Friday, August 10, 2012

SCBWI Summer Conference: Inspiration Infusion

Well, this pretty much sums it up.  I'm back from my first ever SCBWI International Conference, and I'm so inspired, even my dog Buster feels it! (JK, he still sleeps all day.)  It was an incredible 4 days of keynote speeches, workshops, parties, and meeting new people.  I don't think I've been so sleep deprived since my kids were in cribs, which might explain why I cried 3 times during keynote speeches on Saturday.  (I think it was Saturday, it's all a blur.)

I took copious notes which I'm poring through so I can present at least a smidgeon of what I've learned to our Illustrators Network.  It's a lot to try to boil down, and if you want the details, you should really check out the SCBWI Conference Blog, but here are a few highlights:

Tony Diterlizzi, creator of the Wondla books, gave a hilarious keynote in which he impersonated Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, Wendy from Peter Pan, and Alice from Wonderland.  I loved this guy before I ever met him, because he brought my sons and me hours of joy with The Spiderwick Chronicles.  He's incredibly talented, hard working, funny, and down to earth.  Great guy.

Melissa Sweet, creator of so many beautiful books, including the Golden Kite winner, Balloons Over Broadway, was a source of lots of great advice, but the one that sticks with me the most is "Do something fun every day in your studio."  Take risks, experiment, don't get too precious.

Gary Schmidt, author of The Wednesday Wars, gave a beautiful keynote speech in which he urged us to "write the stories that will give your readers more to be a human being with."  He said to give the reader questions, just as Dr. Seuss did in The Cat in the Hat when he ended with "What would you do if your mother asked you?"  Love that.

I stayed the extra day for the Illustrators Intensive on Monday and boy, was it worth it.  The day included a "First Look" Panel Review of Book Proposals.  On the panel were Laura Godwin, Vice President and Publisher of Henry Holt Books for Young Readers; Rubin Pfeffer, agent at East West Literary Agency; and Cecilia Yung, Art Director and Vice President at Penguin Books for Young Readers.  They chose 15 submission out of 49 to discuss, looking for "universal issues" that would guide us in our work.

I was delighted to have my book, "Miss Chicken and the Noisy Nuisance," chosen for discussion, and even more delighted that they all liked it!  I can't tell you how encouraging that was! I know I still have a lot of hard work to do to get my portfolio where I want it, but let me tell you, that was a great way to end the weekend.

Well, that's it for now, but if you want to hear more highlights from the conference (did I mention I took copious notes?) then you'll have to come to our next Illustrators Network meeting, which you can find out about here, (but give us a few days to update it). Cheers!


  1. Hi Janet, thanks for your great post about the LA Conference, can't wait to hear more about it in September! I stopped by Melissa Sweet's website, very inspiring artist!

    1. She's really a wonderful person, Michelle. If you ever get a chance to see her speak, do it! Very generous and inspiring.