Thursday, March 6, 2014

SCBWI New York!

You never know WHAT
you will see in NY!
A little over a week ago I was a first timer at The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators’ Annual Winter Conference in New York.  I only just joined SCBWI in January, though I’ve considered joining for many years.  I sure wish now that I had joined then!  Anyone reading this who is on the fence about joining, do it!  The learning, the inspiration, being around like-minded creatives, and the friendships and support, is beyond value.

On Friday, I attended the optional illustrator’s intensive where I got to meet my online friends, Kary Lee and Akiko White, who from then on kindly helped me navigate my first conference!  Loved the interview with Tomie de Paola (by Cecilia Yung) and the presentations by Brett Helquist and Paul Zelinsky.  Having created my book with no illustration training, it was great to hear how the pros approach it, and to recognize in my book what I did well, and where I might grow and improve.

I won Paul's book!
After lunch was a panel review of some of the submissions by the attendees, where they discussed what worked and what didn’t, and then small group reviews of an illustration assignment given prior to the conference.  As I joined SCBWI so close to the conference, I did not have time to do this assignment, but it was still enlightening to listen to the reviews of others.  We were lucky to have Paul Zelinsky giving feedback at our table, and then I was lucky directly after when I won his Caldecott Honor Book, Hansel & Gretel, in the raffle!

I love my portfolio
The Portfolio Showcase was Friday night, where we got to preview our fellow illustrators’ artwork – loved that!!  I was really excited to share my mosaics, and loved seeing what everyone else was doing.  I grabbed a ton of postcards of my favorites so I could find their web sites and blogs when I got home.  Such wonderful images!  I came away inspired.

Akiko and Tomie
at the Illustrators' Social
I loved Saturday morning’s keynote from Jack Gantos who recounted hilarious tales from his childhood.  I laughed so hard I couldn’t see through the tears!  Of course, now I must go and read everything he’s ever written.
At the end of a day of breakout workshops and more keynotes, I attended the Illustrators’ Social, getting to know fellow illustrators and eating delicious cake made by Akiko, winner of the Tomie dePaola award (her award-winning illustration was made with cake!!).  Fabulous being in a room with so much creativity, including the talented faculty, and the friendliest people you could meet.

Akiko's winning cake illustration
Sunday morning Akiko received her award from Tomie (woop woop!), followed by a wondrously inspiring, funny and heartfelt keynote by KateMessner.  Did I think anyone could match Jack Gantos?  Nope, but Kate did!  When she asked us to celebrate the small successes and to take a few minutes to sit with those, it was the most moving moment of the entire conference for me.  Just wonderful.

An entertaining panel on The Art of the Picture book followed and then a keynote by Nikki Grimes, where I walked out excited to read more of her beautiful poetry.  Door prizes and then an autograph party ended the conference.  Fantastic day!

From The Nonsense Verse of Carroll & Lear
at the New York Public Library
But I wasn’t done – I spent the rest of the afternoon with more new friends, Connie and Dana visiting the New York Public Library’s exhibit “The ABC of It:  Why Children’s Books Matter” (loved!), St.Patrick’s Cathedral (beautiful, despite the renovations going on), a browse through Barnes and Noble, and a snowy walk through Central Park.  A perfect ending to my trip, and now, with much anticipation, I look forward to the approaching summer conference in L.A.  Yeah!

Kary, me and Akiko
Dana and I in Central Park