Sunday, October 18, 2009

Writing and Illustrating for Kids (wik) Conference

Pat and I looking especially chipper in the Spain Park High cafeteria,
where the break activities for the conference occured.
There was a bookstore set up, snacks to munch on, and artwork set up.

As a new SCBWI member, and one who was anxious to learn all I can for a career in childrens' illustration, I decided to attend SCBWI Southern Breeze region's annual fall conference, wik (Writing and Illustrating for Kids) in Birmingham, AL this past Saturday. The conference was only one day long, but packed with workshops, time to network with other artists and writers, get critiques, and meet publishers.

The conference was held at Spain Park High School. Upon arriving at about 7:45am, I signed in, got a name badge and set out my portfolio and promo materials on a long table with other artists, and dashed over to the auditorium to hear the Keynote speaker, Diane Z. Shore.

Diane told about her trials and tribulations of becoming a published children's book writer. She stressed the importance of continual learning about the craft: She read countless books on writing and rhyme, particiapated in SCBWI critique groups, all the while receiveing those early rejection letters. All her hard work and determination paid off, as she's written for several children's publications such as Highlights and Cricket, as well as written several picture books, such as Bus-a-Saurus Bop (below). Her speech was full of funny antedotes, some her beautiful early poetry, and some motivational advice for emerging professionals in the industry, such as this quote from Thomas Edison: "Many of life's failures are men who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up." The speech was outstanding and I think it really got everyone motivated for the long day of learning ahead.

Click image to view Amazon.com page.

The conference had small workshops set up, in which speakers led lectures on different topics as pertaining to the industry. The first one I attended was "Publishing with Eerdmans," led by Art Director Gayle Brown. She gave an overview about the company, and talked about the submission process and what they would like to see. She also had a collection of recently published books spread out of the floor, which we all looked through. The picture below doesn't do them justice, but the books were all so colorful, they looked like little jewels! Eerdman's publishes a beautiful variety of children's books, not sticking with one particular illustration style.

My eye kept on being drawn to this book. Eerdmans has done several biographies on artists for children. The illustrations in this book, I Am Marc Chagall by Bimba Landmann were particularly stunning, in my opinion.
Click image to view Amazon.com page.

Next I attended "Picture Books in a Challenging Market," with Lynne Polvino, Editor of Clarion Books. She broke down some of their sucesses, and descibed the elements that made the books a sucess. She stressed the importance of knowing the market, and what's out there.

Another book with exceptional illustrations, Two at the Zoo, by Danna Smith, illustrations by Valeria Petrone. Published February 2009 by Clarion. Click image to view Amazon.com page.

Diane Z. Shore's "A Picture Books is Worth 100 Words or Less" lecture had me frantically writing down notes the entire time! So much useful information! She described some pitfalls of unsuccessful childrens genre writing, and sent us on our way with tremendous resources. I aspire to someday write as well as illustrate picture books. She said that illustrators have a leg up because of their visual thinking, which was encouraging to hear!

Pat got a lot out of the conference as well. He met Calista Brill, Editor at First Second Books, which publishes graphic novels for children (and all ages too), and learned a little more through her workshops about what kind of submissions they would like to see. I am sure he will be blogging about his experiences at the conference too, so, I won't take up too much room here.

In summary it was a great day. It ended at about 5:30pm, and, boy, was I wiped! I enjoyed meeting a variety of people, and learning. Attending seems to have just been the beginning step--I have a lot of notes to look over, and websites and blog resources to check out. I have a clearer understanding of the marketplace, and how to promote my work, as well as insights on several publishers. I had a wonderful time, the conference met all my expectations. I am looking forward to attending the annual spring conference, Springmingle, in Atlanta in February!

1 comment:

Solongo Mellecker said...

Great job Renee, looks like you got out plenty from the conference. I would like to check these websites you posted.