This is an Epic Blog Post- just call me Homer - the one without the donuts (warning- there are no drawings - too tired)
Part 1 - Los Angeles
Past is Prologue
This past week was one of the best trips I have ever taken. From the conference to old Los Angeles haunts, to the 3 days in San Diego - going back to California was like some sort of reawakening. The sun shines so differently and the nights are magical. When I lived in my little garden apartment off of Santa Monica Blvd..., I loved to walk from courtyard to courtyard at night gazing up at the clear night thru the palms. -I could just weep with feeling filled up by that air. And the architecture! I missed the deco and the stick and the marquees. I remembered how it all felt like a fantasy and at any moment you would be pinched and poof! - you’d wake up in somewhere- like - I don’t know - Long Island...
I arrived Thursday afternoon and my husband and daughter and I did the nostalgia tour. Old apartment-check, old coffee shop- check- our old atm where we always overdrew funds- check! We went to it to get some cash - and my husband said he actually remembered the feeling -how going to the atm was like spinning the roulette wheel - ah to be 22 again. Our old tiki bar Kelbo’s tho- now a strip club, I hope they found new uses for all those coconuts....
It Takes a Village
The SCBWI LA Summer Conference in Los Angeles was completely different from the NYC one. The atmosphere was one of fun to be had and friends to be made. There was business - and networking but with smiles on faces and blue butts on the dance floor!
I’m sure what I write about will leave many wonderful speakers out- so -get your butt to the next one- it’s an amazing experience.
Thursday evening I met another illustrator Diandre Mae who like so many others, I know only online. We hit it off and I enjoyed meeting her roommate Heather Powers tremendously and hope to continue the friendship and support from now on. Also Amy and Lisa (colorado)In fact- most from Texas- I feel adopted by that State- having had a fun dinner with their region- Vicky, Millie and Tim - and that odd Italian waiter- fun night!
Friday was Sherman Alexie day. That was the first keynote and really the whiz bang! of the day!! - I don’t read much YA - so focused on the books with art - but I am going home and running out to buy his book. His talk was a roller coaster of emotions - laughter to tears. My favorite line was about his thick government issued eyeglass frames worn on the reservation as a child - he hated them. Now that they are all the rage- he said you guys who wear them don’t look cool - you look poor. - Ha- guilty!(I wear them) I am going to start devouring YA- cause I’m always looking for a good book to read. I came away from the conference with a long list.
Top of that list The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.
It takes a tough man to make a tender Chicken
Dan Santat and I were two ships in the night that never passed close enough. I saw him from across the room a few times- but decided sprinting up to him and gushing about the Replacements or his books was not the way to go- neither was shouting across the large hall- “HEY DAN! YOU THE MAN!” - so conference regret #1- no Dan Santat hello.
A man of Few Words
The day continued on David Wiesner gave a quietly brilliant talk about his books. The breakout was where he shined his glaring bright light...
If You Build it - they will come...
Friday night there was an Illustrators social. It was a brilliant concept. Everyone showed up armed with their portfolios. It’s how we introduce ourselves isn’t it? Here- this is my art- this is me. I would have liked less faculty involvement here- it cut down on the socializing too much. I was fried from sitting listening to people talk at me- I wanted to talk to other artists. It was a short social, we were encouraged to mentor or be a mentee based upon your experience at conferences. - It was a fine ice breaker. I would love it if they did this in NYC. Just let us loose at a designated time in a designated space- we can do the rest.
The dreams you dare to dream....
Saturday was portfolio day- really as an exhibiting illustrator you wake up thinking just that. Portfolio Day!
