've heard back and will be presenting. Assuming I put down the umbrella drinks and get to work. ;-)

Charlotte Dixon said...

Good to hear you will be presenting! Love your spirit and ability to put the umbrella drink down. I'm not too good at that-LOL

Angela Mackintosh said...

Great post, Cathy. :) I agree about the title--so important to stir up interest in a workshop. It's one of the things we look for when a potential instructor pitches a workshop for WOW, but if the workshop materials are great, then we will help the instructor come up with a catchier title. Or we'll try out a title and if it isn't attracting participants we'll change it. Congratulations on getting a yes!

Debra Mayhew said...

I'm not thinking about presenting anything in the near future, but I still needed the reminder about the umbrella drinks. Or in my case, quit the Netflix binging and get to work (but Arrested Development is SOOO funny). Congratulations on the presentation approval!

Pam said...

I'm so glad I stopped by. This post is amazing. And yes, I love that title. Puns are my fav, I just wish I had some talent in that area. Well done and CONGRATULATIONS~

Randi Sonenshine said...

Excellent advice, Cathy! Looking forward to seeing you at WIK!

Donna Volkenannt said...

You had me at umbrella drink. Oh, and thanks for the great advice.

Karen Lange said...

Appreciate this info, Cathy. Great tips!

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