Sunday, February 17, 2013

SCBWI Austin Conference 2013

My Crazy fluffy purse, Me and Nikki Loftin

I focused on the illustrator E.B. Lewis. Not only because he was amazing, but because I lost all my notes on the other speakers for the Austin Conference. 

 Award Winning Illustrator E.B. LEWIS

The conference got off to a great start with a Presentation from a very talented illustrator, E.B. Lewis. I had met him last year at the 2012 Winter Conference in NY. At that time he was promoting his gallery show. I saw him again at this years winter conference and again in Austin. I really admire him because he comes from a fine art background and really appreciates great art.

In his presentation he mentioned how we must all master the visual language. How just as we learn how to speak another language we must learn how to master illustrating and writing. By learning everything about the publishing world we are essentially learning how to communicate through our craft of writing and illustrating.

E.B. does extensive research on his projects. He even goes as far as traveling outside of the country if he feels that it will strengthen his understanding of the story he is illustrating. He truly catches the emotions of the story through his watercolor illustrations.

When he did school visits for the first time he spoke only about himself and how he came to be. But as he went on he realized that it would be more interesting for the kids if he got them involved. He asked them if they liked themselves and an interesting thing happened. As he went up in grades the hands that were raised when asked the question became less and less. His assumption: Childhood is a difficult time. It is a time of discovering the world and where you fit into it. He spoke that as children we loved to play in our sandbox. But there was always an adult that would remove us from the sandbox if we wanted them to or not. You must relate to your stories and your art emotionally.  You must be in your sandbox.

Me and E.B.

Conference Recap


Mary Christine Wissner, Tomie dePaola, ME and David Diaz

It started with the Illustrator and writer intensives. I did not attend, but was told that the over all take away from other illustrators was that you should NOT quit your day job and that the failures that you may encounter may actually be a good thing. You will always learn from your mistakes. 

Speakers were…


Spoke a about how printing can be a difficult issue. The end result may not be a perfect match to what you have illustrated because almost all printing is being done in China for the larger publishers.

Panel speakers where:
Brenda Bowen, Sanford J. Greeenburger Associates, Inc.
Chris Tugeau, Christinea A. Tugeau Agency,
Jan Constantine, Author’s Guild

Meg Rosoff spoke about how her mother always questions her about “When she is going to write a REAL book!” Apparently Children’s books aren’t real. Anyone can write a children’s book. Celebrities all write children’s books, even Barack Obama wrote a children’s book. Sarcastically Meg said,, “children are idiots, that’s why anyone can write a children’s book”

She also said, “Good books remind us of how important it is to change the world.”

Booksellers Panel: Talked about what's selling? 

Mary Brown, owner, Books, Bytes and Beyond;
Robert Brown, Scholastic Book Fairs;
Jon Fine,,
Peter Glassman, owner, Books of Wonder.

Something that I thought was interesting was that educational publishing makes up for about 70% of their sales.
Paperbacks are their best sellers, because of the lower price. That we should all be looking at content creation. Meaning “what can this book do digitally.”
Shorter novels are doing better for school curriculum.


Emotional connections must be strong in an illustration.
How Piglet relates to Pooh…
Barack Obama’s book –illustrated by Loren Long.
The children in this book really interact with each other.

I was so proud of our own Austin Illustrator Patrice Barton when Isabel mentioned her. She said something about being a “SQUEEBY” and that she had such lovely characters in her illustrations.

Her advice to illustrators was to send postcards to Art directors regularly. This is primarily the way that you get noticed. If they like your work or have project that your style would go perfectly with then they are most likely to contact you.

The smaller 4x5 cards are the best to send because it is easier to file away.
Also make sure you have all your contact information on them. I was told to put your best illustration on front with your website, then on the back put all forms of contact information. You may also include sketches or other work on the back if there is room.

For the best luck make sure you research your audience. Find the right publishers that do the kind of work that you like to do. I just spent several days researching my audience for the book that I am currently trying to find a home for. I also spent many hours and lots of money on printing. Hopefully it will pay off and I will have contacted the right publishing houses for my project.

I use the Children’sWriter’s and Illustrator’s Market. They publish it every year. It is a great investment and a must have if you don’t have an agent. Also if you are an SCBWI member there is a book available to you for free called THE BOOK the essential guide to publishing. 

He also spoke that he liked strong characters. He also mentioned that he likes action and also humor in an illustration.

If you can do nice black and whites. You should include them in your portfolio. They need them for chapter books for early readers.

Simplicity that makes the characters come off the page. He also mentioned that postcards where his main way of discovering talent.

He showed us several books he has worked with that have strong characters.

Shaun Tan

He creates very interesting and beautiful drawings from simple everyday objects. Shaun’s work speaks to everyone because he is illustrating something that we can all relate to. Most of his work has a sense of migration or crossing into a new universe and having a strange encounter. He provides the stage and the reader creates the story.  Many of his images let the reader empathize with in animated characters. Kids want to know the world through stories.

His Motto: Don't tell too much of the story, Let the readers tell the story.

She writes about adventures not found in our normal day-to-day life.  She likes spunky main characters, ones that feel like they are the reader’s friends. Margaret also spoke about letting yourself fail big and keep on trying. You will never get better if you don’t show your work and let others criticize you. This is how you improve.

You’ve got at least one story to share, so tell it because that’s what kids need…your stories.

They are a mother daughter team for the Julie Andrews Collection.
Emma is a professor and a theater play writer. So she has does have some credit to her name. And her father Tony Walton is in the publishing industry. He also illustrates some of their books.

They draw from their own life for their characters. Julie and Emma use Skype to write together since Julie’s schedule is very unpredictable. They spoke about consistency in a series.

Their reoccurring theme is “No matter how small you may be you can make a difference.”

Julie gets her since of wonder because she always see’s the glass half full. No matter the circumstances she says “Aren’t we so lucky of what?”

I really enjoyed his presentation. He is really funny.

Mo said his job is to make books for illiterates…He has nine rules for writing, which are on his blog.

1. More is not better it is just more!

2. Avoid repeating yourself , it’s a waste of time.

3. Try to ensure every word counts

4. Write about what hare passionate about.

5. Never think for your audience let them do the thinking.

6. Are questions more compelling than answers?

7. Find out what works and leave the rest.

8. You may own the story’s copyright, but your audience owns the story’s meaning

9. Be Superlative.

Ideas are like gardens...sometimes weeds grow...sometimes something beautiful could grow...everyday plant even if they it doesn't work.

For the illustrators:  When you draw a book you should start from the middle and save the cover for last. Trim size and shapes of the book and can dictate the story.

For Everyone: The written word is very powerful!
Your job is to be someone’s best friend. Childhood suxs because…you have to ask to go to the bathroom and if you are playing someone could physically pick you up and move you!

Be Superlative !