“Kadir Freakin’ Nelson”
That’s what it says in my notes. Kadir Freakin’ Nelson. I sat front row. As he spoke in his unassuming quietly cool way- images of his beautiful work flashed on the screen next to him. 3 feet away I thought- Norman Rockwell. I thought JC Leyendecker. I thought NC Freakin’ Wyeth - in the world of illustration - he will go down in the hallowed halls of the Society of Illustrators as one of the greats... . and I am 3 feet away. What a gift. And a Jersey boy- we have that in common- it’s the little things that make me happy. I picked up his Change has Come sketchbook and it’s glorious. I’ve often written here on the blog- I luv to see drawings more than any other art form- and his- well they are sigh inducing. I gave it to my daughter- she can have it forever to pass down to her kids to commemorate when Change came to America.
“Those Who Can Draw Can Draw Better....”
That was a quote from David Wiesner. Who is a great teacher. He has the desire to tell fellow illustrators- never settle. Never get comfortable- always strive to be better. Study life. Draw life- let it inform you even when you draw from your imagination. Learn perspective- take it seriously. Get it right- and you’ll make your imaginary worlds believable. - Amen.
If you can talk the talk - you can malk the Malk
Steven Malk - boy he’s young. I don’t mean that as a bad thing- but he’s young and knows so much. “savvy” I think is the word I’m looking for.My notes from this session are 4 pages long! I just signed with my agent and listening to him gave me a great deal of knowledge about their side of the industry. He was very cool and open to some particular questions. And he collects Garbage Pail kids- he should really go for Wacky Packs- much cooler- old school from my time - ya know- roller disco days.
Prepare to have your mind BLOWN
Dan - Yaccarino -helloooo? Dan Yacc-a- Rino! - 2 marshmellows - no more- no less - yuppa rino! - Now a Nelson will awe and a Weisner will inspire but a Yaccarino will take you on a trip- a journey of imagination that Willy Wonka and his freak out boat can’t hold a candle to. Robots and Weenie dogs and Jaques Cousteau! - much the same childhood as I - HR Puff and Stuff and Quisp cereal boxes... all go into that osterizer brain of his and pour out into the most imaginative stuff. I’m gonna count the days until the lawn ornament book! Can’t grow up in Jersey without being surrounded by jockeys , gnomes, deer and flamingos and madonnas- any blessed mothers in your book? Prob not- but I’ll imagine her into it. Books to TV to packaging and now movies- what more can this man conquer armed with his power of YES!?!?
Paint it Black
She was brief- but she illuminated fantasy books in a way- that made me want to read them more. She was lovely, she was crazy intelligent. When I told my 9 year old Spiderwick fan girl she was there - she fell back on the bed in feigned collapse. I’ve seen the power of fantasy books watching Maggie devour them. Holly Black is conference regret #2- didn’t get to have a Spiderwick book signed for Mags.
Tell me something I don’t know
He did. Jim Averbeck taught this old dog new tricks. I learned so much from this session and I think his session moved me most to get back to my stories and make them better.
All out on the Table
Portfolio drop off feels very much like dropping your kid off on the first day of kindergarten. You wave goodbye- with worries and hopes that it'll be liked and when you pick it up- they all had a good time, got along and want a snack. Then you as the parent go home and have a stiff drink.
This is it. This is what WE came for. All else is gravy at the conference - but this- this is the coliseum and we are the gladiators and it’s all about us for these few hours.
The room was packed !! It was line after line and shoulder to shoulder as we slowly made the rounds thru the alphabetical rows. I quickly decided gazing over and thru people’s elbows was the way to go. I had to add postcards and business cards twice- estimating about 200 of each went out. My little photo album was heavily handled and came unglued - D’Uh-O! But- my standing there pressing it together gave me the opportunity to get a lot of good feedback. Nerves aside - I enjoyed hearing that people liked it.
They knocked my socks off.
Israel Sanchez, Frank M. Hansen, Yoko Tanaka. My top 3. Yoko - well she’s tuned into a completely different frequency than I - ethereal charming weirdness. But these boys - oh boy. They can cartoon. It’s my world and they’ve kicked my ass. And I’m happy about that. I felt thrilled by their work- it’s wonderful to see cartooning done so well. And I want it to break thru the children’s book barriers - and this is the way to do it. So I raise my game and I get back to work. Until next year gentlemen.....
