Thursday, March 7, 2013

Austin SCBWI conference

So, I figure that it's about time that I update my blog. I have had a few people ask me about my experience at the Austin SCBWI so I thought that I would share that with you today.

Austin is about 5 hours from where I live. My husband decided to go with me so that we could make a nice weekend get away out of it. I didn't attend the Friday night events due to the long drive and getting into Austin at around 5pm. We were just wiped out.

The next morning, he dropped me off at St. Edward's University then  I registered and got my packet.  I had met someone online who was from the Houston SCBWI, named Joel Cook.  Through out the day, he and I got to talk about our critiques and everything that was going on.  It was great to have a familiar face around because I was so nervous !!  haha

I had signed up for the portfolio showcase for a small fee. Your portfolio was displayed along with others on tables in a large room.  People were able to walk around and look through your portfolio.  There was a comment card available if someone wanted to leave you a comment.  I got a lot of feedback about my pen & ink work !!

It was here that I saw Don Tate's work !!  He had a display with some of his original artwork.  He and I struck up a conversation.  He was so friendly and I could have talked to him all day.  I found him very inspiring.     Don Tate

I also met Christopher Jennings.  He talked to me a lot about the conference and told me about the different ones that he had been to.  He was very informative and encouraging.  I think he could tell that I was nervous but he was very reassuring and friendly. 

After morning beverages, everyone gathered and listened to the announcements.  When that was done, we were honored by having E. B. Lewis speak.  He talked about how he studied movie stills. The lighting, angels, and other things from movies. SO, that is one of the things that I am going to start studying. I just have to figure out what to search online. !!!! I can not even begin to do him justice by telling about him.  So, here are some links that I would like to share with you.

Wikipedia - E. B. Lewis (illustrator)

I wasn't able to listen to him for long because I had to leave for my portfolio critique with Rubin Pfeffer.  He is with East West Literary Agency.  He has been in this business for many years.  I had brought another portfolio that I had with me and put it with my purse and coat.  I brought this only to show Mark Mitchell some things that I had been working on through his online class.  Mr. Pfeffer asked to see it even though I explained that I had the portfolio that I brought for the conference.  He told me to pull some of the things from the portfolio that I wasn't going to show him and told me to include them with the conference portfolio.  We discussed my portfolio and I felt very encouraged by the things that he said to me. 

After that, I made my way back to the main hall to hear a presentation by Shutta Crum and Patrice Barton.  They wrote and illustrated the book "Mine".  The presentation led us through their creative process and their interactions with the editors.  That really was a highlight for me to see Mrs. Barton's sketches and the process that she went through with her illustrations. She won the Crystal Kite award. 

* The Crystal Kite Awards (also known as 'Crystal Kite Members Choice Awards) are given by the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) each year to recognize great books from the 70 SCBWI regions around the world. Along with the SCBWI Golden Kite Awards, the Crystal Kite Awards are chosen by other children’s book writers and illustrators, making them the only peer-given awards in publishing for young readers.
Each SCBWI member votes for their favorite book from a nominated author in their region that was published in the previous calendar year.  * info taken from

 After this wonderful presentation, we went to lunch !!  BUT, I stopped by the book sale and bought some books of some of the wonderful people that I met. 

After lunch, there was an awards presentation.  Mark Mitchell left the position of Illustrator Coordinator of the Austin SCBWI after three years.

 Mark and I had been "online" friends for over a year because I took his online class,  "How to be a children's book illustrator. "  How to be a children's book illustrator - Online Course

Then we got to hear editor Neal Porter discuss the process that he goes through when working with authors and illustrators.
Wikipedia - Neal Porter

For a small fee, I was able to sit in on "a casual conversation with the agents" --  Rubin Pfeffer, Erszi Deak, & John Cusick.  People that participated in this was able to submit questions that were then asked of the panel.  My question got asked.  :)

Then at the end of the day, one of my illustrations was projected onto a huge wall and was critiqued by a panel of editors, agents and authors.  This was called The First Impressions panel with Tamra Tuller, E.B. Lewis, Erzsi Deak, Rubin Pfeffer, John Cusick and Kathy Landwehr.
                                                           Photo byCythia Leitich Smith

I found out later, that not a lot of people do that because they really are hard on your work.  BUT, I personally feel that you have to remove yourself from your artwork and not take it personally.  These people have "made it" and if I want to make it as an illustrator, I have to listen to what people say.

When I first began the children's illustration course over a year ago, I thought that I had to change my style. I felt that I needed to make my artwork less realistic.  I just didn't think that "realistic" fit into children's books.  SO, I changed the way I painted and drew.  One of the things that I was told in this critique was that I was "on the fence" of being realistic or stylized.  AND that I needed to be one or the other.  SO, I didn't take that as a negative thing.  Instead, I took that as encouragement to paint the way I have always done. There were things said about my anatomy as well.  BUT, the thing is ..  I can see what they meant.  Mark saw me later at the reception and seemed concerned about how I took the critiques because he said that they sounded "harsh".

I've been told recently that a lot of people give up after receiving hard criticisms.  Or they give up after presenting their book once.  Rejection is a part of life.  I know that I can not please everyone because everyone has different opinions of how things need to be done.  BUT, I can listen objectively.  See if I get a lot of the same responses about something needing to be changed ..  if so, then I probably need to change something.  This is not an easy adventure that I'm taking.  I may not succeed.  But, one thing is for sure ... doing this is a full time job.  It is something that requires dedication.  I have to perfect my craft and then who knows ...  maybe you will see my book at one of these big time book stores !!!