For some reason, SCBWI is way more intense than ICON 6, even though both are the same length = four 8-hour+ days of lectures and networking.
Below are a few tips from each day:
Friday, July 30th
Jon Sciezska - Don't believe everything you hear. Read great books and the worst ones too. Read kidlit blogs, and by all means BE a Storyteller!"
MT Anderson - Let your fictional settings be inspired by local sites and people. Books take us away from home so we can see home is a new light. Twist the known into something unknown, away from what you expect, and embrace your eccentricity!"
Editor's Panel Discussion - It's all about Taste & Vision! Be knowledgeable, do your research, show personality in your query letter, give us plot! Give us voice! Give us brilliant!
Steven Malk & Mac Barnette - Let illustrations do their job, understand picture book conventions, the writing must serve the book, understand - but do not underestimate - your audience, and read as many books as you can!
Loren Long - Own the story when you get the manuscript, Mood and emotion are key, find the emotional hit, study the masters, and set sail for a new horizon. When in the studio, believe that you bring something to the table. Ask yourself, "if they can do it, why can't I?" and "what do I want to give this world?"
Saturday, July 31st
Gordon Korman - Remember Aristotle's comedy and tragedy combination. Middle school is a huge force in our culture.
Literary Agents Panel Discussion - The market is strong despite the doomsday naysayers. Timeless is always timely. Don't worry about subsidiary rights (like theme park rights!) instead worry about writing excellent content.
Portfolios with Cecilia Young and Pat Cummings - Be narrative, expressive, show sequential images, who is the protagonist? Make it clear! Send postcards with NEW images - don't resend old ones. Your portfolio is only as strong as your weakest piece. If the art director can live with your weakest piece, then you just might get a phone call. On postcards, put your info on the front so it can be seen when pinned up on a board.
E.B. Lewis - Art is a gift, a responsibility. Have passion! Acquire the unattainable - perfection. Spend endless hours loving the process.
Gail Carson Levine - It's ok to say, "I don't know what I'm doing!" Make a list of possibilities for the plot. Some might sound ridiculous, but don't throw them out!! They might lead to new ideas. Observe your and others lives. Create a crisis, ask one of your characters "what are you thinking? What do you want to do?" Let readers draw their own conclusions. For character development, Gail begins with plot then discovers the characters within. The reader will do a great deal of work if you just show them the way...
For a writing exercise, try: 1. rewriting a scene to the end of a book you don't like that much. Make it better. 2. Describe three different people packing or getting ready for school/work.
Loren Long breakout session - As an illustrator, you shouldn't write a book unless you WANT to write a book. If you want to write, then READ! Develop a simple plot, and change the camera angle for different moods. Try to get an agent. Try to get rejections. Do it all! Play the game until you get in. The first victory is getting a rejection letter.
Sunday, August 1st
Rachel Vail breakout session "Seeing your Character" - We are sometimes our best source material...we contain multitudes. Think like an actor, enter the stage knowing where you came from. Have a desire! What is your intention? Teens don't have a cocoon where they can go to transform into adults. They have to undergo the process in front of everyone, experiencing adult feelings without adult perspective. It's a big wave of emotion. Tips: 1. Know everything - astonish yourself. 2. Keep Learning about your characters - deleting is the most important part of the writing process. 3. Do not fall in love with your characters to early. 4. Be kind - you are writing for kids. Give them hope and adventure! Being a good writer/artist is a B.I.T.C.H (Butt In The CHair). Set the timer, write or sketch for 10 minutes without stopping.
Steven Malk "The Do's & Don'ts of Your Illustration Career" - DO your homework. DON'T Look for a shortcut. Make a long term commitment. No magic formula but hard work and perseverance. DO think carefully about your portfolio. DON'T use the same portfolio for multiple fields. DON'T ask publishers to make a huge visual leap. Show them you can draw children, sequential scenes, expressive faces. DO have a clean, well-organized website. DO attend conferences! DON'T dabble. Be serious. DO develop your distinct point of view. DON'T give up!
Monday, August 2nd
Rachel Vail - Writing for middle grade (3rd - 7th) Books are ways to think with the mind of another. Funny is in the details. Middle grade books are structured like a one-act play.
Publisher Panel Discussion - Climate of the industry...the rules are wiggling, the world is getting bigger and smaller all at once. Picture books are down, Middle Grade is stable, Teen is hot. Paranormal romance still going. If you're not making mistakes, you're not taking risks. Draw and write for yourself!! Don't follow the trends. If you go home and write to the trend, then the vampires win.
Josh Adams "Agent Secrets" - Agents take %15, license rights, are in it for the long term, hate contracts but know they are the most important part, agents also tend to avoid the needy/greedy/speedy people. Your odds of getting an agent are 1 in 1,000 (better chance of getting accepted into an Ivy League School) BUT, if you attend conferences or get a referral, your odds increase to 1 in 250 and 1 in 25. Have a good hook to grab us early in the manuscript reviewing process.
Lauren Rille "How Designer's Bring Your Book to Life" - The process is about 1 yr, start to finish, with 6 months active work and communication. Revisions of character, layout, pacing, etc. are inevitable. Be prepared to work hard and rework issues.
PHEW! Those are just highlights pulled from my notes. Lots of great info!!!
And to conclude the SCBWI conference experience, here are a few pictures from the "Heart & Soul" Gala. I was so busy running from lecture to workshop to lunch to lecture that these are the only pics:
Me with awesome illustrator, Kelly Light
The OC Illustrator gang with Arthur Levine (president of Scholastic and
the man who published J.K. Rowling/Harry Potter - hello!)
The dance floor was hoppin'
Keynote Speakers (all published and famous) Rachel Vail, Carolyn Mackler, and Jay Asher
dressed up as "skanky Bo Peeps" (such is the running joke).
The children's book industry likes to party.
The Grand LA Ballroom transformed into a dining area for the Golden Kite Luncheon.
Kimberly Clark (my new friend and a writer from NY), Lauren Gallegos,
me, and Julia Collard at the luncheon.
The amazing Jon Scieszka!