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What a weekend! This is the first moment I've had to properly collect a few of my thoughts about the NESCBWI conference held this past Friday, Saturday and Sunday in Springfield, MA. It was a great experience, filled with kind people, informative workshops, and new friends. Thanks go out to NESCBWI for putting it all together!
Here are my personal take-aways:
1. I know more than I think I know.
Generally, during and after each workshop, I found myself thinking...gee...I already know most of what was said. That doesn't mean the workshops and information weren't valuable---it just serves as a reminder that over the past seven years, I've done a lot of researching and gained a lot of experience on my own that I've either been using or have filed away for future use. Bottom line: I'm not a newb. That much is clear.
2. I still need to work on self-confidence issues.
While I do take pride and feel good about my overall craft and presentation, when it comes to the content of the work itself I'm always pretty self-conscious. I do work hard and try hard to make smart decisions, but I still feel like I'm pretending to be an illustrator. I doubt my own drawing/painting abilities, I doubt my compositions, I doubt my own imagination/creativity (or lack thereof). I compare myself too much to those I admire. If this weekend has shown me anything, it's that I should believe in myself a little more. My work is polished. My portfolio varied. Throughout this weekend I felt a lot of support and encouragement from strangers who offer a more objective view of my work. It left me feeling like I will get to where I want to go if I just stick with it. I'm already headed in the right direction and I have experience to back me up. I have the tools I need, I just have to figure out what I want to do with them.
3. I depend on external validation more than I'd like to.
That doesn't mean that I only want compliments--in fact the opposite is true. I sincerely appreciate constructive feedback that guides me to ways to keep improving. Throughout the weekend I had generous, positive interactions with fellow illustrators about my work. Yet that positive reinforcement did very little to elevate my self-worth. Instead, I allowed the disappointingly dispassionate two minute critique from the small panel of industry reps to make me feel rather lousy about my work. It left me second guessing deliberate decisions and confused about how to fix what they didn't like. But I'm smarter than that--I should be able to take it by now! I ought be able to swallow criticism and not get overly dejected that easily. Not everybody has to completely embrace my work. I can't please everyone. I can only take all the feedback in and trust myself to know what I want to do with it moving forward.
4. KidLit can be a very friendly industry.
I met a lot of very kind, very awesome, very talented people this weekend. It was wonderful to make new connections with strangers who share a common love and respect for children's literature. It really is all about networking and establishing a supportive community. We're all in this together, pulling for each of us to succeed, or at the very least, to keep pursuing our passion. Whether it's connecting with those just beginning their journeys, sharing common experiences with a fellow published illustrator, or getting the chance to meet the author of the book I illustrated, everyone was so darn nice and generous with their time. It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
5. I want to succeed in this industry.
I want to illustrate. I want to write. I want to make books that express who I am and how I see the world. And I want to be able to share these books with the children for whom they are intended. Sharon Creech and Grace Lin's uplifting key notes in particular reminded me of that. Life and art are intermingling at all times, and it's up to us to open our hearts and minds and allow those moments to flow into our creativity. It's not about making pretty pictures or telling pretty stories. It's about creating an idea, capturing and contributing a very human part of ourselves.
Sometimes when I'm in the trenches pulling my hair out over an educational project I don't want to be doing, I question whether I want to be doing this at all. But so many times this weekend my heart panged with overwhelming hope, skipped with a jolt of inspiration, and beat with a constant sense of purpose that I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that this is the place I want to be.
So I'm going to keep at it, and start listening to what's on the inside, waiting for a chance to come out.
So---did you attend the conference, too? What were your take-aways?
Here are the only two shots I snapped this whole weekend. I guess I was too busy making friends to spend time behind the camera!
And here is my entry for the poster contest for Jane Yolen's poem
In these last few days before next weekend's NESCBWI conference, I've been putting the finishing touches on my portfolio book and trying to decide whether I have any dummies in good enough shape to include. I certainly don't want to put sub-par work out just for the heck of it, but I also don't want to miss an opportunity like the conference can provide. Hmmm... probably not enough time left to get everything I hoped to finished. Ho hum.
