More than 200 children’s book writers and illustrators (aspiring and professional) converged on a little Unitarian church just north of Austin for the 2010 Destination Publication SCBWI conference January 30.
Guests and speakers arrived from Texas and everywhere for a day of inspiring presentations and professional critiques of manuscripts and portfolios.
“The most expensive people — all those who were trained by the great editors Ursula Nordstrom and Margaret McElderry are gone,” agent and former editor Mark McVeigh said in his rivetting keynote, “Defending Your Muse.”
Still children’s publishing is “not an industry in ruins, but in transition,” he continued. He spoke about the emerging digital media and mobile media (Kindle, iPhone, etc.) marketplace. But he kept returning to the sovereignty of language, individual creativity — and the Emily Dickinson poem he keeps in his wallet. You can read Mark’s recapping of his time with us in Austin and see the full text of the Dickinson poem on his agency blog .
Later in the day Curtis Brown agent Nathan Bransford elicited a gasp or two with his comment that he sees 15,000 to 20,000 submissions a year and might take four to five clients per year from that pile. Yet his presentation hit inspiring notes. He refers to the Austin conference in his publishing news packed- blog.
“Designing the ‘page-turns‘ is the most important thing,” asserted two-time Caldecott Honor illustrator Marla Frazee in an extraordinary presentation on the the picture book creation process.
“Use the page turn in the narrative when you want the mood to shift and your images to really stand out,” she continued.
“Save diagonals for the most dramatic parts of your story. They’re like exclamation marks!”
Marla demonstrated how she filled the imagery for All the World (2010 Caldecott Honor book penned by Austin poet Liz Garton Scanlon) with imagery from her own life — landscapes of the central California coast, her grandfather, a favorite cafe — even the outdoor chairs and tables from the student union of her alma mater — props, settings and people that mattered a great deal for her.
In a special breakout session with the illustrators Marla discussed the artist’s voice, characterization and setting as the foundation for illustrating books for children.
“I’ll start with a sketch trying to get to know the character. It’s about digging into the character.”It doesn’t have to be complicated. If you can get the reader to feel the emotion your character is feeling, you’ve won most of the battle.”
As for setting, details are important. “It should feel like you’re opening up a world.
“It’s really a matter of putting the time in.”
While the illustrators soaked up Marla’s words and instructive slides, writers were treated to presentations by Newbery Honor author Kirby Larson, agent Andrea Cascardi (Transatlantic Literary Agency) , Editors Cheryl Klein (Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic) and Stacy Cantor (Bloomsbury, USA), writer and former Farrar, Straus and Giroux editor Lisa Graf, and author Sara Lewis Holmes.
Attendees also heard from our own power gang of authors Liz Garton Scanlon, Sibert Honor author Chris Barton, Newbery Honor author Jacqueline Kelly and Shana Burg, Philip Yates, Jennifer Ziegler, Jessica Lee Anderson and P.J. Hoover and power illustrator Patrice Barton in a fun panel discussion moderated by author Julie Lake (a former regional advisor of Austin SCBWI)
Here’s an Austin SCBWI round-up (so far) of blogposts on the conference:
- Mark McVeigh – A Visit to Austin, or How Can So Many Good Writers Live in One City
- Peni Griffin – Idea Garage Sale: Okay, Conference Report
- Cynthia Leitich Smith – Austin SCBWI 2010: Destination Publication
- Don Tate – SCBWI Destination Publication 2010 Conference
- Cristin Terrill – SCBWI Conference Redux
- Kirby Larson – Awesome Autin
- Carmen Oliver – Three words. Wow! Wow! Wow!
- Dallion McGregor – SCBWI Conference, Part II – Summary of Plot and Characters
Rumor has it there was a national SCBWI conference in New York City that same weekend.
OKAY, it wasn’t a rumor. It was the giant Winter Conference. Here’s the SCBWI team blog coverage of that major annual event that somehow messed up and booked the same date as ours.
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Author-illustrator Mark Mitchell hosts this blog and teaches the self paced course Make Your Splashes; Make Your Marks! Drawing and Painting for Children’s Book Illustration.