SCBWI Summer Conference 2011

Well, I still haven’t resolved my WordPress-comment-issue, but nevertheless I shall (word)press on (Update: comments are now working! Hooray!) A post about the SCBWI Summer Conference is seriously overdue, so here you go! This year, like last year, was a whirlwind of workshops by all-star faculty, keynotes that brought everyone to laughter and tears, and endless fantastic conversations with other nerdy individuals who, like me, are obsessed with children’s literature (and/or illustration.) And, just like last year, it was air-conditioned to the frigid, meat-locker-like temperatures that people in warm climates seem to inexplicably enjoy. (I am convinced that next year the bookstore needs to offer SCBWI “snuggies.”)

I snapped this picture of the lobby, which I think is gorgeous. Someone told me that there was talk of tearing down this hotel, but people revolted and thus the old-Hollywood glam still continues:

The Hyatt Lobby

It was truly an all-star faculty this year… practically a who’s who of the children’s literature world. Here are Judy Blume and Norton Juster, to name a few of those who gave awesome keynotes. Also in attendance: David Small, Gary Paulsen, Jerry Pinkney, Paul Zelinsky, and so many more! Below, Judy Blume is telling us, “if it’s good, it’s gonna FIND AN AUDIENCE.” (Judy Blume is Awesome.) And Norton Juster: “when I was a child, I lived in a world where there were no inanimate objects.” I thought that was such a wonderful way to describe childhood.

Judy Blume and Norton Juster

This is where all those keynotes take place.

As you can see, the hall is pretty really big.

One of my favorite sessions was Paul Zelinsky’s workshop, where he talked about the process of making his award-winning fairytales like Rumpelstiltskin and Rapunzel. I was glad to learn that I’m not the only one who thinks that finding models to pose for you is awkward and sometimes difficult business. It’s so amazing to see how much dedication and research goes into every detail of his work. He described illustration as “very, very careful reading.” Below, he demonstrates how he developed the character for Rumpelstiltskin.

Paul Zelinsky demonstrates how he developed the character for Rumpelstiltskin

I think the highlight of the conference for me was the portfolio showcase. It’s great to see everyone’s work… the only difficulty is getting to all of the portfolios, which is quite a challenge. I was busy with this task when I heard, among the list of mentorship award recipients, none other than my own name! I think my first reaction was to to look bewildered and say “what?!?” There was so much great work there that it was understandably difficult to believe. After that (or so I am told) I did some sort of triumphant fist-pump. I’m surprised I didn’t dance my way up to the winner’s table… I was pretty excited! This photo was taken by the lovely Kimberly Sabatini.

The mentorship is a year-long partnership with the fabulous five members of the selection committee:  David Diaz, Cecilia Yung (Art Director and Vice President at Penguin Books for Young Readers,) Pat Cummings, E.B. Lewis, and Priscilla Burris.

SCBWI Illustration Mentorship WInner 2011

After that, there was nothing left to do but celebrate. (I think everyone at the conference took identical photos of the chocolate “40th anniversary” dessert that was served at the awards luncheon, but I’ll put mine in here anyhow. And the partying on the left just speaks for itself.)


The last day was a day of back-to-back live demos by some of my favorite illustrators. It was phenomenal to see their process and to ask detailed questions. I’d be hard pressed to choose a favorite. I was only sorry that I had to leave before the end to catch my flight. Below left is Jerry Pinkney, showing how he makes his detailed animal paintings, and on the right David Small draws a self-portrait.

Live Illustrator Demonstrations

As with all good things, the conference had to come to an end, which is probably a good thing considering the cost of my hotel room. By the last day I was itching to get back to my studio and start painting again. There is much to do, and I’m excited to work with my mentors over the coming year!

As Judy Blume said,

“Come here and take your little notes and go home and forget it. Because that inspiration will be inside you. Go home and just write.”

(I’m sure she actually meant to say “just draw.” I suppose I’ll forgive her for messing that up.)

Goodbye, LA! (For now.)

Drawing in Airports
I'm on my Own Bookshelf

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