In other news, I had a booth at Sunday's Craftopia event in Pawtucket. 9 hours of work and I just barely made back the cost of the booth. I gave out a lot of cards, and like every other time it was nice to interact with people directly, but when the highlight of my day was a very old lady randomly telling me about another vendor's painting of a beach that she loved but didn't to buy want because it turned out it wasn't of a Rhode Island beach...well, that's when you know it was a pretty dull day. At least my superstar husband was there to people watch with me.
Actually, the most redeeming part of the day was selling some prints to a mother and her two children. That's always a really nice feeling. Sometimes I should just think of my booth as a tiny travelling museum, free to the public, hoping a handful of people enjoy what they see.
The NESCBWI conference
is approaching quickly. My new postcards arrived just this afternoon. (250 is a larger number than I anticipated!) I'm hoping to give some out at the conference and maybe do a small mailing of my own a little later. Overall, very pleased with these cards. I used Modern Postcard
and so far the color accuracy is the best out of any tried thus far. Well worth it, especially for the oversized card --these are 8.5 by 6 inches.
It feels good to have created a piece that I feel plays to my strengths--I really want to get more work with older characters. I also want to illustrate animals and anything NOT set in the here and now. Give me fantasy, sci-fi, historical fiction, or animal stories. I don't think I'm particularly suited to the kind of picture books that are trending right now, but I feel like there may be a place for me in classic story collections, chapter books, or middle grade novels. I'm just not a simple, scribbly, gestural illustrator and I'm tired of fighting against that fact. I just want to be me.
Personally, I am so glad there are illustrators out there for those types of very young picture books. (You know, super fun, colorful, strong shapes, scribbly line, looks-like-a-child-could-draw-it kind of artwork.) And I don't mean this to sound snarky, because I'm sincere. I think simple, gestural imagery is integral to children's visual literacy. I think it's important that there be artwork that directly relates to children because it captures a child-like essence. But I've never been that kind of artist. And though I find it amazingly fun to look at, it just isn't fun for me to create. So I'm just going to try to get better at doing what I do...and being who I am...
I had the pleasure and luck to attend the New England SCBWI’s most excellent Whispering Pines Writer’s Retreat again this year (I believe this is my 5th year). It takes place in paradise (also known as URI’s Alton Jones Campus in W. Greenwich, RI). Lucky for me, this isn’t so far to travel; yet it is like being a world away!
We started with a first night first pages panel…
…followed by a pleasant Kid Lit Jeopardy deathmatch.
Valkyrie Lynda fields the questions while Julia Boyce writes upside down and backwards to keep score.
Events take place in and around the campus, but mainly here in the Lodge…
Retreat Directors Lynda Mullaly Hunt and Mary Pierce got the day rolling on Friday with some shout-outs to the volunteers who make it all work.
Accolades and to Laurie Murphy and Linda Crotta Brennan for their assistance!
The mentors this year were stellar!
Erin Dionne, Shauna Rossano, Mary, Sara Crowe, Lynda, Bethany Strout, and Kelly Murphy up front. Missing from this shot: Leslie Connor!
First up was my amazing illustrator friend Kelly Murphy, who was very up front and realistic about what it’s like to work with authors and publishers. Her work is dynamic and recognizably hers, no matter the subject. She takes a lot of care to do manuscripts justice in her art.
Some of Kelly’s originals were on display while she signed books.
Erin Dionne is the author of several books that are huge hits in our house. Her talk was about marketing, and it was fun to hear how she makes connections and cultivates community in the real word and online.
Author Leslie Connor had some great insight into tapping into the truth when writing. Having that element of truth allows readers to invest in your characters and care about what happens to them. Such a good point.
Food! The food is incredible at Whispering Pines. And it just keeps coming. And then the plates disappear. It’s a magical way to live for a few days!
Every meal comes with excellent conversation as well!
First pages, second night…
…followed by FIRE!
Cameron Kelly Rosenblum stokes the fire and the silly conversation, all with the same stick.
Now pretend that you have stayed up WAY past your bedtime talking, laughing, and having a great time. Good!
Shauna Rossano, Associate Editor at G.P. Putnam’s Sons, got the last morning started with some great tips on catching an editor’s eye right away by making those important first impressions.
Sara Crowe, Agent at Harvey Klinger, Inc. gave us some valuable insight into her process of reviewing books for representation. Submissions to her must not only ring true to her, but imply a way she can market it to editors.
