Saturday I had the pleasure of waking up extremely early in order to drive down to Austin for their spring conference. Luck was with me: the drive was easy, the weather was gorgeous, and I was excited about my upcoming portfolio critique.
I won't go into too much detail, because I'm still a little exhausted from Saturday...but it was one of the best local conferences I've attended. It was informative, encouraging, and well-organized. I just had a blast meeting new people and chatting with acquaintances.
My portfolio critique went very well; although it was too short. Ten minutes was not enough time. I did get some valuable insight from the artist's agent who critiqued my work, though. She gave me very specific feedback- suggestions that will help to take my work up another notch and ideas for self-promotion. I'm glad I had the critique, because even though I've been racking my brains on how to improve my work, I was obviously too close to be able to really see it clearly.
The critique also helped point out to me that if I wish to pursue black and white work (which traditionally reads for a mid-grade audience), then I'm going to need to have two separate portfolios (as my color work reads for the very young).
I heard two editors speak about their houses and the process from submission to publishing. I took notes, as I intend to get serious about writing this year. Another fun speaker was a literary agent who talked about contracts (excellent info!) and what an agent does. The artist's agent who critiqued me gave a presentation referring to Molly Bangs' excellent book. Fun stuff!
Possibly the most useful presentation was by Christy Stallop (who is a riot!). She gave an illustrator's break away session on dummy books and how to make them. (Such wonderful, practical information, and new ideas outside the box.) I'm now trying to come up with a dynamic marketing plan for myself that I intend to set in motion early next year. I was pretty familiar with all of what Christy was telling us, but she stressed how important it is, making it a new priority for me.
Besides all of the great information, I was also able to connect with some very nice fellow illustrators and writers. I met two fantastic ladies from Houston- Bonnie Crow (who won almost all of the door prizes!) and Deborah Bryson-both writers and oh so friendly. I'm really glad I met them, because we're officially moving back to Houston this summer, and I plan on getting very active with the SCBWI chapter down there.
I was also able to meet Patrice and Janee (Wonderful ladies who won second and third place in the portfolio contest!) and enjoy the company of the lovely Amy, Martin, Sarah, Mark, Christy, Clint and a whole slew of other Austin writers and illustrators! What a blast...so much so that I plan on driving from Houston back to Austin later this summer to attend their Illustrator's Day. Amy told me a little about it, and I look forward to the opportunity.
All in all, it was a fantastic conference (I mean, they fed us-how could it not have been? ha!) and I had a wonderful time. It was well worth the three hour round trip. I now have some new, practical goals set, and a handful of people I'd like to count among my newest friends.