Blue Moon - You saw me standing alone
I had to get dressed so fast. I had a Mad Men-ish ensemble. Vintage dress with crazy full skirt- blue crinoline- exposed at left leg by a big rhinestone moon brooch. Gloves, clutch - kitten heels- I do clean up nicely. Up in my room- a message from Tina Nichols Coury- a fellow McVeigh Agency family member. Thank Mark! - I can meet some of the others - I went up anticipating her outfit having read her blog about last year. Her door opened to fun. Inside a room full of people blinking with blue lights. As soon as I introduced myself- I was blinkied. My blue crinoline alight , my left leg was lit up like the runway of LAX. - hmmmm-eeee - yup.
She was Mother Goose and she had 2 goslings. Feathers flew as she sashayed down the hall to the elevator- the party had started! I met another one of La Familia McVeigh- Heather L. Hansen. Such a nice person- and soon to be published author.
Down on the grass - my heels sinking into ground - flats next time... and no gloves. It’s hard to eat soft tacos with gloves on... the music played.. it was loud. Had to partake of the blue drink to loosen up and dance. Who was the cute Austin Powers guy?? -Oh My, it’s Jay Asher - the hair was throwing me- once I realized- I stopped checking him out and remembered I’m a married old lady - he’s married and oh yeah- he’s Jay Asher.
We boogied down and saw some sights!! I did sneak a squeeze to some guy’s blue moon on a dare! - A derriere dare.... It ended too soon - and mingling was not as easy as I hoped but it was a good time and much fun was had by all.
I went to sleep and had lots of nutty dreams about the Blue Man Group and Max the King of the Wild Things and Mary Poppins showed up and had a cage match with Mother Goose until some freaky octo-alien vaporized them all. - don’t drink the blue kool aid.
Some will win- some will lose
I was BEAT! Really dragged. Needed air- sun - water. The winners were announced at the luncheon. Yoko - Frank you’re both winners in my book. But Israel Sanchez! Hurray! - I bet on him to show and he took it all! He’s off to NYC and to great things!
I took a break and- missed Richard Peck- yes I know : already conference regret # 3.
Who are you again?
Dinner with the family. They had been seeing the sights for 3 days -
I needed to catch up. Universal- was fun, Hollywood - Emma Watson’s handprints and Maggie’s hands- same size she is very thrilled. And Paradise Cove in Malibu for a beach day. So much fun they were having. We had dinner in Westwood- we’re we used to hang when we lived in L.A.. It’s a lovely little area with the prettiest movie facade. I was so happy to walk those sidewalks again. My feet felt the familiar path and memories rushed back. Altho- the kid dropped her ice cream and desperately needed a toilet- so reality check!
Monday - we’re off to San Diego- but Husband gives a La Brea Tar Pits visit reprieve- so I got half a day of the conference. It was his birthday and I wanted to end his 4 days as a single parent before his head exploded. Susan Sherman was wonderful in her morning breakout.
Take it Away
What are my take aways from this conference?
1. Get better -just go home and work on it. Cause there is work to be done and it’s good to strive. Faced with a Nelson, a Wiesner and a Yaccarino what else is there to do?
2. Steven Malk- said you can not dibble dabble in this career! You have to dive in - you can not dip your toe. I’m in the deep end - now I must swim gracefully for my life.
3. The people who work tirelessly to put these conferences on are just like us. Still working , still striving, some published, some not. To their own hopes and dreams they add the hundreds of ours- and I am very Thankful to you all.
4. Making personal connections can be more powerful than professional ones. We all want the magic moment with an editor - but the friendships sparked that will be fanned as the year goes on will burn long and strong. We need fellow artists and writers to support and to inspire - compete- and spur each other on. We need the laughs along the way and the pats on the back. And that is the best take away from SCBWI.
Part 2 - San Diego after I sleep!