Here’s Bethany Strout, Assistant Editor, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. I had met her at the Blueberry Fields retreat in Maine last year, and she was just as smart and approachable here. She draws from both her knowledge and instincts to choose manuscripts for her publisher.
Alas, all too soon, it comes to a close. I love reconnecting with many of my writer and artist friends in the region here; it really is a charmed event.
Just a few of the lovely folks as seen at WP… Jennifer Thermes, Janet Costa Bates, Cameron Kelly Rosenblum, and Kim Savage.
A few parting shots, until next time…!
I thought I'd share the finished illustration from my last 'What I'm Working On' post
back in July. I've been a busy bee: updating my website
, physical portfolio, and twitter
page; mailing off a special little promotional
; getting ready for the Illustrator's Symposium at NHIA
It's always such a treat to spend time with fellow illustrator friends (in real life!) and be re-inspired to keep me moving forward. It's also a treat that I'm not putting any last minute work together AND I have new business cards to share - woot!
P.S.: I was feeling too much like that big blue guy yesterday. Today I'm channeling the orange guy, leaping over toys to get to my desk while little ones oblige.
By: Hazel Mitchell,
Blog: Hazel Mitchell
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This week I was asked to create a banner for New England's SCBWI Facebook page. This was an honour and a lot of fun to do. What better than lobster and water on a day that was over 90F .. phew, Maine!
Here is the banner.
View it on Facebook at NESCBWI page
I wanted to keep it fun and lively, so it's one of my digital drawings straight into Photoshop, no sketching. It stops me overthinking and it's a style that is appealing to younger eyes. And older ones too I hope!
Right now I am packing to go to ALA (American Library Conference) in Anaheim, CA. This is my first time at a big library conference and it's exciting. I have two book signings, so if you are going, catch me at Kane Miller (with Anastasia Suen, author of 'All Star Cheerleaders') at 11am Saturday and at Charlesbridge's booth Saturday 2-3pm signing 'Hidden New Jersey'.
I am looking forward to meeting LIBRARIANS and catching up with some industry friends. So please come and say HELLO!
There will be photos ...
Right, back to packing.
On the bedside table:
A slew of Emily Gravett picture books
'Picture This' and 'What it is' by Lynda Barry - recommend highly.
By: Hazel Mitchell,
Blog: Hazel Mitchell
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What a great conference! SCBWI New England really pulled it out of the bag this time.
3 great days at Springfield, MA. Over 500 attended and the faculty line up was amazing! Highlights included Harry Bliss, Dan Yaccarino, Harold Underdown, Kate Messner, Jane Yolen, Cynthia Lord, Brian Lies, Heidi Stemple, Jo Knowles ... on and on ... you can check out just what the line up was at http://www.nescbwi.org/.
If you are hoping to write or illustrate for children - you can't do better than attend an SCBWI conference and New England is one of the best. In the three years I have been a member it's given me invaluable information, education, contacts and networking opportunities. And best of all - friends who relate to my goals and frustrations. So I say thank you to the organizers and volunteers!
I travelled with Russ Cox (friend and fellow illustrator) from Maine on Friday and it was straight into the deep end with a great 'meet and greet' with top-hole artists and writers at the Eric Carle Museum in Amherst. (My first visit and a beautiful venue.)
Before we knew it Sunday rolled around ... and it was time to say goodbye. Russ and I returned to Maine in triumph ... Russ swept the board with two first prizes and the emerging artist award read his take ont he conference and his success here ... and not to be left out I won second prize in the People's Choice category!! Yippee for 'Boy and World '.
SO A BIG SMACKEROONEY TO ALL THOSE WHO VOTED FOR ME.
Right now my drawing board is overflowing with projects so I had better get my *** in gear.
I'll leave you with a few photos from the weekend and hope to meet you at a conference soon!
Back in the studio today.
With a great group of illustrators.
Signing Casey Girard's Sketchbook Project
At the Eric Carle Museum
As I was unpacking my materials from the NESCBWI conference this week I realized that I completely forgot to cover one of my presentation topics. I'm so annoyed with myself, because I thought it was one of the neater things that I was going to cover. I can't believe I forgot it. Oh well, at least I'll post it here on my blog. Better late than never, right?
