Riding a roller coaster of emotions leads to that flip floppy feeling in the stomach - and the head.
The build up to the NY SCBWI Winter Conference was weeks- wait months of work - thinking, drawing, painting, printing, planning, hoping - visualizing..... psyching up - self examination - editing ... you get the picture.
At some point I took all of the art out of the portfolio. I laid it all out and said - take only the best, you don't need the rest.
I had pushed myself to do better - taken all of the critiques to heart - listen to suggestions. Incorporated Art Directors and editors comments into what I thought was a portfolio that completely represented me - as I am as an artist. I may always be a work in progress, but this portfolio was the culmination of a 38 year journey to where I am today. And I was proud of it. I was confident I had reached a level of accomplishment to stand strongly amongst the hundreds of peers in NYC that weekend.
Then the ground gave way beneath my firmly planted feet and I have slipped down into a spiral - a rabbit hole of self doubt and confusion and Wonder so profound ... I'm left thinking - what the hell do I do now?
It was the Panel Review. I think 200 illustrators submitted 3 pieces each to be projected up on a big screen and anonymously shown in front of a room of about 300 SCBWI members. Not everyone was picked - what the criteria was for being picked was never revealed. But a little tiny voice in my brain said- "you'll be picked..." Stupid little voice didn't say why....
We were told to "Not take it personally" That this is how they talk behind closed doors when looking at artists' work. Art flashed up- nice work - some stronger than others - but the 3 person panel had some comments I agreed with and some I thought were ludicrous. For the most part they pointed out weakness AND strengths for everyone- save one...
Me. Here's the experience -
"Tearing out the Artist's Heart, Stomping on it - Passing it around to be spit on - and then Shoving it back in - But don't take it personally"
(imagine it in slow motion-cause that's how it felt)
Flash- My art- quickly 1-2-3-back to one. Silence (maybe the worst thing they didn't say)"There is absolutely no market for this kind of work" "Feels dated- saw that 5 years ago" "Not too Disney-ish well maybe too Disney- I've seen them before" The 3rd is the strongest of the three- but there's no place for this in Children's Publishing" "If you want to do licensing- call me." (when hell freezes over) "This person obviously has a background in animation (give that little man a kewpie doll) -"Or likes animation - you can tell by how they draw" -silence again. -next artist.
The 3 pieces were the Cajun restaurant - the Beavers on the log - and the Hippo "Blue Lagoon". They are here on the blog- you can pause and review - now.
- I immediately realized that as anonymous as I was at this moment- come the portfolio room- review; I would cease to be. Thus started my anxiety ridden remainder of the NY SCBWI Winter conference -hurray! I swear the guy sitting to my left - stopped talking to me instantly- I had the wreak of uncoolness about me.
So- I sat thru the rest of the review- numb. Went thru the motions of the rest of the day- watched Jarrett Krosoczka's great video- wiping tears that should have been from laughter -but were from a feeling of being further away from his experience than ever before. - I wanted to go home- but had to stay to get my portfolio- meaning I had stand by it - touch it - acknowledge it was mine.
Remember- this was the portfolio I was so proud of 8 hours earlier on the LIRR.
I went into the room- walked straight over to "it"- but there were 2 people turning the pages- murmuring "Yeah- this was - the one..'..I walked the hell away from "it"- not wanting to hear them finish the sentence. I toured the room. I looked thru other books - some great- some wonderful- some so-so. And thought that book of mine- sitting in that far away corner - was like me in the 5th grade - full of qualities and potential that the idiots at the cool lunch table didn't care to know. And so I went over and scooped it up- packed it in it's soft padded protective sleeve along with my severely wounded self- and went home.
I did not want to go back the next day- but did. I walked out of my first break out- it was for YA fiction - I was not into politely sitting thru anything. The whole day was like a disconnection from Children's Publishing= listening to editors and art directors hearing in my head "yadda yadda yadda..." And watching those other faces in the chairs- so eager- enthusiastic- hopeful... the ones that rush the speakers at the end... shoving their work in the speaker's face... dropping their cards and hearts on the floor at the feet of the powers to be. - And I went to the final talk - wanting to go home.
It was Jay Asher- never heard of him. An author of a big new YA book "Thirteen Reasons Why". His talk was how to get published in 12 years or less- and then he removed the less. I bawled. bawled the whole talk about his journey- rejections- small triumphs- that mislead him that his time had come... opportunities that passed - agents that teased - publishers that said maybe - but maybe not. Until he reached the point of giving it all up. Driven to the ground by publishing - he had decided to throw in the towel. His wife convinced him to give it one more try - and it happened. He got published. Pushed to the point of self doubt - confusion and wonder at what the hell does he do now?- he did it.
And I cried. All the way to JFK. Where- I got on a plane to cruise with BNL. Which will be another post.
SCBWI- I think you are a wonderful organization. Filled with wonderful people. But this time- it did harm. I tried to not take it personally - really I did. I say put yourself in my shoes- see how you do with that...
So - Where am I today?? Home- not knowing what to draw, how to draw - deciding if I want to be published so bad that I get an extreme Artistic Makeover or if I hold on tight to who I am and steady myself for years of rejection and the possibility of never finding the holy Grail. Is the Quest Enough? All of those platitudes I've used for myself and my daughter aren't working right now... Is it really the journey?Not the destination? When you hear the same comments over and over and you usually tell yourself- if they don't like- someone else will... but start to realize - more don't like it than do... Is ignoring the signs just reallly really dumb and blind and deaf and idiotic?
I've got some serious mishagosh. And a whole lot of thinking to do.