NYC SCBWI Winter Conference '14

Howdy folks!

In February, I visited NYC for the SCBWI Winter Conference. The line up of speakers was outstanding and I walked away from every session with helpful tips and new ideas.

Hearing Brett Helquist talk about his character development process was a huge highlight. I remember reading The Series of Unfortunate Events when I was young and being heavily influenced by his draftsmanship and style. So I was surprised and inspired to hear him say he continually reads "how-to books" on drawing and always sees room for improvement. Other highlights include hearing two of my favorite author/illustrators, Oliver Jeffers and Peter Brown, talk during a panel discussion on The Art of the Picture Book. Roxie Munro gave a talk on new media that was an insightful overview of both the technology and market trends of ebooks and apps. And Jack Ganto's keynote was a wild ruckus of exciting stories and helpful writing tips.

Another highlight, I was asked to be one of the illustrators for the conference blog. These two paintings were my contributions, check out the post here

During the conference, I had the chance to take a field trip to the The ABC of It: Why Children's Books Matter exhibit at the NYC Public Library, which I highly recommend. It's a well assembled survey of the history of children's books, beautifully designed and with an incredible array of artifacts (you can see the original Winnie the Pooh bear and the parrot-handled umbrella that inspired Mary Poppin's talking umbrella in the movie!).

Outside the NYC Public Library: Keika Yamaguchi, Linda Dorn, Corinna Luyken, Renee Spencer, Me, and Brook Boynton Hughes

Rodolfo Montalvo and I riding Milo's car into the Phantom Tollbooth

On my last day in NY, I visited the Society of Illustrators and attended their Illustrators 56 exhibition. It was inspiring to see so much wonderful and diverse illustration in one place. 

Attending this year's conference as gotten me thinking about how much the SCBWI has helped me improve as an artist and writer. Before 2013, I had only occasionally been active with the SCBWI and my career as a children's book writer/illustrator had stagnated. If you're new to the SCBWI, I want to encourage you to keep up your craft and keep attending conferences. To get back in the groove, I attended the Winter Conference last year, the program itself was wonderful and everyone was gracious, but I knew very few people and spent much of the time feeling awkward and self-conscious. But afterwards, I became involved in my local SCBWI chapter, attended two more SCBWI conferences, and worked steadily on sharpening my skills. As a result, this year I was much more comfortable at the conference, knew many more people, had improved my portfolio, and felt more optimistic about my career. It's exciting to look back and see how much progress is possible in a year.  So keep on trucking', I look forward to seeing you at conferences and cheering each other on as we both make progress!

I'm so thankful to have had to opportunity to attend the conference, see old friends, meet new ones and see so much inspiring artwork. Now I'm stoked up to get back in the studio! Thanks for visiting!

SCBWI NY Winter Conference

At the beginning of this month I visited New York to go to the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators' Winter Conference. I got to attend talks by some of my favorite authors and illustrators, and other publishing industry pros were on hand to give the lowdown on current market trends. Here are a few of my conference highlights (along with grainy pictures from my phone):

Shaun Tan gave a talk on "Developing a Personal Style," which was incredibly thought provoking. I bought a copy of his new book "The Bird King," which is full of his sketches and preliminary paintings, I highly recommend it. 

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Mo Willems shared how to write for children in 9 steps, or as he put it: "Writing in 3 Easy Steps, 3 Somewhat Less Easy Steps, 2 Pretty Difficult Steps, and 1 Impossible Step." 

This is Mo Willems flapping like a bird

Julie Andrews was there with her daughter to talk about their children's books. I'm happy to say that she lived up to all my childhood expectations, she was incredibly gracious and dignified. 

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Tommy dePaola was a surprise guest, he was super friendly and looked like a character straight out of one of his books. 

Tommy dePaola addressing a room full of illustrators

As far as market trends go, there was quite a lot of talk about ebooks and how they'll completely change the market, but everyone was still puzzling over how to make them profitable. It dampened my spirits a little to hear how difficult it is for authors and illustrators to make a living in the publishing industry, even those with recognizable names and successful books. Nevertheless, it was hard to stay put out for long when it was pointed out numerous times how important children's books are and how lucky we are to get to make them.

Thanks for visiting my blog! I'll leave you with three of my favorite quotes from the conference:

"Childhood sucks, your job is to be a child's friend." - Mo Willems

"Don't be afraid and stay curious" - Shaun Tan

"Aren't we lucky?" - Julie Andrews