Where to begin!!! The SCBWI conference in Franklin Tennessee last weekend was just a whirlwind of information and inspiration. Keynote speaker, Jay Asher, was incredible. My portfolio critique with Loraine Joyner, art director of Peachtree Publishing, was both insightful and encouraging. The food was delicious. I had a delightful lunch time conversation with agent Michael Bourret, author Bethany Griffin, and editor Lisa Cheng. But the best part about the conference was being surround by my own kind. Writers, illustrators, beer lovers, introverts, creative minds, and dreamers. It's nice to know I am not alone in this journey to publication.
I think perhaps the most beneficial part of the conference was the illustrator intensive with Loraine Joyner. I have often heard that if I want to grow, I need to surround myself with people better than me. This was certainly the case as I sat in a room full of illustrators including Mary Uhles, Susan Eaddy, and Meridith Gimbel. There was so much talent. The competition was so daunting that at first I just wanted to hide away in a cave. I seriously considered keeping my work hid away in a folder and just pretending to be one of the observers. But when Susan Eaddy called out, "Do we have everyone's work?" I gathered my things and delivered them to her at the front of the room. My hands were shaking, but I felt relieved somehow after I left my work out there in the open for all to see. There was no more hiding. I just had to embrace who I was and hope that others could appreciate the work I'd done.
All the participating illustrators chose one manuscript out of three to work on over the course of a few months before the conference. The majority of us, including me, chose to illustrate "Kind of Little Things." We were assigned to draw a storyboard, character sketches, and a final piece of artwork for the story. Six of us had chosen to do "King of Little Things" because frankly it was just the best story, and I was amazed by all the different interpretations people had as they made the story their own. I was pleased to discover that I was the only one to think to make the King of Little Things a small tiny person like Tom Thumb or Thumbelina. The idea proved to be too ambitious in the end, and there were a lot of flaws in thumbnails because I wasn't able to stay consistent with the sizes, but it made my work stand out. Loraine Joyner even said, "I LOVE this king. He reminds me of a professor." I was able to withstand all other criticism after such praise.
At the end of the intensive we were allowed to take a look at the actual books and their real illustrations for the first time. David Wenzel was the illustrator for the King of Little Things and if any of you are familiar with his work than you'll know that he is master. It was so humbling to compare my work to
his. You can see for yourselves the difference in our interpretation of the exact same scene. I just had to buy the book. For one thing it is a truly wonderful story and the illustrations are terrific. My other reason is that it will always have a special place in my heart because I invested so much of myself into the story. I spent hours and hours developing the characters. I've grown to love them. I think this is what it means to be an illustrator. To spend so much time with the characters that they become real to you. I still have a lot to learn as an illustrator, but I'm making progress and loving every step of the journey. Thank you SCBWI providing me with such a wonderful support system and community. This conference has helped me in so many ways and I will most definitely be coming back next year!