SCBWI Winter Conference Recap

It's that time again.

It was conference season in NY. Illustrators and writers invaded the city, taking over cafes, prowling the libraries and museums for inspiration, and swarming the Hyatt at Grand Central for three days.

And what a three days it was.

The SCBWI NY conference this year featured a jaw-dropping faculty (as usual). And when it all started, Team Double Trouble (coined by the ever-fabulous Maple Lam, pictured left) was ready to go.

Friday's Illustrator Intensive began with an incredible conversation between Tomie dePaola and Art Director Cecilia Yung that likened picture books to theater and stage setting.

They were followed by presentations on character design and setting by Brett Helquist (pictured left) and Paul Zelinsky (right).

Later, we reconvened in smaller groups for critiques. Check out the amazing faculty at the front of the room.

Highlights of the main portion of the conference on Saturday and Sunday were two mind-blowing keynotes by Jack Gantos (pictured left) and Kate Messner (right). Jack had the 1,000+ attendees in stitches, and Kate's thoughtful and heartfelt talk on failure was hands-down one of the best keynote speeches I have ever heard. Ever.

I went to two stellar breakout sessions. The first with Art Director, Lily Malcolm and the second with Jane Yolen.

Lin Oliver and Steve Mooser kept us laughing and moving.

And a panel on the art of the picture book gathered some of the most talented illustrators in the industry on one stage. (The panel, pictured below from left to right: Arthur Levine, Shadra Strickland (fellow SVA grad!), Oliver Jeffers, Marla Frazee, Raúl Colón, and Peter Brown.)

The conference itself was an amazing few weekend of inspiration and a great creative kickstart. But for me, the best thing about these conferences is my community. It's one of two times a year that I get to see my peers and friends in the field.

So in addition to all of the learning and listening and absorbing that happened, there was a whole lot of goofing off, sight seeing, talking shop over meals, and having fun. 

Old friends and new: MapleKatie Kath, yours truly, and Brooke Boynton-Hughes. Both Katie and Booke took runners up in the conference's portfolio show. If you're not familiar with their work, head over to their websites. All three of these lovely ladies have books forthcoming.

Celebratory drinks and fun times with the Mentees.

Maple, Brooke, and I took a trip to the Natural History Museum. Yes, we are ridiculous.

And at dinner in Chinatown, there were table-wide pano-selfies, courtesy of the Bagleys. (Check out their work! Jessixa and Aaron Bagley are both crazy talented, and Jessixa's first book comes out next year.)

And reactions to the pano-selfies:

And finally, Maple and I did a school visit at Pat Cummings' picture book class at Pratt.

As you might imagine, it has taken the better part of a week to catch up on both sleep and work. But I do have loads of new drawings to share with you and a sketchbook chockfull of new ideas to explore. 

So, cheers to SCBWI for another fabulous weekend, and kudos to all of the talented folks who showed their work. I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm already looking forward to Summer '14 in LA.

The Difficulty of Defining Goals

This month over on the KidLit blog, we're talking about goals. I've been attempting to write my post for the past week and have deleted more first paragraphs than I would have thought possible. Allow me to explain.

Most folks in the field of children's illustration will tell you that their ultimate end goal is publishing a book. I do want to acknowledge that, yes, of course, I'd love to publish any of my books, but I have a lot of trouble thinking about publication as an actual goal. When you define your goal as publishing, you essentially place your hopes and hard work in the hands of sales departments, "the market", and an industry, which, though it strives daily to create excellent content for children, is still an industry, and by definition, concerned with the production of commercial goods.

I can only speak for myself, but, as an illustrator and writer, my goals are about my craft. I want to learn as much as I can about illustration and storytelling and spend each day experimenting with words, composition, character, color, and line. While I do hope to publish someday, I cannot control what someone else will think about my work. I can, however, strive to tell the best stories I possibly can. It's a subtle distinction, but to me, it seems a very important one. 

Fellow kidlit blogger, Jen Betton, and I were talking about this post, and she summed up what I was trying to say rather succinctly. "Publishing isn't your end goal, but rather storytelling is. Publishing is the secondaryimportant, but secondaryreward to telling an awesome story."

Long term objectives are great; I cannot wait until I can walk into a bookstore and find books by all of my talented illustrator colleagues and friends. However, it is really important to take pleasure in the work itself and in the process of getting there.