I discussed this technique a while ago in the context of creating polka dot patterns but I think it's worth repeating. Many folks like to create collage images but are concerned about the copyright implications of using other people's fabric or paper designs in their work. This is a quick way to create all sorts of repeating pattern of your own in Photoshop.
First create a new document in Photoshop. It doesn't matter what size you make it as long as the height and width are an even number of pixels. I'm going to make mine 200px wide and 200px tall. Make note of the size, you will need it later.
Next draw something. The only rule is that you can not touch the document boundaries with your drawing. You can change the background to different solid color if you want, but make sure your drawing does not touch the edges of your image.
You can add textures, shadows, what ever, get as fancy with this as you want. Here I set the background to a light blue and drew a flower.
Now I could stop right here. If I click "Select -> All" and "Edit -> Define Pattern" I will get a pattern that will look something like this...
It's not bad but I want something less grid-like. So I'm going to modify it. First if you used more than one layer to create your image (which I did) you will need to flatten it into one layer. Next, select "Filter -> Other -> Offset" You will need to set the horizontal offset to one half of the total width of your image. In my case that would be 100 pixels. You will also set the vertical offset to half of the total height, again, in my case, that will be 100 pixels. Lastly, you will check "Wrap Around" for the undefined areas. If you click on the other options you will quickly see the difference. Once I run the offset filter I have something like this...
Now I can again draw something in the middle. But again don't touch the edges of the document. I can even draw over my original drawing and modify it just as long as I stay away from the document bounds. I drew another flower and one of the green curly cues overlap my original flower.
2 Comments on Quickly Creating Patterns in Photoshop, last added: 5/21/2010
1. Friday is supposed to be my writing day and I've failed miserably. After many self-admonishments to keep Friday's sacred for writing I spent most of the day editing the newsletter for my paying job. I know, relax, right? Money is a necessary evil and I had all of Wednesday to write because of the snow day and I've been keeping up with my early morning writing sessions. In fact, I'm at a point where I should just print what I have and revise through the weekend. My deadline is Tuesday and I want it to be good. So I should just chill.
2. Snow. A lot of it. It's beautiful and a heck of a lot better then the mud that's sure to follow. Enough said.
3. The NESCBWI conference registration opens on the 15th of February. Go to the website and check out information about schedule and special offerings. This is New England's 25th anniversary conference so there's tons going on. Get your manuscripts ready for Quick Queries, and Critiques.
4. I'm excited that I have some books lined up to review for the spring. March is Women's History Month and I'll be reviewing Women of the Golden State written by Linda Crotta Brennan and others. Later in the spring, J.L. Powers will be joining me in the Chaos for an interview regarding her book This Thing Called the Future which is due out May 1. I have a couple of others up my sleeve if I can get to them.
5. My boys are amazing, smart, and talented and that's just my unbiased opinion. I'm taking them to Blue Man Group on Sunday to celebrate report cards, swimming races, and performances. I am so very lucky to be their Mom.
Don't forget, registration opens today for the New England Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators conference begin held in Fitchburg, MA on May 13, 14 and 15th.
I'll be there all weekend. And on Sunday, I have the privilege of giving a two hour presentation with my friend, and very talented illustrator Carlyn Beccia entitled, "Digital Painting Duels." If you are familiar with Carlyn and her work, you know that she loves Corel Painter. I, on the other hand, am a Photoshop kind of gal.
If you know anything about New England, you know New Englanders are extremely loyal to their teams. So of course, we could spend the two hours fighting over which which is best, Team Painter or Team Photoshop. Which would be silly, because we all know Photoshop is wicked bettah!
But seriously, both software packages have there own strengths and weaknesses, which is what we will be exploring during the course of our talk. Hopefully the audience will walk away with a better appreciation for both tools, as well as a few new tips and techniques they can take back to the studio with them. By the way, does anyone know where I can get a Photoshop t-shirt to wear?
This week I got a lovely package in the post - a whole heap of goodies that accompany the children's motivational book 'Why Am I Here?'. I illustrated and did the layout for the book in 2009 for Simon and Schuster bestselling author Matthew Kelly.
Author of several NY Times bestselling motivational books for adults and top class motivational speaker, this is Matthew's first book for children, published by his own publishing company: Beacon Publishing. Matthew is head of a phenomenal organization and the book itself has sold thousands already. To go along with the book his foundation has developed a whole teaching pack, including dolls, lesson plans, posters ... and I worked on the design and layout of everything you see in the photo ... including the packing boxes and hang tags on Max the doll. It was great fun, and even more fun to see it all together like this ... I feel quite proud!
