It’s time for my last post about the conference that happened this past weekend (I know you are all excited about that.) Sunday was the shortest day of the conference, but I got there the earliest so I could grab some books from the bookstore to get signed at the autograph party later. They started the day with announcements about who won various awards (unfortunately, my tired brain did not think to write them down), and then went straight into the first keynote. The speakers for the day were Rita Williams-Garcia, Jacquelyn Mitchard, a panel of publishers and agents, and last, but certainly not least, Gary Schmidt.
Rita Williams Garcia – I have to say, Rita was a fabulous speaker. Her talk was humorous and she had so much wisdom to share! She gave us a list of Don’ts for our careers: Don’t isolate yourself, find your community, Don’t fear Doubt, Don’t not hear criticism, Don’t stay with an uncontracted project too long, Do learn who you are in the marketplace but don’t be afraid to evolve, Don’t drop the ball, Don’t know it all, Don’t stop writing, Do What you’re doing, you’re here, Live in the Plan, Do Live with Gratitude, Be all about the Do!
I really really enjoyed hearing about her journey and especially her “Live the plan” advice: how what you are doing should be working towards your plan.
Jacquelyn Mitchard – Jacquelyn was a great speaker and definitely very engaging. I didn’t take many notes on her talk though, as it was all about writing good endings, and seemed more applicable to longer books and not picture books. However she had very good advice about different kinds of endings. One of the things I did find as food for thought: Your ending should take the reader slightly by surprise. That could definitely make picture book writing very interesting!
Panel: The last panel in the conference was about the acquisitions process in some publishing houses. This was very involved information, and sometimes varied by person. Some things that I found helpful: if an editor brings your manuscript to the acquisitions team, it is no longer about the quality of your work and rather is a business decision (it means they already like it), sometimes you have to be flexible or change direction, It is a serious endeavor, love what you do, pick an agent who will be an advocate for you.
Gary Schmidt – Gary was the last speaker of the conference and wow. What a way to end a conference! He was so inspiring. He talked about writing, but I believe all of what he said was also applicable for artists. Some key thoughts I wrote down: We all have the same mission, we all do our best work for kids; express powerful and real empathy, express a connection between two souls, story insists that though we want things simple it insists on human complexity and multidimensionality, show children that even though this world is broken it is still beautiful, everything matters. The line that I thought summed it up for me? “We write [draw] to express empathy in a broken world.”
I have to say, Gary Schmidt was my favorite speaker of the conference. He talked so beautifully and so sincerely about craft, and why we do this. If you ever get the chance to hear him speak, GO!
After the conference there was a book signing, and I got a LOT of books signed. Thus I got to “meet” (as much as getting a book signed and saying omg I love your work counts as meeting): Paul Zelinsky, Mike Curato, Rita Williams-Garcia, Gary Schmidt, Matt de la Pena (didn’t speak at the conference, but he won the Newbery this year for his book Last Stop on Market Street, which is a big deal since it is a picture book and only the second time in the award’s history a picture book has won! but I digress), Sophie Blackall, and William Joyce. Thus I got my second picture (yeah I only took two pictures at this conference):
The conference was so much fun and so exhausting. I cannot wait to get back to writing and illustrating, having learned what I have learned.
My big takeaways? Love what you do, draw what you are passionate about, express empathy in a broken world.
Hope to see you all there next year!