Wednesday, April 25, 2012

NESCBWI 2012 Conference

There is so much to say about the three days at the conference, I'm still processing all of the information from the workshops and conversations.  I have no pictures, my camera sat in the bottom of my bag as I watched and listened to everything going on around me.  It was an inspiring and humbling weekend.

I went into this conference with no clear direction for my work, stuck and needing feedback. I left on Sunday with ideas, suggestions and a specific focus for what genre I wanted to work in right now. My strong interest is not in picture books, but in middle grade and chapter book work. It wasn't something I was aware of until I was at the conference looking at the work of and talking with other artists.

Highlights of the weekend:

The Mix and Mingle at the Eric Carle Museum where I met Jane Yolen! She signed my 35 year old, ratty, taped together, crayoned copy of An Invitation to the Butterfly Ball. Perfect.

Illustrator's Peer Portfolio Review run by David Hyde Costello. A speed dating style workshop for artists to get a lot of feedback in a short amount of time. It pinpointed a couple of weak areas in my work as I heard the same comments over and over. Also, if you're looking for a sweet book for a little one, I highly recommend David's I Can Help. The duckling is adorable.

Meeting people that I knew from blogs or facebook, meeting people for the first time. Spending a weekend with hundreds of people who love the art of children's literature.

Listening to Dan Yaccarino explain the process of creating a story and a picture book dummy. This was one area where I wanted to get some specific information and Dan provided clear examples of how he works. I picked up a copy of his Lawn to Lawn for Ethan and while Ethan was happy to have a book signed by the author/illustrator, he was incredibly excited to discover that person had also had a hand in creating the Backyardigans.

Harry Bliss had me laughing until I cried. His work is brilliant and so was his presentation.

My portfolio critique with Judy Sue Goodwin Sturges of Studio Goodwin Sturges was wonderful. She was gracious, friendly and full of ideas. I have spent the past two days thinking about what she had to say about my work and how to get it where it needs to be for submitting to agents and editors, specifically for the chapter book/middle grade genre. I have been researching the list of artists she suggested I study (including Rembrandt, Monet, Degas and Tom Feelings)and planning how to implement her recommendations in the homework assignment she gave me.

Meeting Sarah Albee, author of Poop Happened! A History of the World from the Bottom Up (one of many books) and one of my favorite blogs.

Anne Sibley O'Brien's workshop on bias and the lack of diversity in children's books. This is one workshop that could have been much longer than 55 minutes. I would have enjoyed hearing more of what Anne had to say on the subject and discussing in depth how to change children's publishing to reflect the diversity of our country. If you are interested in reading more about this subject, her blog is an excellent resource.

The Beginner Illustrator Academy with Anne Sibley O'Brien (the poor woman couldn't get away from me all weekend), Brian Lies, and Carol Goldenberg (a freelance book designer who has worked on award winning books, including David Wiesner's Tuesday). I came away from this workshop with pages upon pages of notes. Anne, Brian and Carol shared the process of how they worked, something that I found fascinating, and they offered feedback for each piece of art from the class assignment for 6 minutes. The information I gained from that session is invaluable. It was obvious they enjoyed working together and they each brought something different to the critique.

I am so happy to have had the opportunity to attend this conference, it's just what I needed at this point. Now I need to get back to work, I have a lot to change and improve in my work!


  1. I am so happy for you, what a wonderful weekend of encounters, inspiration, direction, counsel and fun. I would love to have heard of Anne Sibley O'Brien's talk. Thanks for suggesting her blog as a resource. I am so glad you know what your genre of focus is going to be right now. Happy creating!

  2. Wow! Great weekend it sounds like. I am still processing so much too. I just can;t bring myself to blog about it just yet. I think the idea of you illustrating chapter books and MG is perfect! Hooray for you that you discovered the direction you would like to go in. So wonderful Heather. =)

  3. Thanks for summarizing this helpful info Heather. We had our LA SCBWI Writer's Days this weekend as well.

  4. Sounds like a wonderful time! That's cool that you have pinpointed your genre Heather. Thank you so much for sharing your experience. Congrats!

  5. Wish I could have been there! Definitely a goal for me in 2013. Glad it was so fun and informative!

  6. Thank you, everyone! I apologize for not answering sooner, life has been in a crazy phase for the past few weeks. We're heading back to calmer now and I appreciate your support! Maybe we can have a 12X12 meet up at the NESCBWI 2013?