Tuesday, May 28, 2013

SCBWI WINTER CONFERENCE CHRONICLES: Vol.6 Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious

  
Day 4 of the Conference.
(Day 2 for many,  Day 4 for me)
Last Day...
 
     Several Months ago, when I started this Blog, I had vowed to blog at least once a week.  Like AA this gives you something to write about on a regular basis, though I would regularly write once a week as opposed to the AA's daily.  I thought, in the beginning, what in the world would I blog about every week. Sure, there are projects to talk about, but you can't always talk about the project you're currently working on due to certain obligations to that client, so you think about something else you previously worked on or experienced to write about that.

     I have, as of  late, fallen quite behind on several things I can share with everyone, and I plan to share it all very soon.  I have made it somewhat a duty of mine to make sure I catch up the Blog, because even though I haven't been regularly sharing, the Blogs have been stacking up waiting to "pop" out and be shared.  So you can all expect some more than regular contributing.
 
     Since I have been away, what has happened...  I competed in quite a few Illustration/design competitions for a clothing website, I have designed a logo for a new Con that celebrates everything Sherlock Holmes, I am currently working on another wonderful logo for a cupcake bakery as well as redesigning and developing a new portfolio for the children's book, magazine and the greeting card industries.
I took copious notes at the conferences I attended this year as well as some generous criticisms.  I plan on taking point and putting all the wonderful advice into action and create some new work that will better represent what I am capable of.  Also...  
I went to Vegas this year for the first time.  Not just the glitzy part of it, but I actually got to see some of the Real Nevada as well.  It has nothing to do with the art I am working on, but it was incredibly inspiring.  I had never seen a real desert before, except in photographs or in films.  It is truly more beautiful and breath taking than any lens can capture.  I think this is so, because what it seems to be missing is the human experience.  You really have to see something up close, be able to tangibly interact with it.  It's this sensory experience that evokes human emotion from anything.  The desert is certainly something that is hard to verbalize, but I can say this: I now understand why people would want to live in one.  Though I am not currently making art about my experience in the desert, I am sure I will find a way to let it seep into some of the new portfolio work I am in the plans of making.

So... long story short...
"Too Late!" 
  
... I haven't been Blogging...
... but the Blogging material has still been creating itself.   And Several months ago, I thought I would eventually get to where I would have weeks with nothing to write about...  Apparently, and surprisingly, this will never be the case.

     I digress.  This Blog entry is devoted to the last day I was in NY at the SCBWI conference.  By the way, if you are keeping track, you will have certainly noticed there is a Blog entry missing.  All I can say is that most times, when writing a story, which is very linear (most times), an author will find themselves writing it in pieces that are very much out of order.  This really seems to be my experience in writing about my SCBWI Conference experiences.  Anyway, the day is now Sunday, February 3rd (2013) and I have once again risen very begrudgingly I might add as I had a very NY Night Out the previous evening.  NY Night Out translates into staying up all night (almost), seeing an old college friend I haven't seen in AGES and bars and drinks and mischief.  SO I am REALLY relying on my coffee and 8 block walk to wake me up to finish the conference.  Let me note one thing:  Every morning, SCBWI provided bagels and muffins and every morning I never arrived early enough to really enjoy them.  Not that I didn't already have breakfast on the walk there every day, but still, I kind of felt I didn't get my money's worth in that aspect as this was the ONLY catering that SCBWI provided it's conference guests.  There was some catering also provided at the Showcase, but that was really the extent of the thought to hungry guests.








Sandra Ure Griffin (Tomie DePaola Award)


     The morning began with the Award Presentations.  I was not familiar with the winning artists, but I can tell you that their work was phenomenal. 
this was followed up with a segment by Margaret Peterson Haddix.  Her segment was called "Tell Me A Story," and she really did just that.  She explained all the best ways to explore and tell a great narrative by actually telling us one.  She talked about how she started in journalism and how this eventually led to writing children's fiction.
She is praised for her ability to tell dynamic and action driven stories.  I was absolutely mesmerized by her ability to hold an entire audience of 100 people on the edge of their seats with her own life experience at becoming a successful writer.  One detail I remember was right before she began, she remarked how great it was to be sandwiched between talented people receiving awards and Julie Andrews.  She could really think of a better or more fortunate placement for herself in the conference schedule.

     Next was the famous and magical Julie Andrews and her talented daughter, Emma Walton Hamilton.  Their segment was about the experience of writing children's series.  They gleaned several golden tidbits that would be helpful to writers that were thinking about or are currently writing character series books for children.  They kind of tag teamed the segment with a witty back and forth as is expected with mothers and daughters.  Emma kept referring to herself as the daughter of Mary Poppins, which I would certainly understand.  Not everyone can claim such a magical and talented parent.  Julie Andrews is one of a kind and you could see that Emma is very proud of her mother's lifetime of accomplishments.

