At the start of 2015, I decided to focus on one of my longtime goals: publishing a picture book and creating illustrations for the children's picture book market.
I had already joined the Society for Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), but had not yet attended a conference. I chose to start with the Spring Conference in Houston.
In the months leading up to the conference, I prepared my portfolio and polished up my picture book manuscript. I created a book dummy and relished the illustration homework.
I was nervous and excited when the conference began, but I soon realized that I fit right in. Children's authors and illustrators are a wonderful group. I made friends easily and enjoyed hearing about everyone's manuscripts and projects. It was wonderful to review fellow illustrators' portfolios and collect their business cards and postcards.
The speakers offered great advice and wonderful stories about their own careers. One of my favorites was Kelly Light, who's book "Louise Loves Art" had recently been published. Her enthusiasm was infectious. After hearing the story of her success, I was ready to get to work!
My portfolio was very well received by my reviewer, Isabel Warren-Lynch. I walked away with some new ideas and a fresh boost of confidence.
My manuscript review also went well. John Cusick had many great ideas and constructive feedback. I couldn't wait to get to work polishing my manuscript.
I attended the first illustration class, ready to learn! "The Sequential Narrative" taught by Isabel Warren-Lynch with special guest, illustrator Patrice Barton, was very informative. I learned about pacing, points of view and other juicy tidbits. My homework, an eight panel wordless illustrated story, was a hit!
During the conference was a session called, "First Look" where a panel of editors, authors and agents review an illustration or first paragraph submitted by conference attendees. I was thrilled to hear all of the compliments and great feedback from the panel.
At the end of the conference, awards were given to writers whose manuscripts had especially impressed the reviewers. Awards were also given to the top two illustration portfolios. I was absolutely amazed and grateful to learn that my portfolio had received FIRST PLACE.
That evening I ate fajitas and danced the night away with my newfound friends.
The next morning was the last illustration intensive class, "Character Development" taught by Kelly Light. Kelly began her career in animation, so was especially skilled at developing characters and drawing them from different points of view, in action, and with varying facial expressions. I was happy to share with the group my character Astrid, a space girl with a penchant for music and her two dear friends, Borealis and Shiver.
I headed back to Louisiana, my head spinning with all of the newly learned information. I was ready to refine my manuscript even more and begin creating illustration aimed at the children's literature market. I've got new friends to encourage me and to cheer on as well.
With such a wonderful experience, I'm sure this won't be my last SCBWI conference!