So here's how you can win a goodie bag ... please be a follower of my blog and leave a comment on this post and you will be in the draw to win one of three packs including the book. Max the doll, pencils, badge, fridge magnet and a couple of other goodies! Good luck.
Other goings on in the life of The Wacky Brit ... next weekend on my way to the NE SCBWI conference in Fitchburg. Going to be entering the poster showcase again (last year I won 2 places, I am not expecting to replicate that though!). Here's my entry (this year we had to recreate a landmark children's book cover)
If your going, come say hello :-)
Meanwhile, working my way through the finals for the 'Hidden New Jersey' book for Charlesbridge Publishing. I love it when I get to the colouring stage, that's the most fun. The deadline is mid June so It's coming up shortly.
And in between I am putting together the school project for the local elementary school 4th grade that they have illustrated and written (it's about The Seasons in Maine).
So - heck it's been busy. Trying to stick to a good routine of bed early and up early. A bit like being a long distance runner .. pacing oneself.
Right I'm off - hope you will enter the competition!
aka The Wacky Brit
Lot's of book on the bedside table ... too many to mention right now.
1. Don't forget that the NYC SCBWI conference registration starts on Monday, 10 am PDT. Hopefully you got your postcard in the mail. If not, click here for more information.
2. My husband came home on surprise visit. He's away with the Navy and hasn't been home for a month. The whole family is very happy and I can't believe how relaxing it is to just write, plan my next lesson, do SCBWI stuff, and exercise without having to shuttle children, take care of the dog, make dinner, do laundry, clean the car, and vacuum the stairs. (The last two I just don't do when he's not here.) We'll see him again next weekend at the Mid-Atlantic SCBWI conference in Dulles, VA.
3. My WIP is moving forward fabulously. A huge thank you and shout out to the entire jonowrimo community for their cheering and support as I tackle daily word count. Another huge thank you to my fellow Cheese Sandwiches who check in with me during the week to make sure we are all on track. It takes a village to write a book.
4. Speaking of a village. Another shout out goes to Lynn Conway, a librarian at Georgetown University who helped me this week by answering silly questions about Riggs Library such as: Do the stairs in the library cling or clang when you ascend? What stained glass is in the round windows? Are the book cases painted gold or do they just shine in the pictures because of the flash? Once again I'm reminded of the awesome and selfless nature of the librarian.
5. Casey Girard, NESCBWI Illustrator Coordinator has been working hard to put together an Illustrator Day Event for the region. Here's what we know. It will be on November 19th from 1 pm - 6 pm at the New Hampshire Institute of Art in Manchester, NH. (Yes. In a month.) It will include an award-winning book designer, Carol Goldenberg, and a reprise of the "Dueling Digital Painters" Workshop with Carlyn Beccia, and Jennifer Morris from the spring NESCBWI conference. Keynote speaker to be announced! Watch this space and www.nescbwi.org for more information.
Did someone say prizes? Well, yes I did. You could win a sketchbook,
OR drawing materials,
OR Illustrator Day Keynote Speaker, Salley Mavor's Golden Kite Winning Book
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How? You might ask...how could I win one of these great prizes?
You can help me publicize NESCBWI's Illustrator Day event.
1. Share this blog post on facebook and tag me so I know you did it.
2. Tweet or retweet this blog post and other info about the event with the hashtag #illustratorday.
I'll put all of your names and tweet handles in a box and pick out names until the prizes are gone- from now until:
When: Saturday, November 19, 2011
Where: Emma Blood French Auditorium (The French Building) on the New Hampshire Institute of Art campus in Manchester, NH.
The schedule for Illustrator Day 2011 will be as follows:
1:15-2:15 Keynote: Salley Mavor, Golden Kite Winner 2011
15 min break
2:30-3:30 Carol Goldenberg, Award Winning Book Designer
30 min set up break
4:00-4:45 Repeat of Carlyn Beccia and Jennifer Morris' Digital Painting Duels from NESCBWI Spring 2011 Conference
15 min break
5:00-6:00 continued Digital Painting Duels
Registration Fees for SCBWI Members and Students: $50 all day
As I write this, the registration for New England’s annual SCBWI conference has been open for twelve hours. This means that I registered twelve hours ago. Yes, Ladies and Gentlemen, I set my alarm for midnight, awoke from a deep sleep, and flipped open my laptop to register for this conference. You might ask, “Why?” I'm glad you asked...
