Monday, February 26, 2007

The Big Apple (and More)

Right now I feel like one of those toys, I think they're called Weebles? I'm having a hard time keeping myself leaning upright and focused. I'm leaning towards the fact that it's pretty much spring here in Texas, and there's nothing I'd like better to do than spend hours outside cleaning up the yard and planting new flowers, decorating our lovely new patio. Spin around and oh! I still have to work, and keep my mind in the present so that I can teach my students all there is still to learn this year. Swing over in the opposite direction and, there I go again, leaning towards the near future and the fact that I will be for the first time, not professionaly employed, and my heart is bursting with anticipation of meeting our first child and being able to work towards becoming the artist I so hope to be. I'm here and there and everywhere, so you'll excuse me for my lack of posting.

I believe you're still waiting on my version of New York? (I'm sure you've already checked out Courtney's, Heather's, Roz's posts about the awe-inspiring event. I'll try not to repeat them too much.)

We (my husband Troy and I) arrived Wednesday afternoon, and after a lovely little jaunt around the neighborhood, had dinner at a lovely Irish pub and proceeded to be delighted and thrilled by the talented cast of Wicked. It was a fantastic show, and I would see it again in a heartbeat.
Thursday, some form of insanity drove us out of our cozy hotel room and into the seven degree wind-chilled outdoors in search of Lady Liberty, Ellis Island and Battery Park. (I now know what it feels like to have your eyelids freeze. I am still looking for the eyebrow that froze and fell off while we were loading the ferry.) Needless to say, by six o'clock, my pregnant body was done in, and while I laid down to relieve the horrendous swelling in my legs (sausage anyone?) Troy fetched a lovely dinner of personal pizza. Dinner in bed was never so appreciated.

Friday was the Illustrator's Intensive, and I had a great time. Our first presenter was Mac McCool on the creation and history of graphic novels. It was interesting and inspiring. After MM's presentation, we all broke up into our workshop groups. I was fortunate enough to be under the guidance of Christopher Meyers, an amazing artist and energetic presenter. He was very blunt and honest with all of us about his experiences in the business. Rather than go through the process of creating a thumbnail dummy, he talked to us about how we pitched our ideas and ourselves. A few pointers:
*Take away the preciousness of your idea and look at it clearly.
*What are the images you are using to sell your idea?
*Focus on clarity.
Following the first session, we headed out to lunch, then returned for the second half, where we were critiqued by Chris on transferring our ideas into a pitch image. It was very educational and again, entertaining.

Everyone then headed to hear Betsy Lewin (with help from her husband Ted)describe her work and her processs. I love her work, because it is so free and fun. It inspires me to loosen up on whatever it is I am trying to achieve with technique or style. I try to let go and just create, and Betsy's work is a great example of that. She also left us with a great statement. "You have to be YOU."

Saturday was the official start of the conference, beginning with a keynote from Susan Cooper. I adore her Dark is Rising series, and it is one I frequently recommend to my students who enjoy fantasy and epic adventures. A few quotes from her: "You can't teach creativity, only grammar." (don't I know it!) "Read for the sake of your imagination."

Susan was followed by Robie Harris who gave an enlightening and very informational speech about her experiences with censorship and how it affects publishing and the "keepers of democacy": librarians.

I then attended Chad Beckerman's session on book jackets. I did get some good information on how a jacket can affect the sale of a book.
*Covers are more a summary than a scene from the book.
*Iconographic is what's desired
*Elements of pop culture will be more recognizable for customers.

After hearing Ann Brasheres speak about her writing experiences, I head to Donna Mark's session for illustrators. Despite the frustration of a lot of "gimme" questions being asked, and Donna being frequently interrupted, I did get some new information and the hope that I could maybe send my work to her. (I'm sure with the hundreds of others in the room.)
*Try to brand yourself
*No Cd's, dvd's or slides or samples via email.

The Marketplace Scoop is next and they talk about what's hot, what's not and what they think the market will need in the future. "Why should I buy this book?" seemed to be an important thing to keep in mind for those hoping to break into the business.

We had a sneak attack speaker, Jane Yolen, and even though I don't write I found her talk about revision interesting.

Sunday led us to the winners of the Showcase exhibit, and the announcement that Tomie DePaola was stepping down from his seat on the SCBWI board. I'm so glad I was able to be in his presence when I had the opportunity. He's inspiring, no doubt about it.

Then we had the luck to see Brian Selznick present his process and journey as an illustrator and writer. It was jaw-dropping to see where an idea or inspiration may lead.

We concluded with Katherine Patterson's tear-jerking closing address. The one thing she said that struck a chord within me was when she said that we shouldn't allow the "fear of mediocrity" to hold us back, as it's held so many back.

With that in mind, I have to say I say that the entire conference helped me to sharpen my focus on what it is I want to do as an artist. Here are my goals for the year:
*Revamp my website and portfolio
*Create a picture book dummy
*Send out a promotional postcard by year's end

I think I'll leave it at that.

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