Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Tired - inspired - and a little quaqmired SCBWI LA 2010

Quagmire: (from webster's online)
Main Entry: quag·mire 
Pronunciation: \ˈkwag-ˌmī(-ə)r, ˈkwäg-\
Function: noun (Not an adverb-or verb or adjective Kelly made that up- report her to the grammar police)
Date: circa 1576
1 : soft miry land that shakes or yields under the foot
2 : a difficult, precarious, or entrapping position : predicament

I am back!! Today- back into my studio- and my "mental studio". I got back from LA on the night of August 3rd. The next day friends from Texas arrived- and we did a whirlwind tour of Coney Island, the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and dinner in Times Square. The next day- my brother and his family came in from Chicago. Needless to say - I have not unpacked - 6 days later. I have not digested all of the talks- all of the break outs- all of the meeting new people and hanging with friends.
This was the first conference I was not nervous about. Ripple has kept me so busy- I had to throw away my pre-conference "To Do" list. Which eliminated quite a lot of stress.  I flew out only nervous about the flight- but it was fine.
I met Aja Wells at the air port- we used to be in a crit group together. I opened my hotel room door and there was my roommate Heather Powers. She was a great roommate - we had a lot of laughs. Starting at the bar with some bad food that first night.

I did not eat breakfast - the food/rushing around/stomach issues will be a running theme thru this report.

I met Priscilla Burris at check-in. We've gotten to know each other thru the Sketchables but OH! How nice to actually see her with mine own eyes! - She is her artwork - all personality and energy.
Heather is the RA for San Antonio, TX- she "walked the line" the first morning and told me she was going to say "Ripple" as her first word. When she did - I heard a large round of applause - and got all choked up. That should have been my first clue that there were a lot of Ripple artists amongst the LA conference goers!
The kick off by Jon Sciezka - was great. Funny and what a way to start off with a BANG! - then we took a turn and wound up in Delaware with M.T. Anderson. -  I think Delaware must be in the Twilight Zone or they slipped something into my iced non fat vanilla latte - cause the whole room got trippy and there was some singing.... I think...... about Delaware- with a lilting  middle eastern tinge..all that was missing was a sitar. by now- I'm sure Mr. Anderson has learned to play one.

I went off to Stephanie Owens Lurie's talk on "How to think like a publisher".  - I like her. I like people who like Disney-work for Disney and wear Mickey stuff- we are proud mousketeers.  She's a positive voice in publishing and she was refreshing to listen to after the past 2 years of lots of doom and gloom. what a wealth of experience she has. 2 of my best friends went into publishing out of college- and I actually thought(don't shoot me ) "How boring"- what a dummy I was. (I also was broke- broke and dumb) but I digress...
LUNCH!-Starving at this point.... run! RUN! to the mall food court!- ok, no running- but get there- get your food , eat - go back. Must have protein- will have burger- num num num.... back to the big room...

Panel of editors - Like the old game show "TO TELL THE TRUTH" - these are always interesting...

Off to the break out! - here's some fun. Priscilla Burris  is ready to let us draw! Oh Thank heaven!! I get so tired sitting and listening for so long. I want to "do"! I consider it an exciting opportunity to draw here- a room filled with people "my tribe" and we are drawing together- this excites me. We work on expressions and emotions and it's about 1/2 the breakout- I could have easily done this the whole time.  Next David Diaz does a painting demo- which is wild to watch but not enough time to really experience it.  So I think these guys could have easily done an hour each- and it would have been groovy.

Priscilla did kindly ask me to tell the room about Ripple at the beginning of the session. So- I did- and I seriously need some public speaking help!

Back into the big room. "The Hills are alive... with the sound of Tractors....." I will sing the praises of Loren Long and his  philosophy of "If I can do this- Why can't you?"- of his wanting to make books like the ones he loved as a child- Like Ferdinand the Bull. He is such a down to earth fellow... and I completely dig his being influenced by the art on "Good Times"- which was not really painted by JJ "Dyno-mite" Walker.  You can see Thomas Hart Benton's influence.... and for sure  Mr. Rockwells'  a homey - timeless or time we long for quality in his work.  He gets a gold star in my book. I dig him big time.