Not many people know of Ms. Andrew's life as a children's author. She has been writing for many years and has built a literary legacy for generations to come.  Emma is very much a part of this, now, as they meet daily, every morning to write their books together.  They said that every sentence is, quite literally, written together; that theirs is truly a co-authorship right down to every word in every book.  It was certainly quite an experience to be in the same room with them.  I can say that Julie Andrews sounds exactly the same as she did so many years ago playing her role as Mary Poppins.  One of the funniest things they talked about that happens when they write every morning, is that due to the time difference of East coast vs. West coast, Julie Andrews has to wake up at around 4 a.m. Emma confesses that of all the things her mother, Julie, thinks about doing to prepare for their video writing conferences (taking a shower, getting dressed, combing or brushing your hair, etc.), Julia's only ritual preparation is spritzing herself with a little perfume.  They both chuckle at this confession as Emma looks over to her mother and says,"As if I would be able to smell you through the computer.  The audience bursts into laughter at this.  I chuckle some myself as I imagine Julie Andrews, whom presently has such wonderfully manicured hair and appearance, to be disheveled, bed haired frizzy, fuzzy house coat (and in my head furry slipper to match... and all pink of course) and otherwise looking a hot mess, but smelling absolutely fantastic... Practically Perfect in every way.


     And last, but certainly not least, was the fantastically funny Mo Willems.  You would think that Mary Poppins is a very difficult act to follow, but if anyone can pull it off, It's the Pigeon Man himself.  Mo's segment was on his perspective of the writing process, in regards to being successful at it.  I, however, remember a lot of humorous stories and very funny jokes from this very tall, thin animated character of a man.  One thing I really enjoyed about Mo was learning about his background in Animation.  He worked several years in television before venturing into the world of children's books.  The most important thing I took from his talk, was Character development.  This is definitely something I can relate to, as I myself have a background in Animation education.   I also, focused on animation pre-production in that part of my degree, as character development and story telling was what I enjoyed most about animation.  I found that I really wasn't very good at animation itself, nor did I truly enjoy that activity or work.  I enjoyed all the developmental illustration work that came before the first frame is even drawn.  Mo says that the most important thing in writing period is making sure your characters are truly developed.  Otherwise no one really cares what happens to them or what they have to say. He talked about how he came up with the idea of his Pigeon character and how Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus was developed.
A funny similarity that I discovered is shared among many of the speakers experiences as well as the successful experiences of artists and filmmakers and writers I admire, is that they never really set out to create what it was that they ended up with creating.  It tended t be this mistake that derived from trying to create something else and ironically it is the mistake that ends up being the success and not the original project they began in the first place.   I don't really believe in deities, but I can definitely appreciate the poetry and wit of the intricacies and complexity of The Fate's tapestry of Life, you know, if I believed in such things. :0)

   Mo was the closing speaker at the conference, afterwards were the Drawing of Door Prizes, of which, I did not win anything.  I'm not the type of individual who can win a lottery, so I gathered my belongings and stepped out to get in line for the Autograph Party.

     All the Authors and Illustrators were generous with their time to sign copies of their books.  I had bought a few for M, B's adorable daughter.  She is growing to be an avid reader and she requested that B and I bring her something back from NY as she was not able to go with us.  I thought it would be cool to not only bring her some books written and illustrated by speakers I had gone to NY to see/hear, but to get them signed by them, as many of them were from all over the globe.
It was kind of like bringing back pieces from all over the world that had just so happened to all be in one place at one time in NY right then.  I think I was really more into the poetic sense of that sentiment more than M would be, but I waited in the lines to get them signed, none the less.  The last line I stood in for, was that for Shaun Tan.  His line was the absolute longest one other than Julie Andrews and Tommie DePaola's respectively.)  It spiraled around the large conference meeting area.  It was SO long that each addition to the line had to be marked by a blue post-it to help keep track of who was in line for Shaun and who was in line for anyone else.  The spiral kind of reminded me of a conch shell you would find on the beach.
And it was just as noisy too, as if you had held the shell close to your ear to listen to it echo the sounds of the ocean.  I met and spoke with and Amazing artist, Susan Detwiler (her weblink is below and SO worth checking out.)  We talked quite extensively about art, something I don't always get to do with other artists.  I mostly talk art at other non-artists, and most likely bore them, lol.  We talked our way around the conch shell until I actually had to leave early.  I didn't get Shaun Tan to sign my copy of The Arrival, which was the only book I purchased for myself, but I didn't want to miss my flight either... It was a tight window.  I was glad I met Susan.  It was a lovely artsy conversation.

     This pretty much rounds up the experience in NY.  I walked back 8 blocks to the hotel and got on the airport shuttle with B and said farewell to NY.   The funny thing is, that when you say goodbye to NY, it's never really goodbye, as NY kind of has this way of getting inside you.  You will make it back there again, someday, so it's really more like,"Till next time, NY."  :0)

...till next time,
Keep sketching, keep thinking, keep laughing and most important of all, keep making art. 
Cheers,
LEWIS


SHOUT OUTS: Last Day of the Conference

Susan Detwiler

***Some photos used are from the SCBWI official Conference blog
 and are property of the blog administrators.

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