Tuesday, August 7, 2012


I've waited all summer for the 2012 Society of Children's Books Writers and Illustrators conference in Los Angeles.

It came, it went, and has left me completely replete!

In fact, if I had to introduce myself as one of the conference faculty I would say, "My name is Katy Betz, and my word is....Replete."


  1. Filled or well-supplied with something.
  2. Very full of or sated by food.
Three intense days of keynote speeches and breakout sessions have left me bulging, blubbery, and abundantly fat with inspiration, thanks to insights offered by some of the best writers, illustrators, editors and agents of the children's literary world. 

Here's an overview of my informational, inspirational diet of the past 3 days:

1. Tony DiTerlizzi: Never Abandon Imagination. 
I confess that I partly signed up for the conference this year just because Mr. DiTerlizzi was going to be present. His Spiderwick drawings have long inspired me, especially the Field Guide. He said something that really struck home for me - he said, "the older I get, and the more adept I get at my craft, the further away I get from my inner child." This November I'll be turning 30!!! That's 20 years distance from the 10 year old Katy who loved playing in tree houses, riding horses, building model kits, jumping rope, and play-acting. How do you stay in touch with your inner child? A few ideas were offered throughout the conference. Tony collects childhood memorabilia, which is something I want to start doing. In fact, when I go back to Florida, I'll be creating a "What Not" shelf (see below on Brian Collier) to put my Ninja Turtles, My Little Ponies, Teddy Ruxpin, Pound Puppies, and bubble-maker machine.

2. Dan Gutman: How a Dumbass Like Me Got 100 Books Published
I really enjoyed Mr. Gutman's keynote. He gave us a 13 step program for achieving success; a lot of it was contradictory and ridiculous. But I liked it because that's reality - THERE IS NO FORMULA FOR SUCCESS. What inspired me the most is Dan's relentless, somewhat indignant approach to paving his own road. He worked hard, really hard, for years, got rejected, over and over, and in that found what he loved doing, followed it all the way, and published 100 books. I like that. 

3. Deborah Underwood: The Power of Quiet. 
Ohhh this one really hit home for me. It was about the creative process, worldly distractions, and the precious, sacred power of quiet time. A lot of other speakers touched on similar themes in their keynotes, and I am happy to say that since I've been home I'm already improving my work flow by practicing quietness. I'll attempt to summarize Deborah's articulate and intelligent speech with an old Italian phrase: "Dolce Far Niente" - it means "the sweetness of doing nothing".
One practical suggestion for implementing this mantra...
- When you awake, lie in bed and daydream. Wonder. Pay Attention. 
Other suggestions:
- Find the moments of rest in a busy day (stoplights, slow loading websites, bathroom breaks, etc).  
- If you really want to solve problems, turn off ALL distractions.
Because I struggle with distractions, I went ahead and bought a program called "Anti-Social". It blocks my access to specified social sites like Facebook and Twitter for a certain amount of time.

4. Brian Collier: A Seed to a Tree
This man spoke like a preacher and made me cry. He is passionate, believes deeply in the artistic dream, the great struggle, the inevitable success. If you are an artist with a dream and a desire to succeed, then don't listen to the world. Listen to your inner voice. It knows. It is true. Pay Attention. Also, create a "What Not" shelf and allow your mind to wander ( see DiTerlizzi and Underwood). 

There are many many more inspirational things I ate this weekend that I'd like to share with you, but I am still digesting. That's a sure sign of a successful conference. It may take me a while too. But, as author Karen Cushman said, "A lion is made up of the lambs he is digesting".

I can say that one of the main things I've realized is that time does matter, and it doesn't matter.

Time matters in the sense that it's precious and not to be wasted. So do what you love! Act NOW. Our days are numbered and we never know when our time will be up. Go for it, because...

...Time doesn't matter. It might take you 3 years. 7 years. 16 years. At least you'll have something to show for it. At least you can say you tried. Something is better than nothing.

That being said, I'm finally acting upon the advice I've received. I'm scheduling time alone with my imagination. I'm writing and drawing about the things I love, the things I believe in. I've begun writing a middle grade fantasy series titled Guardians of the Heart, based on the paintings I made in graduate school. 

It's time. 


mike r. baker said...

Amen to that. All that you said, but for me, Jon Klassen really struck a cord. And crying? Dang, I cried 4 times at that conference! Hope no one noticed...

Nancy A said...

Beautiful summary of the conference.

Laurie Young said...

This is a lovely distillation—you found the essence of each of these speeches. Thank you!

XinaCat said...

Well said, Katy! We laughed...we cried, we danced, we learned.

Unknown said...

Thank you for taking the time to read!