It’ sure has been cold hasn’t it? It’s a new year and that means new resolutions, new plans, and hopefully lots of new ideas. I usually start the year with such good intentions, and then they start to fizzle out by March (and that’s generous). This year, instead of making resolutions like “blog more” or “draw more” I really wanted to figure out concrete ways I could add more to my writing and illustrating life this year. With a full-time job, it’s often hard to find the time or the will power to commit to something like “draw everyday” or “write everyday”. To be honest, that would be awesome. Knowing myself, it is also highly unlikely that will ever happen.
One idea I came up with for the blog is Work in Progress (or WIP as we said in art school) Wednesday. This is not an original idea by any means, but it appealed to me as a way to take a break in the middle of the week and just take stock of where I am and where I am going. Plus, it’s fun to share in progress pictures with all of you!
Of course, I am working extra hours in January at the day job, so that means I don’t have any pictures to share this week. However, as I was thinking of what to write today, it occurred to me, aren’t we all works in progress? (Yep I know that is super cheesy) Many of us are constantly striving to be better versions of ourselves today than we were yesterday.
This got me to thinking about my progress as a writer and an illustrator in the last couple years. 3 years ago, I went to my first NJ SCBWI event. I had been a member for 2 years already, but that was the first event I convinced myself to go to. The people there were so kind and so generous with their advice and friendship that I immediately realized that the kidlit community was the right place for me. The next year I got up my courage to go to the SCBWI Winter Conference in NYC, and participated again in an NJ SCBWI illustrator event. Last year, I went to the same conference again, participated in the next version of the NJ SCBWI illustrator event, went to my first ever NJ SCBWI Conference (amazing! Highly recommend it!), joined 12×12, joined a writing group, submitted my first query, got my first rejection from said query and wrote 14 picture book drafts. (That was a mouthful!)
Looking back at my years like this was the first time I realized that I have been building towards this dream of mine to be an author/illustrator consistently for the last 3 years, and each year I’ve built a little more than the last. Were there rough patches in there? Sure! And there is still a lot of work to do. I’m still working towards publication. But making myself an “I Did List” instead of thinking of what there still is to do has made me realize, I really have made a lot of progress this past year towards my goal.
So for this year I want to build on that by looking for new opportunities to grow. I am going back to both the NY and NJ SCBWI conferences this year and I’ve already signed up for 12×12. (If you are writing picture books, this is a great group to be a part of!) I’ve started listening to podcasts. (The Creative Pep Talk is great, I highly recommend it). I’m going to doodle at work. I’m going to write on the train. Most of all, I am going to enjoy the process, even when it’s hard, by remembering that I am taking steps towards my goals.
As a work in progress, I’m glad to have made progress in 2016! I’m also going to keep making “I did lists” to remind myself throughout the year that I am making progress. You should too!
Children’s author Julie Hedlund, challenged participants of her 12 Days of Christmas for Writers series to post SUCCESSES (rather than resolutions) on our blogs this year. She believes the way New Year’s resolutions are traditionally made come from a place of negativity – what DIDN’T get done or achieved in the previous year. Instead, she suggests we set goals for the New Year that BUILD on our achievements from the previous one. I decided to participate in this Anti-Resolution Revolution!
Wow. I can’t believe 2016 is already coming to an end. In a lot of ways, I’m very happy for that. However, in looking back at the last year, I accomplished more than I realized I could at the start of 2016. While the 12 Days of Christmas is about writing, I am expanding it to include illustration, as I consider myself both a writer and an illustrator. Here is my list of professional successes for 2016 (in no particular order):
- Revised and re-revised 3 picture book manuscripts multiple times (I used to hate revising so this was a huge step for me!)
- Wrote 11 picture book drafts. I was so close to finishing the 12×12 challenge to write 12 picture books in 12 months! There are still 3 days left in the year…I only just realized this writing this blog post!
- Participated in ReFoReMo (reading for research month)
- Created 4 or 5 new portfolio pieces
- Started work on a new book dummy
- Attended the NY SCBWI conference for the second time
- Participated for the first time in the Portfolio Showcase at the NYSCBWI Conference
- Attended my first NJ SCBWI Conference where I:
- participated in the juried art show
- pitched an agent
- had a portfolio review with an editor
- participated in my first first page session
- LEARNED SO MUCH
- Wrote and submitted my first query
- Got my first rejection accompanied with some very kind feedback from the editor
- Participated in 12×12 (which now I realize I have to finish!)
