SCBWI New York Scrapbook

I thought this would be a fun way to recap my experience at the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators winter conference in New York City (SCBWI New York.) It was my first time at the conference and in New York in general. If you’re interested in writing or illustrating for kid’s literature, the SCBWI offers tons of opportunities to help you develop your craft, find community, and get industry exposure.Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators conference, New York 2013

Thursday, 4:10 pm

Strapped into an uncomfortable airplane seat. I’m on my way!

6:10 pm

Finally after wind-related delays that kept us at the gate, we start moving.

11:45 pm

First glimpse of the city from the plane window. I have a great view of the statue of liberty and Manhattan. I’m too tired to make it to the city tonight, so I crash in a hotel across the street from the airport.

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7:45 am

Wake up over an hour late. Panic. Frantically get dressed and pack whilst muttering expletives. Mad taxi dash.


I made it!

The taxi driver dropped me off here.


Hyatt New York - SCBWI conference

Greeted by some giant distorted head sculptures in the lobby.

8:30-11:30 am

I grab a bagel and join illustrator talks with Shaun Tan, Barbara McClintock, Floyd Cooper, and David Ezra Stein. Shaun Tan kicks things off talking about how to find and foster your style.

Shaun Tan talks about how to find your style

"I'm always trying to strip back my style and see what is left when all the cleverness is removed." - Shaun Tan

Barbara McClintock talks about being self-taught. She would check out art books from the library, copy the pictures, then return them, repeating the process until she learned how to draw.

Floyd Cooper Demonstration

Floyd Cooper makes a drawing with an eraser.

David Ezra Stein talked about creative hurdles. “Being an artist,” he said, “is not for the faint of heart. The measure of a great artist is how fast they get back on their feet again.”

12:00 pm

Lunch with awesome friends and illustrators in the Grand Central terminal. There are a billion people because it’s the 100th anniversary of the station, and certain goods are being sold for 1913 prices.

Getting lunch in Grand Central Station with Debbie Ohi and Arree Chung

We opted for the panini place. I'm not sure if paninis existed in 1913.

Illustrator "Tribe" friends in Grand Central Station, SCBWI New york

From Left: Andrea Offermann, Lisa Anchin, Maple Lam, Arree Chung, Jen Betton, moi.

We stop for a “cool hipster band” photo. Image by the fantastic Debbie Ohi.

2:00 pm

An industry panel about when to quit your day job, and we hear from The Brothers Hilts and Mark Teague.

Sketchbook notes at Illustrator intensive, SCBWI NY conference, 2013

My notes from this portion of the day.

5:00 pm

Meet up with my friends Arree Chung and Andrea Offermann and check in to our hotel. We’re staying here.

6:15 pm

Head to Onya with the mentee gang for some fresh, handmade udon.

(Photo from Yelp, because my camera died. Thanks, Yelp user “Jared C.”)

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 Saturday, 8:15 am

Day 2 of the SCBWI-NY conference

Back for more

The day begins with Meg Rosoff making us all crack up, and a bookseller’s panel. Meanwhile, my cold is starting to kick into high gear.

11:30 am

Breakout session with Isabel Warren-Lynch, Art Director of Random House. She shares many examples of illustrations that hook her. They must capture emotion and subtlety. “Remember what you are trying to say to your audience,” she says, “and how they will feel about it.”

12:45 pm

Lunch break. We all end up back in the Hyatt lobby.

Back in the lobby for lunch

Lunch break with 2012 mentees Lisa Anchin, Maple Lam and Jen Betton.

 3:15 pm

Shaun Tan takes the stage to talk about internal migration. He explains: “It’s about passing into a place of dreamlike thinking.” He describes his work as realist, but passing through a strange realm. “Comprehension is overrated.”

4:00 pm

Back at our hotel, getting ready for the Gala cocktail party.

5:30 pm

Schmoozing at the SCBWI cocktail party. The space was organized with tables according to your region. My region wasn’t anywhere near the food, however, so I didn’t see much of them.

SCBWI-NY Cocktail Party and Gala

The hall had some impressive lighting.

desserts at the SCBWI New york conference cocktail party

We spent most of our time standing beside the mini-cupcake station.

7:45 pm

Illustrator social. Special guest Tomie DePaola gave us a talking-to:

Tomie Depaola talking at the SCBWI NY conference illustrator social

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Sunday, 8:30 am

Our own mentee tribesmember Andrea Offermann wins the best portfolio award! We aren’t too surprised, because her artwork rocks.