Ten reasons to register for the NESCBWI Annual Spring Conference:
- The New England Conference gives you access to tons of industry professionals in the form of Quick Queries, Critiques, and Workshops. There are plenty of editors and agents but the authors and illustrators are amazing too! Just take a look at the faculty. This is an award winning group and they will be in Springfield, MA for one weekend to teach you.
- The workshops focus on craft. Now New York is fun because that’s where the editors and agents are. It’s fun because it’s big and Headquarters can get big names for their keynote speakers. But New England is amazing because there is discussion of craft for all levels of writers and illustrators.
- Look at OUR Keynoters!!! Sara Zarr, Harry Bliss (after you read the blogpost, follow Harry's link just to get a giggle) and Kate Messner. Wow!
- New England tries to provide something for everyone. Specialized conversations are organized into SIG’s, Special Interest Group meetings, and less formal meetings that happen all over the hotel at all hours of the day and night. So if you want to talk about hot, zombie boyfriends, there’s probably a group for that. The workshops cover an amazing range of topics too. Kathryn Hulick, Joyce Johnson and the workshop selection committee have a lovely balance of non-fiction, picturebook, YA, MG, poetry, and illustration workshops!
- Intensive Academies. In 2008 I launched the first illustrator academy at NESCBWI. For 2012, the roster of academies this year is mind-blowing. There is a beginner AND advanced illustration academies. An academy for non-fiction. A novel writing academy. A picture book writing academy. Need I say more?
- The new location is in Springfield, Massachusettes and while it means extra driving for me, it also means that I’ll get to go to the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, and see the Doctor Seuss National Memorial.
- Community. If you haven’t read Lynda Mullaly Hunt’s recent blog A Letter of Thanks to SCBWI -- do it. Then go register for the conference
- If you don't register for the conference today, this week, soon, you may not get to go at all. This conference gets sold out fast and the special events get filled up even faster. When it gets sold out, don't say I didn't warn you.
- If you register for Friday and Saturday you are able to apply for a critique. You won't be able to pay for the critique when you register. You must send in your pages, your check and the critique application.
- You'll get to meet the amazing team of volunteers who put together a writing and illustrating university for a weekend. They are amazing people who have taken their time to bring you the very best. If you've registered, please leave a comment below. I'll see you there.
My portfolio is currently disassembled and chaotic. Pages are getting yanked. Art is getting printed. After doing this process for many years, it gets easier to pull art out. Less is more when you know first-hand how fast pages get flipped.
I went bonkers yesterday looking for those black pages to slip in with the new art - I ordered some online, but found a decent (albeit not 'archival') substitute at Staples in their 'stationary' section for just $2.95. I'd rather use those than wait any longer to get this book ready.
I'm waiting for art to be photographed. My postcards are lined up. My website is getting a quick freshening-up. My wardrobe got a nice boost from a mad-dash shopping trip this morning.
I'm feeling a little frazzled about the NESCBWI conference next week - can you tell?
Not the least of which is due to leaving my children behind for 2 days and nights. I've never physically gone this far from them, and never left my 11 month old daughter overnight at all. They are in good hands with Daddy. But it's a lot to absorb. I wish everyone who is attending luck in getting their last minute projects assembled, homework finished, and households in order. I hope to see you there. And hope to be less frazzled once it all gets underway.
I'm going to the New England SCBWI conference this weekend and trying to finish up my homework for the Advanced Illustrator Academy. Gee, it's been a while since I've had to do homework, I'm finding it a little stressful. Part of the assignment was to design characters and create a finished piece of art for a story that was provided. Here's a peek at my final art.
One of my favorite parts of picture book work is designing the characters. It's fun to see who shows up for the casting call so to speak. I've grown kind of attached to this little bear character, I think he might have to come live in another stories at some point.
I love the Monday after a conference. Reading through Twitter, Facebook and my blog feed this morning, I've seen update after update by attendees saying how inspired, excited, pleasantly exhausted, motivated, and READY they are after a weekend of workshops and visits with old friends and new. I feel the same.
