NJ SCBWI Conference 2014

Illustrator Floyd Cooper teaches us how to use negative space to create a painting.

So I’m back from a recent SCBWI conference in New Jersey. Can I just say, wow! Action packed. I’m still processing it. Some people call it conference hangover ūüėČ The travel alone was an adventure. A quick recap on that. I took a plane from Detroit, but my first flight was cancelled. I had to shuttle over to another terminal to check in a second time with another airline. I then took a taxi to the hotel because it was too late to take the train. On the way back, I took the hotel shuttle to the train station. Then had to take another shuttle to the airport. Then another shuttle at the airport to my terminal. Then the plane ride back. All while carrying a backpack, an art portfolio, and a small suitcase. But was it worth it? Yes! Would I do it again? In a heartbeat.

This conference focused a lot on illustration. I appreciated the¬†chance to take actual mini art classes as well as attend lectures. We also had a lot of¬†opportunities¬†to connect with industry professionals. Yet the conference had an intimate setting, which was nice. Sometimes you feel like a small fish in a big pond at these types of events. But NJ, it’s like my sister group now.

There’s a lot I could share with you here, but I think what would be most valuable would be to share some quotes from the final keynote speaker, Rachel Vail.¬† She wrote an adorable picture book called Piggy Bunny and a middle grade series about a worrier named Justin Case.¬† (Get it?¬† Just in case…LOL)

She said she learned that bravery isn’t the opposite of worry.¬† (Translation: It’s acting in the face of worry.)

Vail also shared a wonderful Van Gogh quote that I’d never heard before.

“If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.”

Other advice:

1. Beware of nice lunches.  (They might serve bad news with a smile.)

2. You can survive ground zero.  (Translation: You can start over.  Revise your entire manuscript.  Fix your painting.  Write another book.)

3. Sometimes you have to chip away at your creation with your fingernails.

4. Listen to children.¬† (They have their own stories to tell.¬†¬†Let them know they matter.¬† Try to remember the first adult who listened to you…)

I remember being like Justin Case.  Thinking and worrying.  Imagining.  Quietly observing.  My grandfather listened and taught me about poetry and art.  My grandmother listened and taught me piano lessons.

Did it make a difference?  Yes.  Do I still worry?  Sometimes.  But am I also brave?  People tell me so.

My wish for you:¬† Go forth and be brave!¬† But you have my permission to worry, too.¬† It’s the¬†secret ingredient that leads to success when coupled with action.¬† May your worries fuel your creative work.¬† YOU can make it happen!



SCBWI: WWMW Conference 2013

Mixed Media

Howdy partners!¬† I’m back from the Wild, Wild Midwest conference in Fort Wayne, IN.¬† One word: inspiring!

Above is the piece that I submitted for the art show.¬† I consider it an exploration of style, one of my goals for this year.¬† It’s a combination of my favorite mediums right now:¬†collage, watercolor, and ink.¬† I really enjoyed the hands-on aspect of it, even as I hoped the glue would hold¬†ūüėȬ†¬†And I¬†also got the salt trick to work!

“The Queen of Spades”¬†was inspired by my very own Philodendron.¬† I promise that no plants were harmed in the making of this piece ūüėȬ† My¬†plant did have a few adventures away from its usual tabletop spot in the living room…¬† I’m just glad it survived!¬† It’s my only¬†plant.¬† I credit it to my best friend who gave it to me.¬† She’s like mother nature when it comes to plants.¬† I, on the other hand, am¬†known for having a “black thumb.”

In Japanese culture, everything has a spirit, including trees.¬† Here is my representation of this concept.¬† In this case, I wanted to capture the spirit of my own plant.¬† If I were to pitch this piece as a story idea, it would sound something like this:¬† What would you do if¬†you¬†found out your plant was truly alive?¬† One illustration concept that art director Laurent Linn mentioned¬†at the conference was the idea that everything in a scene is a character.¬†¬†I really took his idea literally ūüėȬ†¬†He also said that the difference between¬†children’s illustration and other types of art is storytelling and emotion.¬† You should shape your portfolio around this concept.¬† Good advice!

Check out other great entries from the Michigan chapter here.

Event photos!

Dinner with illustrators at sushi restaurant: Who could ask for anything more?

One of the best parts about conferences like these are the opportunities to¬†network and socialize with friends¬†ūüôā

Jane Yolen and the Naked Mole Rat, unlikely friends: One wild Midwest party brought them together

I’m sure you all know Jane Yolen.¬† She’s considered ‘The Hans Christian Andersen of America.’¬† BUT, did you know she teamed up with the Naked Mole Rat, star character of Mo Willems infamous book: Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed?¬† It just goes to show, friendship¬†develops in unlikely places, including the Wild, Wild Midwest!

All good things must come to an end.¬† Kathi Appelt, author of Keeper and The Underneath, left us with some great parting thoughts.¬† She¬†said that all the best¬†words, all the ingredients needed for a great story,¬†start with the letter¬†P.¬†¬†Brilliant!¬† Think about it…¬†¬†Can you guess the final word she mentioned?¬† POSSIBILITIES!

My friend Katherine Carver challenged me to come up¬†with one word as my theme for the year.¬† Can you guess what word I¬†came¬†up with?¬†¬†I mentioned it in a previous post.¬† Hint: it’s not serendipity, although that is also a great word.

To see how this challenge works, go to her blog.  What will your word for the year be?  Please share!

SCBWI: LA Conference 2012

Award-winning illustrator Bryan Collier gave a heartfelt keynote speech.

An empty ballroom after the conference just ended…

Bryan Collier inspired me when he talked about approaching editors every week for 7 years to drop off his portfolio.  He said he felt inspired just sitting in the office where exciting things happened.  He knew he wanted to be part of this world.  Seeing this empty ballroom where so many exciting things took place, I know that I too want to be part of this world.

Bryan Collier also mentioned that the door to this world is open just a crack.¬† I’ve been joking ever since that I just might be small enough to fit through there ūüėČ