(NOTE: One thing I failed to do was take pictures while I was in LA! I am still kicking myself for it, but fortunately the internet is a wonderful resource! Here's a set of what the hotel looks like.)
I was lucky enough to room with Heather for the duration of the conference. We met up Thursday and while she was seeing to RA duties, I was meeting the talented Kelly for the first time. We were actually supposed to be meeting up with SCBWI-ers from the message boards who had set up a meet and greet, but we were so busy chatting, we must have missed them. I was delighted to find such a kindred spirit and we happily made plans to meet up in the morning.
Our conference began with a keynote by Sherman Alexie. (I read his book, The Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Indian last year and fell in love with his writing and wit. I wish I was still teaching so I could have pushed this book into the hands of every one of my students.) I looked forward to hearing him speak, and boy did he set the standard for the rest of the conference. He is a natural-born storyteller, and when we weren't laughing out loud, we were wiping our cheeks. Amazing doesn't even begin to describe it.
The next speaker was David Wiesner, an icon in the illustration world. He's a quieter sort of speaker, but the images he showed blew us away. He shared his inspirations and influences, many from his childhood (sidenote: Know that movie, The Shining? Yeah, that influenced him in Tuesday!). It was wonderful to see his process and understand how he created his magic.
On Friday I decided to stay on the illustrator track, so I attended Writers House agent Steven Malk's talk on How to Build Your Illustration Career. It was a wonderful talk and he had some wonderful tips and advice-many of which I was silently patting myself of the back for already doing-haha! Basically it boils down to this: If you want to do this as a career, you need to focus, commit and work five times as hard as everyone else out there. (a reoccuring theme at this conference) He also reminded everyone that they needed to take the time to develop for the children's book market.
After lunch and an Editor's Panel was Art Director: Elizabeth Parisi's talk on how to fit into the current market of book covers. It's not really a market I think my art would fit in to, but it sounded interesting nonetheless. I did learn a few things:
*Trends appear as a result of pressure from booksellers, marketers, etc.
*Covers are no longer appearing as literal summaries from the story, but are becoming more iconic.
We then heard from Betty Birney and the evolution of her fiction series featuring a clever classroom hamster. It was a fun talk, but I was starting to wane from a long day and a grumbling stomach.
After dinner I was soon recharged and headed to the first-ever Illustrator's Social. What a wonderful concept! Cecilia Yung, David Diaz, Priscilla Burris were there to facilitate the chaos of portfolio sharing, card swapping and chatting. They talked a little about how we illustrators were only 15% of the attendees, and we needed to band together for support. Then we did a little exercise where those of us who've attended conference before matched up with newbies-mentors/mentees. I met a lovely illustrator, Ji Young Lee. We ran into each other repeatedly over the course of the conference, and I am so glad to have met her!
Up Next: Day 2!