My writing partner of eight years and I gave our first ever workshop together at the New England SCBWI conference this weekend! Cindy Faughnan and I led a 2-hour workshop based on the writing camp Cindy started several years ago. What I loved most about sharing some of our favorite writing exercises was how enthusiastic the participants were. And talented! Wow.
Part of giving a workshop at the event means you get to attend the fancy dinner for "faculty" on Friday night. Here are Cindy and Sarah Darer Littman, my other co-presenter for a workshop the next day. :-)
On Saturday, Sara Zarr gave a beautiful keynote speech, incorporating Frog And Toad into the writing life. It was brilliant.
Then I attended a workshop with Mark Peter Hughes on voice. He read several examples of books with strong voice at the beginning, including The THE SECRET DIARY OF ADRIAN MOLE, AGED 13 3/4! Oh, how I loved that book when I was a teen. Have any of you read it?? Mark also inadvertently solved a HUGE problem for me by saying just the right thing at just the right time. I felt the light bulb blink on over my head. :-) Amazing! Thanks Mark!!
After the workshop, I decided to go to my room and try to get my nerves under control before my presentation with Sarah. Our presentation was on Harnessing The Truth and the examples I was sharing were a bit painful for me to read, so I wanted to do some breathing and get into the right frame of mind. Unfortunately, on my way back to the conference, the elevator was taking forever! After waiting over 10 minutes, I asked a staff member if I could use the stairs. She walked me to a door which needed a key-card to open it. That's odd, I thought. The door clicked behind me and I was alone in a dark stairwell. I headed down. These stairs, by the way, were scary! And on some floors, I had to walk down a strange hallway to find the next set. It was dirty and smelly and kind of "scene from a murder mystery"-ish. When I finally got to the floor I wanted, I tried the door out. It was locked. OK, I thought. I'll just try the next floor down. Locked. Next floor. Locked. Oh. My. God. I went to the very lowest level, which came to a door that led outside. There was a big sign on it: DO NOT OPEN. ALARM WILL SOUND. At this point, I'm already breathing heavy because I have been going down several flights of stairs in a scary place. Now, my heart is racing. I was trapped! I went back up, jiggled the door. Looked for signs on how the heck I was supposed to get out. Started having images flash in my mind: HEADLINE: Author Trapped in Hotel Stairwell, Dies of Starvation. I went up flight after flight until finally, FINALLY a door with a push bar. I prayed. I pushed. I was free!!! And sweaty.
My misadventure meant I was very late for an agent/client panel with Jenn Laughran and Kate Messner and two other agent/client pairs. It was really interesting to hear how other agents/clients work together and how the agents think about building their clients' careers. I wish everyone searching for an agent could have heard Jenn's wise advice about the importance of finding an agent that is right for YOU, not just signing with the first person who makes an offer because you're worried it's your only shot. Believe in yoursel
I had an awesome time at the New England SCBWI conference this year. All the presentations I went to were wonderful and I feel so recharged and inspired to get back to work. Thank you Marla Frazee, Matt Phelan, and Richard Michalson for your great workshops. I really wish I could have stuck around on Sunday. There were more talks that I wanted to go to.
And it was also great meeting lots of new friends and catching up with old ones. There was a hugely talented group of illustrators attending like Melinda Beavers, Hazel Mitchell, Lucy Payne Pollack, Carlyn Beccia, Andy Smith, Jennifer Meyer and Robert Squier just to name a few.
Although if Robert wasn't there I might have won first place in the poster showcase. My entry (shown above) came in second after his. Curse you Robert Squier!! :) But seriously his poster entry was very very cute. Congratulations!
I think the one thing that stuck with me the most was something Cynthia Leitich Smith said during her keynote. And that was, "do at least one thing every week to promote your work." It doesn't have to be a big thing but do at least one thing. That's something I'm going to try live by.
First, I want to thank Anindita Sempere (arialas ) and Greg Fishbone for an amazing conference. The expertise of faculty was fabulous, the keynoters engaging and informative and the company... well I absolutely thrive and am inspired by all the wonderful NESCBWI members.
