These are my thoughts about this years NESCBWI 2015 Conference held in Springfield, MA. There were many friends, colleagues and organizers who made this years conference a success. When you attend a SCBWI conference there is barely enough time to catch your breath. The conference organizers wanted to make sure you were busy and receive your moneys worth.
I started my workshops as early as 7:30 am and some probably didn't end until around 6pm. I selected workshops that would improve my picture book career. One of my favorite workshops was "Where Picture Book Illustration Is Today" organized by Laurent Linn. Mr. Linn emphasized that kids are important and storytelling requires using your emotions. Illustrating for children is important and we shouldn't take our responsibility lightly. Children are important and impressionable and require our best work.
I also enjoyed another workshop that used the theme for this year's illustration challenge, "Don't Worry-I Fixed It." Three art directors Matha Rago, Jim Hoover, and Laurent Linn gave a critique of illustrators who submitted their finished illustrations. The critique showed why some samples satisfied the theme or did not. I found the art directors comments inspired me for my next promotion card.
Emma Ledbetter had a workshop titled,"Lights, Camera, Picture Book!". It was fascinating to hear Ms Ledbetter's views about structuring a picture book. She introduced the idea of music flowing for picture books until it ends with a surprise.This flow should contain a beginning, middle and end. She used several movie stills from Pixar's movie,"Monsters Inc." to illustrate whether the picture book moves along or not.
I heard many speakers at this year's conference but found Dan Santat, Caldecott winner for this year's picture book, really amazing. I thought Mr Santat to be organized, and motivated creatives to be serious about their craft. He discussed his life growing up and how it influenced where he was today. Mr. Santat really knows how to tell a story and keeps you listening to the very end.
A couple of events that I didn't take part in and would encourage you to consider are the Illustrator's Challenge, Peer Critiques and The Portfolio Showcase. I didn't attend the Illustration Challenge because of commitments to client projects. I missed my peer critique because of an illustration meeting. Peer critiques are important because you receive comments about your work from another set of eyes. You need criticism in order to grow. Placing your portfolio in the Portfolio Showcase goes without saying. You never know who might see your work and want to contact you. I really enjoyed placing my book anywhere on available tables. I attended this past New York conference and they took my book and place it in a location I didn't feel was advantageous. Don't count on going to a SCBWI conference expecting to pickup a project. It does happen but not likely. Enjoy yourself and have fun.
Once the day activities, workshops and speeches are over it's time to wine and dine with your fellow colleagues. This can be a lot of fun and a great way to discuss the children's publishing industry and pickup inside information.
The bookstore is fabulous and you can purchase books from your favorite speakers at the conference. This is how I purchased Dan Santat's book "Beekle". I also picked up Marvin Terban's "checking Your Grammar" since I am in the process of writing my own picture book. This book will help me brush up on my sentence structure.
I found the NESCBWI conference not as expensive as traveling to the New York or Los Angeles SCBWI Conference. Save up your money and make an effort to attend the NESCBWI conference. You won't regret it. I had a great time and was inspired returning to Boston. I look forward to my next NESCBWI conference.