Wine and cheese are waiting....  and Dan Santat's Ripple card was going up for sale @ 7 PM!- Speaking of Dan - A word of advice from me to all future conference attendees: when meeting someone you admire- first make sure they have not just put an entire cracker with cheese in their mouth as you touch their shoulder  and introduce yourself. 
His book OH! NO!- could have gone on to be his last and I could have been the culprit.  I'm sure he could have parlayed it into a hilarious book called "There are always lots of Heimlich maneuvers at the conference" - It was nice to meet him tho- he is a nice guy.

I had a $10 glass of blechy wine and one smudge of brie on a shingle. 
I sat in the lobby bar and sold Dan's art on Ripple in 4.4 seconds. I earned my pina colada , baby. I have waited all summer for it. I brought a bag of my own paper umbrellas and headed up to the illustrators social- it is 7:30 in the evening... 12 hour day so far.....
This is fun. I met Kim Fleming - a Ripple artist here all of the way from Australia- so cute! Here's where you see faces you know and didn't know were going to be at the conference. We get men-tees and talk them thru their first conference- it's fun. I met more people from NY this year which was nice.I am all about bringing the illustrators together more. They should have this 2 nights- maybe we can pay to have a dinner in there?- dinner?- oh yeah..

Around 10:30 I ate spicy chicken lumps at the bar with a few chopped up cucumbers. Off to bed- knowing sometime tomorrow I would hear in my head that sound submarines make- the alarm when everyone yells DIVE!DIVE! - as my stomach does not travel well. 

Up and dressed and at Starbucks by 8:00 for a Ginormous Ice coffee and a fiber muffin.

Gordon Korman was an enjoyable speaker . I took away from his talk to stay in touch with what YOU thought was cool as a kid.  So... roller disco , hmmmmm...

Agent panel! These panels feel like Hollywood Squares- they need light bulbs and buzzers and that skinny microphone with the little grey ball on top. - One of the agents had the deepest voice- it was like turning the bass all the way up- you could feel the frequency... it was hypnotic. They had good stuff to say too. Hot Hot Hot middle grade - esp boy stuff. That Percy Jackson has stolen Harry's thunder! I'd like to see them duel.(team harry) All about the chapter booksand young MG , Picture books are "tough sell".

Breakout - Pat Cummings and Cecilia Yung  "Illustrator Tips on Portfolios and Promotion".  The day before there was another portfolio break out that I did not go to. Perhaps- there should be 2 illustrator tracks? more options? One for "newbies" - One for the mildly published - who want to move to the next level-I have already been thru 9 conferences and 16 portfolio info sessions.

off to get a sandwich.....

I enjoyed lunch with Angela Matteson and Linda Silvestri- and a table full of illustrators.

Big Room : Marion Dane Bauer - hit this Mom's heart hard. Tears flowed. Further proof that authors have a mythical mojo that is other-wordly. She poured out her heart in her speech and her books must be amazing.
And then there was E.B..
I don't even know what to say. He's the kind of man you wouldn't want to disappoint. Like your favorite 4th grade teacher. Or your beloved coach -Or your Dad. He sets a standard and you feel like "Yeah- that's where I should be- I'd better work my ass off to get there or else." 15- 18 hours a day in the studio. (Wow. Yeah- that would get me in the zone and keep me there... I long for that. But can I give that as a mom of a 10 year old?- no. But I feel like that's a key to it- that I am missing.)

He said things like "Do you TRULY want to do this?" (um, yes- I mean YES!Yes Sir!)
Passion- Passion is key. His "Icons" on lottery cards- his need to express what he believes- what he teaches - what he feels about kids- is remarkable. I counted the hours until his breakout.... 
But meanwhile Loren Long awaited in his breakout and he was like a cold slice of watermelon on a hot summer day. Are you an illustrator who wants to write?(yes) Well- it's about ideas. (He's kinda the Jimmy Stewart of children's books) - When you write and illustrate theres' no other "pesky" name on the cover!;) Jot down every single idea- just know they are mostly bad ideas. Keep it simple!-Cause most of the best books are just that- simple. Cut- and cut and cut to get to the heart of the story... (Oh agony agoneeeee- this is what I am doing at home next week)

He ended the session with his belly on a lady's head to show cast shadows- and how to not draw every little detail...and it was funny cause it was so awkardly innocently strange... and we could have stayed there all afternoon with him.
And then the Submarine alarms went off and I cut out until the portfolio showcase.....  I know when to say "Uncle" to too much inspiration for one day... put on my pjs and laid down. Apologies to Gail Carson Levine - who's books my daughter loves.

