Doodles while taking notes.
Here is a re-cap of my (very long good) day at SCBWI NYC!
I woke at 10am by a hotel-staff knock at the door, and unfortunately slept through all but the last 10 minutes of author Anthony Horowitz‘ excellent talk. (I believe it was excellent.) He ended it with “Don’t believe anything I say. No one knows anything.” and “Write it, enjoy it, believe in it.” So sad I missed this.
Next up was a publisher’s panel with:
– Justin Chanda of Simon & Schuster (“We have to write the books we want to write because we don’t know what will sell.”)
- Beverly Horowitz of Bantam Delacorte, Random House (“We need to get little ones to commit to their imaginations.”)
– Laura Godwin of Henry Holt (“This is a great time to be an artist or writer of picture books.”)
– Stephanie Owens Lurie of Disney-Hyperion (“Without the reader, a book isn’t complete.”)
These four had a lot to say and the main takeaway for me was that the editors and publishers are approachable… the last thing I wrote in my notes was “It’s still just people.”
Next I went to a smaller “breakout session” with Viking Art Director Denise Cronin. She had a lot of good things to say… the main takeaway for me is that “collaboration is key” when creating picture books. It’s a “many-cook” process including the author, editor, illustrator, designer, art director, publisher.
My favorite session of the day was by Jessica Garrison, senior editor at Dial Books for Young Readers. She was entertaining and smart, and we had a lot in common: she had a cold (I have a cold!), and she’s 35 years old (I was 35 years old!).
Jessica spoke about 7 “rules” of children’s picture book making and why we sometimes break them. The “rules” included things like keep books short, make it kid-centered, should have strong characters, wordless picture books are difficult, there should be a “takeaway/moral”, and the artwork should be emotive and expressive.
She then showed examples of beloved and best-selling books that broke each of these rules to great effect. Some examples included “Easter Cat,” which is an 80-page long picture book, “Press Here” which has no main character (or, the reader is the main character), and “Dragons Love Tacos” (“To read it is to love it,” but just a romp, not takeaway really).
As SCBWI attendees we are allowed to send her stuff in the next 6 weeks and she will give feedback… a huge bonus for being here (thank you, Jessica).
Her parting words to all of us, “Be that kid.”
Author/illustrator Herve Tullet spoke again (“Press Here” and “Mix it Up”). I enjoyed hearing about his journey to making books (at 30 he became an illustrator but had a problem: “I’m not a good drawer. [laughter] This is not funny at all. I’m still not a good drawer.”). :D
He said it was “a great discovery to understand that his book could ‘live.'” He then read some of his books, in which he just lit up the room:
And he ended with the sweet, “I love the bébés, because they know everything.”
The last speaker today was Kami Garcia, co-author of “Beautiful Creatures” for young adults (and solo author of many others). The story of how this first book came together was really interesting (it involved her best friend, her high school students, tacos, and a dare). I enjoyed it.
The day ended with another portfolio showing time:
While waiting near our portfolios, I was happy to meet another Seattle illustrator, Amy Hevron. She was fun to talk to, and then she reached over and grabbed her postcard to give to me, and I realized that her portfolio had been my favorite from last night! Her work is awesome (see it HERE). I predict she will win the Portfolio Showcase (last night’s showing was judged; award ceremony is tomorrow).
And finally, we all had a buffet dinner/gathering and I found some other Seattle peeps. Fun times!