Over the weekend, I had no responsibilities so I was happy to meet people (whom I could remember since I wasn't in Director-land) and listen to some concerns in my brandie new position as Northern New England RA. One that I heard more than once was about the demographics questions on the evaluation sheets. I inserted those into the eval last year so I thought I could explain the thinking behind that.
The theme of last year's conference, if you remember, was "Many Voices." I chose that theme because it is important to me that every child recognize themselves (or someone like themselves) in books that we write, illustrate and publish. To that end, many of the workshops had to do with sensitive portrayals of various cultures, issues and concerns in "mulitcultural" publishing, etc. I made a sincere effort to recruit and hire well-qualified authors and illustrators of color onto the faculty in the hopes that this would ultimately draw new minority voices to the membership of NE SCBWI.
But how would we measure that?
I designed the demographic questions to be short and to the point so that we could collect data and establish a baseline from which we could see how the membership trended. We hope to collect this data for the next 5 or so years.
But what about that religion question? Why do you need to know that?
Well, I am Jewish. And I always feel that when I fill out those questionnaires that just saying that I'm "Caucasian" leaves my cultural identity uncounted. I'm sure there are others from various cultures who feel that way too.
Of course it is your choice to respond to the demographic questions at all, but now you know why they are there.
This past weekend I attended the annual regional conference for the New England Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (aka, NESCBWI). I contribute to 3 blogs, and since I took just 3 workshops I thought I'd share one on each.
Artwork © Jennifer E. Morris
My first workshop was run by Jennifer Morris, entitled "10 Photoshop Techniques for Illustrators". I've met Jen a few times and really like her work so even though I'm a veteran photoshop user I wanted to check it out. She did a fantastic job of presenting useful information clearly. The room was a mix of pros, intermediates, and true beginners and I admired how she handled the range of questions a group like that can pose. Best of all, I picked up a few new Photoshop tricks! I love watching other artists at work too. I know I can see videos all over the internet, but I rarely check them out. Live is so much better.
I highly recommend checking out Jennifer's blog
and this page on her website for links to painting demos on her blog
. She is very generous to share so much of her process. You'll find both a painterly technique and her scratchboard/chunky technique.
By: Cinda Williams Chima
Blog: Cinda Williams Chima
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I spent the weekend at the awesome New England SCBWI conference. Mostly fielding reactions like, “You drove ALL the way from OHIO? Don’t they have conferences in Ohio?” (Typical East Coast attitude.)
It was rather rash. You see, eleven hours in the car didn’t sound so bad three months ago, at registration time. It looked kind of misty and romantic, like a far-away, blurry photograph of yourself. I thought, “Road trip! I’ll be driving through the Berkshires in May; how lovely!” And it IS lovely. But still a long way. Even with the Rent soundtrack blasting through the speakers.
I ran into Paula Kay McLaughlin at the luncheon buffet. She lives in Connecticut, but I first met her at the Central Ohio SCBWI conference, where she was busy explaining why she’d driven all the way from Connecticut to Ohio for a conference. “Don’t they have conferences in Connecticut?”
This is Kindling Words East territory, so of course I saw lot of my writing buds from there, including Kathleen Blasi, Sibby Falk, and Toni Buzzeo. Some of us still smell like woodsmoke. Kathleen and Sibby and I celebrated by getting lost in the twisting roads surrounding the Fitchburg Courtyard by Marriott. As Sibby said, “Lock the doors! I think I hear the banjos starting up.”
Here are Carolyn Scoppettone, Libby, and Kathleen in happier times.
I finally met online friends Jo Knowles and Stacy DeKeyser in person—yay! They were both on faculty for the conference.
Made lots of new friends at dinner Friday night
and rubbed shoulders with Cindy Lord
at dinner Saturday night. Maybe some of her Newbury-worthiness will rub off on me.
Lest you think I spent my entire time eating, Cynthia Leitich-Smith
’s keynote was incredible. That girl has the Native-American equivalent of chutzpah. She told the story of her journey into print. She was living in Chicago and working as a lawyer when an epiphany hit—she wanted to be a children’s writer. At this point she had absolutely nothing on the page. So she and her husband both quit their jobs and moved to Austin. Two years later, Cynthia published her first book.
Cynthia and I put our heads together after her interview on Sunday. Actually, I was hoping some of her chutzpah would rub off on me.
In Liza Ketcham’