SCBWI New York catch up

Well I'm back from the big apple. I had hoped to do a big write-up/sketch-up of the conference but very punctually lost my notebook on the last day! But thankfully, Leeza has pretty much covered everything, and she even did it live - yes, direct blogging from the conference, so go check it out!

So instead I'll just write some general thoughts, which is probably better anyway.

I think the best thing about the whole weekend was meeting fantastic illustrators, some of whom I knew already from bloggy land, namely Courtney, Jannie (aka chickengirl), the aforementioned Leeza, Jennifer E. Morris, and Monica.
And it was an absolute and total pleasure to meet and spend most of the weekend with the wonderful Alicia Padron. It was one of those meetings that you just know will feed a friendship for years to come. :-) I feel very lucky (and slightly unworthy!) to be rubbing shoulders with these great gals, so thanks for a wonderful weekend ladies! I hope we meet again soon. LA conference 2009, perhaps??

And the other best thing was hearing totally inspirational out-of-this-world speakers. I realised that having only started illustration after moving to Australia, I don't know many contemporary american illustrators... so it was a treat to discover, most of all, David Wiesner. His specialty is the wordless picturebook, and when you see his illustrations you can understand why. Not only is his art absolutely incredible, but his concepts are completely original and just so creative. He showed his entire process from initial thumbnail sketches through to polished finished art. He'd also show things like how he went through a dozen different cover ideas for Flotsam before arriving at 'the one'. His way of working reminds me a bit of Shaun Tan, who has also just come out with a wordless picture book. I bet they'd love being stuck on a deserted island together.

If it's one piece of advice I take away, from hearing panels discuss the market trends to what publishers are looking for in an illustrator, it's that they want to hear what YOU have to say, in YOUR way. they look for illustrations of QUALITY. a book of quality will sell itself.

Here are some other highlights of the SCBWI conference for me:
-Seeing fellow illustrator's inspiring folios, in a big circle of about a dozen in the hallway of the Hilton (until they kicked us out)
-Walking from the conference down to Times Square for a coffee on a break
-Hearing speakers Nikki Grimes (poet) Carolyn Mackler (YA writer) and Susan Patron (fiction writer) speak - realising that they speak like what they write.
- laughing at Harry Bliss's dry wit as he non-chalantly flips through all his new yorker cover art.
- yummy food (especially cheesecake) at the Saturday brunch
- picking up some great books: Wiesner's Flotsam and FINALLY Writing with Pictures by Uri Shulevitz, which every aspiring book illustrator must have. One other thing I learned from the conference is that all good work takes time. You can't expect to create a masterpiece in an afternoon - even David Wiesner had to go through a dozen cover illos to find the right one! it's okay if you don't get it right the first time, you just have to keep going... so I figure I know I want to write/illustrate a book someday, even though I don't feel ready for it yet. But i'd might as well start thinking about it.... so I got Uri's book and it's great - I'm halfway through it already!

These were all the great things about the conference. In other ways, I must say I was disappointed. I found that overall, everything was focussed more on writers than illustrators, and geared towards more established illustrators at that. Not much time was spent on how to break into the market, which is where most people were coming from, from what I could tell. I was told that the LA conference in August is much more workshoppy and hands-on that way, so I think I might shoot for that next time (which is actually easier for me to get to anyway!)

That said, I can't even imagine how much work it was to put together something like that with registration, 3 days of speakers, 1000 people attending, food for everyone, etc. so well done to all the organisers! - thank you, thank you, thank you.

Some of the girls have been saying they've got the post-conference blues. I think I got them WHILE I was there. Our little evening of casual folio viewing sent me into a headspin because the quality of everyone's work was so high - the self-doubt, "what am I doing here" thoughts started skulking into the corners. Luckily, my best buddy from Montreal arrived that night so a quick margarita fixed that!

But back home now I must admit I am feeling better. I know I still have a long way to go but I am excited to work hard and take baby steps down my path. It's the journey that matters after all, and what a fun one it is. You just can't let the fear grip you you know? you just have to keep going at it. When the 11th cover idea doesn't work, just try the 12th.

Since I don't have any of my sketches from the conference, I'll leave you with what I drew on the front of my portfolio, which i think is apt: