This year's SCBWI Winter Conference 2015 in New York was an exciting event to experience. I have never attended a gathering with so many writers and illustrators under one roof who love the children's book industry. SCBWI members arrived not just from the United States but from all over the world. This was a three day event for members to network, meet old friends and discuss their latest projects.
I arrived on Friday and quickly walked to 42nd Street to the Grand Hyatt near Grand Central Station. I was late for registration but more concerned about dropping off my portfolio for the private viewing later that day. I checked that my portfolio contained my business cards, promotion cards and attached picture book dummy. All set, handed over my book to the SCBWI personnel. I didn't apply for any creative intensives and should have but was not exactly excited about drawing at seven forty-five am in the morning. When I attend the Springfield SCBWI conference in April, I plan on participating in one of the illustration intensives. I left the conference and made my way to my brother's apartment to rest and unload my luggage.
Friday evening I returned to the Grand Hyatt to socialize and view some illustratration portfolios. I labored many hours putting my book together for the private show. SCBWI had strict size restrictions but it seemed all that mattered was the letter of your last name for strategic placement on the tables for viewing. I continued looking at many portfolios in all shapes, sizes and colors. I wondered how illustrators chose their portfolio styles and was amazed by the quality of illustration work. Some of the illustrators whose work I really enjoyed were Kiri Ostergaard Leonard, Lori Keehner and Prescott Hill. After socializing with a few illustrators, I decided I was finished and picked up my book and went to rest at my brother's home.
The remainder of Friday evening I reminisced about those illustration portfolios I had viewed earlier. I reminisced about what my experience would be like attending my first SCBWI Conference. I really didn't sleep that night was to excited thinking about the possibilities for this weekend. Saturday arrived early for me as I rose early and had a quick breakfast. I left the apartment and made my way back to 42nd Street and the conference. I arrived upstairs and entered the Empire Ball State Ballroom for the Conference opening speaker's greetings and introductions. Anthony Horowitz was the first of several speakers who projected such excitement and enthusiasm for the books he wrote and all that it took to write them. I was impressed by his enthusiasm for his craft. I listened intently for about an hour before leaving to participate in my selected workshops.
The first workshop was titled Working With An Agent, narrated by Heather Alexander, an agent for Pippin Properties. She came across as very informative and offered insight to creatives considering working with agents. She mentioned what she as an agent brings to the table in assisting creatives. She mentioned she receives 15% if she brings in work. I thought this was a bit low but maybe she is right. An agent is important if you want them to take care of the marketing and contact potential clients. Ms Alexander emphasized researching any agent you are considering representing you.
My second workshop was titled Creating Picture Book Art, narrated by Denise Cronin, Vice President and Art Director for Viking Children's Books. She spoke about the Seven Essentials for Picture Book Art. I found her workshop to be the most interesting. I was familiar with several of her Seven Essentials, for example having an effective and easy website to navigate. Creatives should have updated blogs. I enjoyed her comment, Observe The World Around You, suggesting that you should observe everything you see because this information might just be useful in one's creative projects. She mentioned the example of How A Cat Stalks It's Victim. How does a cat position itself before it strikes a victim. Think how you will market yourself was another important point she made. What should creatives consider to get their names in front of art buyers. Ms Cronin suggested sending out promotion cards, joining art critiques and attending more conferences.
I was gradually realizing my thoughts at the Conference dwelling on different strategies I should develop that would guide me through the children's book industry. I knew from experience that my own tried and true tactics such as marketing and create great artwork were essential. Visiting bookstores, looking at picture books and remembering the names of interested publishers. Contacting agents is a possibility and joining critique groups is beneficial. These were some of the essentials that Ms Cronin emphasized. After a small break I returned to my brothers apartment before returning for the evening Art Browse at the conference. This would give me a chance to view again many illustration portfolios and chat with some of my fellow artists. The SCBWI Winter Conference had an Optional Socials gathering for a variety of different groups to meet and socialize. I choose the Illustration Group obviously because illustrators are a enthused group of people to hang around with. I spoke with Prescott Hill who explained how he achieved his delightful illustrations with SketchBook Pro. I really enjoyed looking at Lori Keehner's book of paintings and many more illustrators.
Sunday was the last day of the SCBWI Winter Conference. I decided to finish the day and participate in a few events so I could say my good-byes to fellow illustrators. I attended an early afternoon keynote panel. Titled Keynote Agents' Panel: Charting Your Career Path. This was moderated by Brenda Bowen with the panelists consisting of Barry Goldblatt Literary LLC, Jennifer Laughran, Andrea Brown Literary Agency and Tina Wexler, International Creative Management. This group covered similar issues from my Saturday workshop with Heather Alexander but mentioned even more topics for creatives to consider before contacting and working with an agent. Some issues mentioned were The Money Issues, by Barry Goldblatt. He mentioned that the children's publishing industry is not an easy profession to make a living at and creatives should not give up their day jobs. Make sure you can pay your bills such as the rent or the mortgage. I can't disagree with what Mr. Goldblatt said because of my very own experience with part-time jobs. Jennifer Laughran mentioned ways creative professionals can increase their exposure such as having an online portfolio, participating with social media and marketing yourself. She also spoke about being part of Illustration Spotlights and attending more conferences. I found Barry Goldblatt's comment about shutting down your Amazon ranking amusing if you are checking your rank obsessively. This is an issue I don't worry about because I don't have any ranking so far. This panel left me with even more ideas to ponder as I left the Empire State Ballroom.
After leaving the panel discussion I quickly went to the children's bookstore to load up on some of my favorite picture books. I purchased Accoustic Rooster and His Barnyard Band by Kwame Alexander and illustrated by the fantastic illustrator Tim Bowers. I really enjoy Tim's amusing and colorful animal illustrations. I was saddened that these three days passed so fast and are just about over. I would cherished all the friends I met and great times we had together. I received so much information to improve my skills as a children's book illustrator. I would strongly suggest saving the money to attend one of these SCBWI Conferences you certainly won't regret it. These conferences are not cheap. I really enjoyed the experience of being part of a large group of creatives who just love picture books and look forward to my next SCBWI conference.