THUNDER DOME (the portfolio showcase)

To me- this is the reason to come- if you have to boil it down to one reason. This is the main event and all else is gravy. In one hour- you have more important eyeballs on your work than you are going to get in a year. And like the NY lottery says- "You gotta be in it - to win it".

Show tunes come in very handy as you walk Thunder Dome: 
I like Westside Story....
Who knows....
There's something due any day;
I will know right away,
Soon as it shows.
It may come cannonballing down through the sky,
Gleam in its eye,
Bright as a rose!

Who knows?
It's only just out of reach,
Down the block, on a beach,
Under a tree.
I got a feeling there's a miracle due,
Gonna come true,
Coming to me!

Could it be? Yes, it could.
Something's coming, something good,
If I can wait!
Something's coming, I don't know what it is,
But it is
Gonna be great! 

(If you are feeling slightly sad at not winning a prize or men-tee spot... perhaps looking forward to what might be....)

There's a place for us,
Somewhere a place for us.
Peace and quiet and open air
Wait for us

There's a time for us,
Some day a time for us,
Time together with time spare,
Time to learn, time to care,
Some day!

We'll find a new way of living,
We'll find a way of forgiving
Somewhere . . .

There's a place for us,
A time and place for us.
Hold my hand and we're halfway there.
Hold my hand and I'll take you there
Some day,

Anyway the cookie crumbles it's a great experience to put yourself out there - and into Thunder Dome. How do you match up? Where do you fall? What are you missing? What can you work on? Why did they win? What am I damn good at?-  all are spoils of Thunder Dome. 
And then the party... 15 minutes later. I ran up to Tina Nichols Coury's room for a pre-party bash. It's like the Mummer's Parade Exploded in her room. Glitter! Sparkles! Blinky Lights! Pink Champagne! She is quite the hostess and is a warm and welcoming presence out in LA. She had assembled a group of McVeigh Agency peeps and it was a nice opportunity to meet everyone.  A glass of champagne on an empty stomach... down the elevator...
....outside It's shove a fajita down your gullet so you can have a cocktail and not find yourself dancing on a table naked covering your parts with giant heart sprinkle cookies.  
That DID NOT happen.
I did have my picture taken with many many people. Through the course of the party I met many many Ripple artists and it was a blur... of red... until bed. Sleep.......... getting up very early to have a real breakfast with Heather and Priscilla. 
 It was SO nice to sit and talk with Heather and Priscilla over a real meal. Coffee and toast and eggs and conversation. 3 of the Sketchables together!

Heather and I went out to play hooky and sit in the sun and sketch. I was feeling toasted. I was looking forward to E.B. Lewis' breakout session. and it didn't disappoint.

E.B. Strikes Back
I just could listen to him all day...
Tidbits of wisdom... that flows freely from him..
 "Chubby Checker Syndrome" - don't do the same thing over and over- Chubby Checker at almost 80 is still singing "The Twist"
Be your own worst critic.
One bad line can destroy an entire piece

Dig deep-research, scratch and dig at whatever the subject of the story is

Don't put in every single detail (Loren said this too)- "Leave the Gap"- like NC Wyeth - work in the shadows

Don't look at who won the award- (I needed to hear that after Thunder Dome)

As a parent- I really agreed with his saying that we "Monitor" kids more than parent them. How many kids I know that are in front of the TV - computer - DS - on the cell phone- constantly at activities while the parents are doing something else. We need to engage with the kids- shut everything else off and be face to face- having conversations.
And then my moment of blubbering.. (I took this from my Ripple  blog post)He brought up the oil spill and said- "What are we as artists going to do about it?"  (I'm paraphrasing...)  He went on to say "My father said there are 3 kinds of people- Sub Humans, Humans, and Super Humans". "Sub Humans are like Hitler or Osama Bin laden- people who do harm, cause pain and suffering.""Humans are people who exist- but don't do anything- don't act - don't stand up and make a difference." "Super Humans are the ones who say "I will not sit by and do nothing""They are the ones who try to make a difference."  -  I burst into tears. Like a fool... I hope he didn't notice...
I have been so busy running this- the absolute SCALE of what Ripple has done- what it has become- and what it continues to do-  hadn't hit me until then. As I sniffed and calmed down- my friend Amy Farrier- quietly said, "Kelly Light- super human" -and the tears flowed again.

