NESCBWI 2013 Conference Recap

Catmice001
You've just returned from a 3 day Children's Writers and Illustrators conference. Which character do you most relate to in the above sketch? Greedy fat cat? Astonished and hungry little sister? One of many mice in a box, clawing your way to be seen?

Maybe you're behind the pencil, like me. The artist in a workshop, doodling while absorbing. That's my favorite headspace. I might appear to be 'not paying attention' - but trust me, I'm in the zone.

I put it all out there for this year's NESCBWI Spring Conference and I think it paid off. I signed up for a critique of my latest dummy (it went really well!), tossed my hat in the ring for the poster contest (I placed 3rd for published!), put a book into the portfolio showcase (no one spilled wine on it!), and entered an 'anonymous image' for the First Look panel (positive but weird and helpful feedback?!). 

My favorite workshops were:

Sudipta Barhan-Quallen's Rhythm, Rhyme, and Repetition: A Picture Book Writer's 3 Rs

Carlyn Beccia's The Posthumous Adventures of a Digital Painting

Gaia Cornwall's 7 Animation Concepts Every Illustrator Should Steal

Lynda Mulally Hunt's Find-a-Fit: Researching Agents in Order to Find the Right Match for You

My favorite moments were:

Having the same table, waiter, meal and dining companion at Adolfo's as last year.

Uncontrollable junior-high laugh-fest with new and old friends at the end of the portfolio showcase. I'd share it, but it's TOTALLY inappropriate. Which is why it was so funny, right?

Winning the raffle in Lynda Mulally Hunt's workshop: a critique of a work by an agent at a top agency. I was so excited I did a Price-is-Right run for the podium before Lynda stopped me!!!

All the little moments with new illustrator friends, or people I only talk with online - in person! It's a really smart, funny, friendly group.

The three or more times I started tearing up at a keynote speaker or panelist.

And to be honest, I loved feeding and caring for just myself for a few days, but coming back to my happy little kids (and relieved husband!) at the front door on a sunny spring day was the perfect finale. 

NESCBWI 2012 Conference Recap

3d5ac3d296bc11e1ab011231381052c0_7

I know the NESCBWI conference was two weeks ago. I know you've read all about it on other blogs. But humor me.

It took me a full week to absorb and appreciate the experience. Friday was beyond exhausting. Kids, house, travel, keeping on schedule, parking garage malfunctions, and THEN having a critique I was really nervous about just did me in. Immediately after my critique (mid-day Friday) I was quite ready to throw in the towel with my whole career. Yup. It's not that it went so horribly. It's just that I was tapped out. I wanted to hear the impossible, and instead I got mostly good advice. By the time Monday morning rolled around I was desperate for time to work on my picture book dummy - even if it meant taking a red pen to every aspect of it. (see image above)

The highlights of the conference for me, were (in no specific order):

Dan Yaccarino's workshop: I enjoyed it enough at the time. But when the dust settled in my brain, he shone a light on my picture book dummy that I think was the key to making it infinitely better - publishable, even. One major thing, a few little things, plus a whole lot of inspiration.

Portfolio Showcase: Seeing my portfolio out there for the first time in four years was awesome. It's nearly ALL published work. And I like a lot of it. It sorely needs more cute animals, but that's an improvement I'm happy to work on. Giving just a few little feedback cards to others was greatly rewarding too. A little birdie said there was some good response to it - and that's all you can hope for in these situations. To plant seeds, then walk away and hope something grows.

Writing Camp: I was so sad that my critique chewed up a good 25 minutes of this workshop. It was hands-on and fun. If I hadn't been so nervous about the upcoming critique, then dumbstruck, this would have been outstanding for me. Thank you Jo Knowles and Cindy Faughnan!

Friends: It was so energizing and fun to see illustrator friends. I missed last year's conference so I hadn't seen so many warm faces in nearly two years. Others I hadn't seen since the NYSCBWI conference in 2008, and still others were first encounters with people I had only talked to online. Connecting with fellow illustrators in person is beyond rewarding. And my roommate and friend Jen was a great sport for putting up with all my mommy anxieties.

Submission Strategy Consultation: This was the yin to the dummy critique's yang. Lionel Bender gave me some excellent advice. I knew in an instant that I was sitting down with a professional - and my ears were wide open. Thank you.

Maybe the best part was seeing how well my children did without me, mostly thanks to their wonderful father - next year I'm planning on going for all three days.