NESCBWI conference weekend!
Today is the only day this year that I was able to attend the two-day conference. Despite this fact, I don't feel that I missed an ounce of inspiration, information or enjoyment out of it.
Before I go any further I must first share with you BIG NEWS!!!!!! I WON the NESCBWI poster contest in two categories: I took the First Place Prize for Published Artist category, and Third Place Prize for the People's Choice category!!! I cannot adequately explain how proud of this honor that I am and how thrilled I am to receive it. It is beyond, beyond and I am basking in the glow... or, as I said when I went to the front of the room to receive my honor, I am "sucking it up"!! Looking back on those words, that sounds like I am saying that I am sucking in my tummy to look thinner on stage, right? ;) ;) (My tummy was the furthest thing from my mind at that moment I assure you, ha ha). What I meant that I was "sucking it up" in a GOOD way. And, besides, when in public and surprised, we simply cannot be held responsible for the ridiculous things we blurt out in public. ;)
Thanks SO MUCH to everyone who enjoyed my work today and who enjoyed it enough to VOTE for it. It's an honor to be an illustrator, and knowing how much you appreciate my work is a GOOD SIGN :) for me. So, THANKS :) :) :) xoxo
Every year, my conference experience seems to have a 'theme' that I only see clearly in hindsight. Last year's theme for me was, most definitely, "growing pains". I made a decision to concentrate on writing-focused seminars, which was risky for me and actually felt really weird. I am a die-hard illustrator first and foremost. But, I'm also an aspiring published writer/illustrator. It was time to honor that within myself, and to the world... So, I went the whole nine yards and decided to sign up for writing courses only, aside from my one "treat"-- Melissa Sweet's great workshop. I also attended both days last year, so it was extra intense to be out of my "element" for that length of time, all the while feeling so torn by my forced exodus from the illustrator-focused seminars... although, to be fair, there are usually SO many great seminars that no matter which I end up attending, there is usually another one I am equally interested in taking place at the exact same time. In the end, I had a great experience at the 2008 conference, but by concentrating on learning and growing in different and admittedly uncomfortable ways, I was, by default, in another head space.
This year, on the other hand, was a whole 'nother story for me! For starters, I once again embraced the illustrator seminars on full-throttle. Yay! Yippee, Yahoo. I didn't take one writing seminar. While I surely will again in the future (and with glee! with glee), I was happy to not even consider it this time around. Secondly, my courses were fantastic. While it is always difficult to choose, it was a particularly good-looking year in the Saturday seminar department. That can make it harder to choose your courses, and this year was the first time that I can remember participants being actively enforced to stick to their originally chosen schedules and not have the option to change classes on the fly if they wished. This small detail actually worked out well for me ;) because the one seminar that I almost skipped turned out to be fantastic. Creating Stronger Illustrations Through Research, Artistic Exploration and Creative Play with Lita Judge was my first seminar. Lita brought us into her entire process of researching clothing, places and the like for her era-based picture books. I know how to Google for image research so from the outset I was skeptical about how much new information and knowledge I'd come away with, but I have to say I was very impressed with Lita's presentation. She organized a meticulous powerpoint presentation and spoke at length and in great detail about her process, and generously answered every question afterward. The only caveat to the entire presentation is that there was no take-away sheet with a written outline of the presentation bullet points. I love those take-aways, but it is a small flaw considering how faceted and interesting her presentation was, and what a well-organized and clear speaker and communicator she is. Grade: A!
My second seminar was with the one and only Barbara Johansen-Newman. I was very torn between taking this seminar and Liz Goulet Dubois concurrent seminar, but I decided on Barbara because Liz had two separate presentations in different time-blocks today, and I was planning on attending her other one. Plus, I just didn't want to pass up the opportunity to hear Barbara speak about her artwork and the subject matter at hand. Beyond Picture Books: Illustrating Early Readers and Chapter Books was the title of Barbara's seminar. Since I just completed my first Early Reader and I am interested in doing more, I thought this was a great choice for me. I was thrilled to have a seminar dedicated to this segment of children's books and to have Barbara's voice behind the subject was an opportunity too good to pass up. Of course, I was not disappointed one bit! Honestly, I am a huge fan of Barbara's so I could not imagine that I would not be riveted by her stories. Her seminar delivered for me and more. I thoroughly enjoyed learning all about Barbara's career, particularly in this segment of children's book publishing. Barbara has a warm, sparkly personality and an easy demeanor... But, at the same time, she's also no-nonsense, get-right-to-the-point, no sugar-coating kind of girl ( ...unless it's Sugar of the Tex and Sugar variety.) So the woman is the genuine article! She was very honest and really gave a LOT of insight into chapter books and early readers. She shared oodles of books with us that she's illustrated, and some that she hadn't. She also gave us a kick-butt handout. (YES - I love the hand-outs.) Last but not least, Barbara had a prize drawing at the end of her show, and she gave away several of her books to her grateful audience. I even won one (Milo's Great Invention) to add to my growing Barbara book collection! Grade: What can I say?!? A+!
My last seminar of the day was Liz Goulet Dubois' second seminar. Liz's first seminar (which took place during Barbara's seminar) outlined other possible markets for children's illustration. This seminar was called Fun Reads: Board Books and Other Novelty Formats. Liz took us through the inception and lifespan of her latest book, board book, pop-up book "What Kind of Rabbit Are You?". Very enlightening stuff -- I was totally amazed by the life this book had, way before it even became a published book. I mean, we all hear the stories over and over, but to see the story in living color and also in so many physical manifestations, that really hit home. I was fascinated with her story and I really appreciated hearing about the technical details as well. I'd never met Liz in person before today and only knew her through blogs and email. Well, for me, she was one of those few people that you meet that you feel instantly comfortable around. She was fabulous, and I loved her presentation. I must add that some of her dummy books were, like, crazy meticulous-outrageous-gorgeous. Simply, they were dummies that live on fluffy clouds in a beautiful blue sky flanked by rainbows, unicorns and the occasional pot of gold. Seriously, I have never seen a dummy like some of Studio Dubois' dummies. Lastly (and certainly not least, if you've been reading this long), Liz gave ou some extremely useful hand-outs which oulined all of her points in class as well as sharing some books, web resources and trade show information. Thanks, Liz! Grade: A+