You get the feeling E.B. Lewis eats paint- brushes his teeth with a sable brush -  sleeps on canvas - and showers in watercolor... I mean this man lives it. He does not make art- he lives it. He's quite an inspiration.

We had the Golden Kite Luncheon next. Filled with good stuff.

I went to Steven Malk's talk as last years' was very informative. He's a good guy- he breaks the biz down- and makes it seem so doable.  I have 2 pages of notes- He's generous and says- He's here to help. And I believe him. Raised in kids' books- he's a great resource to hear speak.

Awoooga Awoooga! - submarine siren going off again- head pounding off I went. I was tired and emotional from E.B. - I felt wasted. I was asleep by 7. 
 I felt much better the next morning. I needed that sleep. I guess this is jet lag + Ripple lag + inspiration overload.  I got to Starbucks and got that ginormous iced coffee again and a scone. I doodled all day thru the presentations- those pages can be seen on The Sketchables.  I was looking forward to ending the conference with Loren Long's last break out- but we decided to sit down and eat a lunch- and it took so long- we missed 2/3's of Loren. - sorry to have missed that!  

I confess - I did not know who Ashley Bryan was before this conference. "He's a national treasure!" my roommate told me- well- He certainly looks like one! -I said.  He gave us a taste of the "Ashley Bryan Experience" during the Golden Kite luncheon. His closing keynote was a "happening". He was a force of nature. He's changed forever my appreciation of poetry. He brought it to LIFE! I will tap the book to the beat and stretch out the sounds til the senses experience the words.  It was a joyous big room goodbye.

Now - Go forth and create.
I filled out my comment sheet w/ a few suggestions for illustrators at these big conferences. I'd like more drawing- life drawing session?- Gestures? - a sketch crawl? ... generally  more hands on- workshops. I've been to the Florida SCBWI summer conference twice and it's a great one. Friday is a full day workshop - that spills into Saturday. Like the master class ideas - but breakouts as options for those who have already done the basics of breaking into the industry.

And as I finish this it is August 11th. My quagmire: I may be about ready to tear apart that PB dummy and get it finally paired down- scratched-dug deep- down to the heart of the story. 

I took 3 pictures in LA - 2 of which are of pina coladas.


Anonymous said...

WOW! Sounds like it was a great conference. Thanks for sharing all the details.

Laura Zarrin said...

Great post! Thank you so much!

Jill Bergman said...

Kelly- sorry we didn't get to talk more! I agree, E.B., Loren & Ashley were awesome!

Kelly Light said...

Jill- yes! I wish we did get to have dinner or lunch!!

Angela Matteson said...

Wowsers! You did a fantastic job of getting it all in there in one mega post! It's great hearing from the perspective of someone who has attended more of these.

It was so great meeting you, and I hope we have another chance to hang out soon...maybe next year. :)

Nina Crittenden said...

Wow. Great post, Kelly! Sounds like it was an amazing (and exhausting) experience. I can't wait to go sometime! And you are a Super Woman, indeed!!! :)

Gina Perry said...

Holy Submarines, Kelly! Thank you for your recap. Perhaps someday I'll enter that Thunderdome again. Super-human indeed! :)

sketched out said...

So witty and you sooooo captured the spirit of, at least for me, what was going on there. Love your portfolio showcase analogy as Thunder Dome. How apropos!
But your words afterward, as well as your song (hee hee) were the cooling, healing words I needed to hear!!!

Thanks for a wonderful post-con post!

Oh, and how awesome is it that 2 of your 3 photos were pina coladas! A goil after my own heart!