SCBWI LA Conference

Aug 27, 2014

Earlier this month I had the amazing opportunity to attend the SCBWI conference held in LA, a goal I've had for the last two years! I road tripped down with two of my friends, Bay Area illustrators Charlotte Cheng and Jeslyn Kate. This was my first big conference, and I had so many mixed feelings of anticipation, excitement and fear leading up to it. For one, I signed up to show my portfolio in the Showcase, and knowing the eyes of art directors and editors would be all over it I spent weeks revamping, reorganizing and throwing out half my work to make my portfolio the best it could be. And no matter how ready I thought I felt, there was always that gnawing feeling that maybe I wasn't truly ready. But I had to ignore that. And I did it, I showed my work! No one's going to know about it collecting dust in my closet. Here's a few newer pieces I included in my portfolio.

getting my portfolio ready for the showcase  //  Jeslyn Kate, me, Charlotte Cheng

The conference was such an amazing positive experience, meeting so many other passionate illustrators and writers. I felt like I was in the midst of "my people" who spoke my language and got excited over silly things like paper stocks, and picture book dummies! I had so much fun, laughed SO hard (thanks Charlotte and Jeslyn!) and totally wore myself out like a puppy everyday. And no matter how tired I felt from the constant chit chat of networking and keynote speakers, I felt so inspired and fired up inside! I came out with such a feeling of community and support, knowing I have other writers & illustrators out there who go through the same stuff as me like getting inspired when you want to throw your work away, or reminding yourself "you are good enough, and you can succeed!"

Jeslyn Kate, Me, Charlotte Cheng: Day one here we go!

I brought 300 postcards and gave away all but a handful! I met so many amazing people, especially other illustrators who I admired, that was such a highlight! One thing I'm really glad I did was to go with a few friends, to be newbie conference buddies. It really made a difference having even a small group to touch base with every evening over dinner, and go over notes. Another thing I'm SO glad we did was buy a bunch of food at Trader Joe's to make lunches in our hotel room. It saved money, plus those lunch lines looked like they took 45 minutes to go through!

Tomie de Paola's birthday / Old Italy Gala Night // Cathy Bowman, Erin McGuire, Jeslyn Kate, Charlotte Cheng, Me

All three of us Charlotte, Jeslyn and I entered our portfolios into the Portfolio Showcase, and Jeslyn was selected for a Mentorship Award!! Wooohooo were so excited for her! She had the amazing opportunity to consult one on one with each of the mentors, including Cecilia Yung (Art Director, Penguin)Priscilla BurrisE.B. Lewis,Paul O. ZelinskyLaurent Linn (Art Director, Simon & Schuster Children's) and David Diaz. And she'll be included along with the other mentees to join the Kit Lit Artists Blog. Were so proud of you Jeslyn! Check out Jeslyn Kate's work on her website 

Jeslyn wins the Mentorship Award! (photo by Debbie Ohi)  //  reading some good books in the pool

Every single keynote speaker had tidbits of amazing advice and I took good notes! Here's just some of the things that really struck me me from various keynotes and workshops, if you're interested in seeing all my notes you can download them here.
 “ Don’t be afraid to engage with the dark parts of your head” -Meg Rosoff
Meg reminded us that some of the best creative material come from a place deep inside us (sometimes dark and scary) but always authentic, because its those real experiences and feelings we had as children and adults that are so unique to us, yet resonate universally with so many other people. I've been trying to tap into my childhood more by journaling my memories, and more of my illustrations lately have come directly out of those memories, or combinations of memories and childhood dreams. It's been feeling more personal, and maybe thats why more of my work has been about little girls, because I know what it's like to be a girl.
"Do what YOU DO better than anyone else does" -Meg Rosoff
A constant thread throughout the conference was the word "Voice" What does that mean? I think I know what it is, and at times I'm not sure I have it. Meg describes it like this, "Your voice is…finding who you are, and what you have to say about the world."  I'm definitely still working on that in my work.
"If you listen to your own voice, unknown friends will come and seek you” -Jung
I got the chance to attend Aaron Becker's workshop on wordless picture books (later I got his book "Journey" signed aw yea!). The main point I took away was to be patient with the illustration and book making process, and not let any sketch become too precious to revise over again. His tip is to keep your thumbnails small, and draw in stick figures if you have to. Nothing comes out perfect from the beginning. He showed us all his rough sketches from Journey and his 5+ revisions of the dummy! I was so inspired because I think a lot of the time we place to much pressure on ourselves as artists to create a masterpiece in an instant. We want to rush to the finish, to create something great, and most of the work- like 90% of the work is in the sketch phase! It's the slow persevering process that eventually creates something great. 
"Have Courage” -Tomie de Paola
Tomie de Paola was able to Skype call from his studio, so cool! He encouraged us to have courage in our career and in our daily work. The hardest part is starting, even he deals with fear of the blank white page. No matter how many times you've created beautiful artwork and story, you have to get up and do it all over again.

And finally, Judy Blume gave the closing keynote, and sent us off with some encouraging words.

“Do not let anyone discourage you. If they do, get angry not depressed.” -Judy Blume
I'm so glad I went, it was worth every penny spent. My goal for the next few months is to just keep working and persevering, creating personal art and stories that I LOVE, not worrying if it will be good enough for anyone else. I learned so much, and had such a fun time meeting people. I hope to make it again next year!

1 comment:

  1. WOW!! What an experience!! So glad you went and got to go with such fun people!!


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