- Participated in the Craft Book reading discussions in 12×12
- Met a wonderful critique group through 12×12 and got a ton of helpful feedback on my manuscripts
- Came up with lots of ideas for picture books
- Started a Society6 store to sell more of my art
- Participated in an Illustrator/agent event through the NJ chapter of SCBWI
- Now with this blog post, got back into blogging! 🙂
Wow. I know that is repetitive but until I typed out this list I didn’t realize how much this really was! I’m off to write that last picture book manuscript.
What were some of your successes this year?
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!
Hello again! As promised, I will continue my overview of the SCBWI conference this weekend.
Saturday was a great day and I learned sooooooo much. I didn’t want the day to end! The day was a mix of speakers, panels, and breakout sessions. The speakers were William Joyce, Rainbow Rowell (interviewed by Lin Oliver), Linda Urban and Kate Messner. The two breakout sessions I attended were Picture Book Art with creative director Patrick Collins, and the Ten Mistakes Illustrators Make with senior art director Giuseppe Castellano.
William Joyce – If you read my post yesterday, you know William Joyce also spoke on Friday. On Saturday, he did talk about a lot of the same things, but also his road to the Oscars, and what he is doing now. The title of the talk was Books are Like the Ice Cream Sandwich: How New Technology Doesn’t Change Much of Anything but it’s all Kinda Cool, so he talked about how the story is always the bottom line, but if you use technology, make it special and different from the print book so that it furthers your story. He then showed how he had done this with different apps for his books. Not just Kinda Cool, so cool!
Then there was a panel about the current state of publishing and the future of children’s publishing. All of the people on the panel were presidents or vice presidents in their respective publishing houses. Some notes: Children’s books have gone from being the step-child to being the golden child in publishing; they are leaders in diversity; everyone aims to make good books; the current publishing climate is good for children’s books right now, but it is very competitive; expect working with an author/illustrator to be a collaboration, you are part of a team.
After the panel, we all split up into various breakout sessions. The one I went to was with Patrick Collins about picture book art. He went over the key elements of picture book art and what to think about when creating illustrations for books. Notes: Character – needs to be appealing, personality is important, helps tell the story, body language is important, a lot can be said through facial expressions and body language; Setting – think about how you are going to include setting so it does its part of the job, helps create mood, think about scale to give importance or drama; Action – creates excitement and interest, moves you across the page; Color – use it to your advantage, sometimes you need to use color sparingly and sometimes you have to be bold, doesn’t have to be the same throughout the book; Simplicity – paring things down to the necessary elements, a lot of power in simplicity; Humor – can be subtle, sometimes it just doesn’t work. Variety is important!
This breakout session was so helpful to me. I know some of this seems like common sense, but now I have an actual list to think about when I approach my books. That is priceless! I can’t wait to go back to the book dummies I have been working on and apply these thoughts and see how I can make them better.
After a quick lunch break, we all went to our next breakout sessions. I picked The Ten Mistakes Illustrators Make by Giuseppe Castellano. Instead of giving you the mistakes, here is the link to his blog post the session was based on. Wow did I learn a lot at this session! Every thing he went through I went through in my head: do I do that? Need to fix that portfolio piece! etc. Seriously I am so inspired to redo my entire portfolio. AND I am actually excited to do it! It is going to require a lot of thought, but I am happy I went to this break out session.
After this, Lin Oliver interviewed Rainbow Rowell. They talked about her work, her process, how she came to write, etc. This was a good interview. Lin really listened to Rainbow, and had great questions! I liked hearing them talk to each other, but since it was mostly about Rainbow’s career, I didn’t take many notes but just enjoyed the interview.
Kate Messner and Linda Urban followed with a very quick inspirational talk about what they do to find inspiration when they are uninspired. For each of them it was something different: for Kate it was climbing mountains, for Linda, learning to play the Ukulele. They were fun to listen to, and the message was very clear: get out of your chair once in awhile!