Jessica Lanan and Andrea Offermann

Posing with the new winner. Please forgive my appearance. I had the plague.

9:00-12:30 pm

Keynotes by Margaret Peterson Haddix, the picture book writing team Julie Andrews and Emma Walton Hamilton, and entertaining Mo Willems.

1:15 pm

In a really, really long line to get our books autographed. But it’s worth it, of course.

Shaun Tan book signing at the SCBWI New York conference

Shaun Tan puts little drawings in with his signature.

3:00 pm

Nap time.

By this point I am quarantined to the other bed so as to not infect everyone even more with my cold. But it’s probably too late. Sorry, guys!

7:00 pm

Hang out with the other SCBWI mentees to reflect on the conference, talk about how we’re all feeling about our artwork and share ideas and advice. Slowly sip peppermint tea and wish for a more powerful decongestant.

9:00 pm

Back in our hotel, we go through each others’ portfolios and take out a few images, leaving only the best. We’ll be dropping them off at Penguin tomorrow.

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Monday, 9:30 am

We meet up to head downtown.

With Andrea Offermann on the 6 train.

10:00 am

We meet up with the others for brunch at Balthazar.

Brunch at Balthazar in New York

Hazelnut waffles with sour cream and stewed berries.

(I got in trouble for taking photos inside of Balthazar. Apparently it’s not allowed. I wish them good luck with that policy, in this age of Instagram.)

11:30 am

A secret plan unfolds.

We attracted the interest of innocent bystanders.

David cut the stencil in his hotel room.

12:00 pm

With our matching shirts done, we head to Books of Wonder to browse. I decide that all picture book sections should be organized by illustrator instead of author, as they are at Books of Wonder. I admire the extensive rare/out of print section.

SCBWI illustration mentees stand outside Books of Wonder in New York City

Books of Wonder, full of wonderful books.

(From L to R: Lisa Anchin, Alice Ratterree, Maple Lam, Jen Betton, Moi, Andrea Offermann, Arree Chung.)

12:30 pm

Stop at City Bakery for their famous hot chocolate festival. The flavor of the day was Chili. It was a little too rich for me (you practically needed a spoon) but I enjoyed my free sample and picked up a gift for someone back home.

The delicious-looking pastries.

1:00 pm

Appointment at Abrams Books. Tamar Brazis, Chad Beckerman and Maria Middleton were kind enough to talk with us about the process of finding artists. We bribe them with cookies.

In Chad Beckerman's Office

Chad shows us which promo pieces end up on the bulletin board, and which ones end up in the recycle bin. We leave our cards, hoping for the former.

2:30 pm

We head to Penguin.

Ooooh... Shiny...

They let us set up our portfolios in a conference room for the art directors to view.

Portfolio review at Penguin Books for Young Readers

We leave our portfolios for the art directors to review.

3:00-4:00 pm

Talk with art directors from six different Penguin imprints. They explain the differences between what they publish and show examples of their books. I get a much better grasp of what the different imprints are and what “mass market” and “trade” mean. There is a great Q&A discussion. Plus they give us coffee and cookies! How nice are they?

Some important stuff probably goes on in here, but I'm not sure what it is.

4:00 pm

Time for me to head to the airport. The discussion is still going on, so I leave my portfolio behind to be sent to me later. I say my goodbyes and head back to the subway to start the trip home.

Art Director Cecilia Yung's view from her office at Penguin Books for Young Readers

The office has a nice view of New Jersey.

7:30 pm

Fly to Washington D.C.

10:10 pm

Fly to Denver. Try to not cough too much on neighboring passengers.

2:00 am

After a malfunctioning jet-bridge, a malfunctioning airport train, and a mysterious police highway roadblock, I finally make it home and collapse into bed.

Singles Awareness Day
An APALA Award for "Good Fortune"


  1. by Maple on February 7, 2013  5:04 pm Reply

    Thanks for the great summary, Jessica! Very nice catching up with you. I hope you get well soon!! :)

  2. by melinda on February 8, 2013  12:53 pm Reply

    Wow, what a complete whirlwind of a trip! Sorry to hear you were sick, but I'm still super jealous of you anyway. Wonderful post and I can't wait to hear more juicy details sometime soon! ;)

  3. by Jess on February 8, 2013  1:31 pm Reply

    Thanks, Melinda and Maple! I think after staying home in bed a few days I'm starting to finally feel better. I'm looking forward to breathing out of my nose again sometime soon, hopefully!

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