After this, was the Art Browse. This was a lot of fun, as any illustrator who was there got to put out a portfolio of work and then you could just walk around and look at everyone’s art! It was fantastic. The amount of talent in that room was a little overwhelming, but also inspiring. I picked up a lot of postcards and business cards, and I can’t wait to contact people and tell them how much I admired their art. I am very glad this is a part of the conference, otherwise, we might not get to see what everyone else is doing!
Then came the gala. The gala is a fun way to meet people from your own area and network. There was some delicious food and drink, and adorable mini cupcakes. They had the area divided by region, so all you had to do was find the tables marked as your region. I got to meet some great people from New Jersey, and reconnect with some I had met at NJ SCBWI events. I can’t wait to see some of them again at the NJ SCBWI conference this summer!
To end the night, there were several different socials. I went to the illustrator social so I could meet some fellow illustrators. I got to speak to Giuseppe to thank him for a great break out session. I also ran into a professor from art school which was fun! He didn’t remember me, but I didn’t expect him to. He did remember one of my pieces which was kind of cool. I spoke to several other people from the NY area, found out I am allowed to go to NY SCBWI events which I didn’t know, and generally had a good time.
I was pretty wiped out by the end of Saturday, but it was so good. I can’t wait to apply the things I have learned. Tune in tomorrow for a recap of Sunday!
If any of you follow my facebook or instagram accounts, you may know that I was at the Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators annual winter conference in NYC. Let me just say, wow. If any of you have ever considered being a children’s book writer or illustrator, this is a must go to event. Also a must is being a part of SCBWI. The amount of resources available through this group and the fantastic people you meet through it is priceless.
So this weekend, I packed my bag and headed to NYC. My friend was very gracious to let me stay at her apartment for the weekend. Last year I commuted every day, and while it is feasible, I didn’t get much sleep. Little did I know that I would be so excited that I would get very little sleep anyway! I’m not going to go into too much detail as we will never get to the end of my gushing about this conference that way. Rather, I will just make a list of the things I took away from the conference in a series of blog posts. Today, I will tell you a little bit about the Illustrator Intensive.
On Friday, I went to the Illustrator Intensive. This was my first year doing this, and it was definitely worth it. The speakers included William Joyce, Sophie Blackall, James Ransome, and Mike Curato. Then there was a panel of art directors, editors, agents, and illustrator Paul Zelinsky. Here is what I took away from each speaker:
William Joyce – Keep working outside your comfort zone; People like to hear the story behind the story; study the artist’s work whom you admire, and ask Why do I like this person’s work so much? William Joyce has illustrated and written many books, worked on many films, and then started his own company to produce children’s books, short films, apps, etc. He won an Oscar for his short film The Fantastic Flying Books of Morris Lessmore.
Sophie Blackall – Keep busy doing what you love; Take risks and leaps; Do personal projects because they are almost always your best work. Sophie Blackall won the Caldecott this year for Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear. Not only does she write and illustrate children’s books, she also does work with the Measles & Rubella Initiative and a reading program in Rwanda.
James Ransome – Important things to think about when illustrating: Drawing, Design, and Color; find a lot of different kinds of reference for books not just the internet. James Ransome is a children’s book illustrator. He talked a lot about his process, and showed it to us through some of his past projects.
Mike Curato – Mike Curato talked about his journey with illustration and the hard work he did to get his work published. He won the Portfolio Showcase in 2012, and has since published several books: some that he has written and illustrated and others illustrated. His talk was very humorous with stick figure diagrams, and very inspiring.
Panel about planning and collaboration in your career: Persistence and adaptability are important; study other picture books; draw characters with every facial expression you can think of; be on time and don’t take short cuts; to be an illustrator, rule out the possibility that you would want to do anything else; be open and listen; get outside your comfort zone; be curious; be yourself; pay attention to the publishing world; be consistent and ask all the questions you have; people will care about your work because you care about it; it’s not about you, it’s about the book; illustrators bring amazing emotions to the lives of children and adults.
In conclusion we had a Q&A where we really thought about where we were in our careers, what we wanted out of them as illustrators, etc. My take away from this and the entire day was this: Everyone of us brings something to the table that someone else doesn’t. We have to figure out what that is.
The illustrator intensive was so inspiring, Everyone who spoke had a different journey into and through their careers, and yet they were very similar in their passion for illustration. I don’t remember who said it, but in the wrap up of the day, someone said, “You’re the only one who can stop yourself.” It really made me stop and think, what am I doing to help myself become an illustrator? What am I doing that is hurting that goal?
The takeaway from the intensive (and really much of the conference) was this: Draw what you love and are passionate about. It’s made me really consider where I am going to go from here, and what I want to do next. I can’t wait to start creating more work!
To wrap it up, here is a picture of me and my friend at the end of the illustrator intensive. We had a great time! Tomorrow I will tell you more about the conference!
Apparently I am terrible at blogging. It’s just so much more fun to paint and stuff! I have been keeping very busy, so I thought I would give you a recap of everything I have been doing in January. Since January is almost over, it seemed like a good time!
I have decided that 2016 is going to be the year “Anne Get’s Serious About Her Children’s Book Career”. What does that mean? Well, first I joined a challenge called the 12×12 challenge. This is a challenge where you write 12 picture book manuscripts in 12 months. There are webinars with people already published or in the industry, the chance to join critique groups, and to get your work critiqued by the group at large. It’s awesome! I also joined the illustrator portion of the group which gives the opportunity to have your work critiqued by others and share resources. We’ve already done a critique of websites which was great. (If you have visited my website before, you’ll notice the art has gotten bigger. That was a direct result of joining this group.) I think you can still register if you are interested. It’s definitely worth thinking about if you want to get some feedback for your work and “meet” great people!
Through this group, I have also joined a challenge to read 1,000 picture books in 2016. A big goal I know! However, it is extremely important to know your field, and what is getting published. Plus, it’s a great excuse to go to the library. I am already making a list and plan to visit my local library tomorrow to get started!
I’ve also joined a challenge to create a picture book dummy and submit it in six months through kidlitart. It starts now and goes through July. I am really excited and nervous about this one. I have created dummies before, but there has never been a schedule for it, it’s been more of a haphazard process. This will help keep me focused and create more work.
The final challenge I have joined is one my sister organized. The challenge is to read 40 books in 2016, however, they have to fulfill certain criteria. Some of the categories are “a book based on a fairy tale” or “a book written by a celebrity.” This is a fun challenge because I will definitely be reading books I may not have read otherwise.
As you can see, I have gone a little crazy with the challenges in January! However, one of the things I have learned the more I do this, is that accountability is everything. It is way to easy to keep putting things off or let fear keep you from continuing when you don’t have accountability. I’ll keep you posted on all these challenges as the year goes on. Right now I am really excited about all of them. We shall see if that excitement carries me through the year!
The other thing that has been keeping me busy is the Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators conference that is happening in 2 weeks. The event takes place in Manhattan and I’ve been prepping for it since Jan. 1st. This involves creating more portfolio pieces, getting a new portfolio to keep these pieces in, getting new promotional materials printed, and researching the people who are going to be there. I have been doing a lot of work for this. I went to the conference last year and it was amazing, but I didn’t feel prepared. Probably because I decided to go at the last minute. This year, I registered as soon as registration was open. I am also participating in their Illustrator Intensive this year. Last year, because I signed up so late, it was already full. I am excited and nervous for this. The conference is going to be amazing again. I can’t wait to tell you all about it!
Now, what would be a post without any art? Here are the new pieces I have created in 2016 so far:
The inspiration for this piece came to me as I was inventorying periodicals at my day job. I have no idea how I thought of it, or why it came to me, but I am glad it did! I hadn’t painted in so long it was great to pick up the paintbrushes again. This is currently my favorite piece in my portfolio. I call it queen bee. You never know where your inspiration is going to come from! This was painted with gouache.
This second piece was from a drawing I did last fall as part of a drawing challenge I created for myself (Again with the challenges!). I made a list of words, and had my facebook followers pick a number. Then I had to do a drawing for each of those words. I did it as a way to inspire myself again and it worked. Everyone had fun with the challenge, and now I have several drawings that I could make into portfolio pieces (like this). If I wanted to. This was finished today! It was also painted with gouache.
Going forward from today, I am going to continue prepping for my conference. There are more things to be drawn, more things to get ready. It’s nice to take a break to write, but now it’s time to get back to the painting and stuff 🙂 Be sure to check out my new page: New Work. Here is where I’ll be posting pieces as I finish them going forward. I will keep you posted about how the year of “Anne Get’s Serious About Her Children’s Book Career” is going!