Only at a SCBWI conference is it normal to play a game of Exquisite Corpse while waiting for your order at Maggiano’s Little Italy.
It was thus that I spent this past Saturday night in Chicago surrounded by a group of equally talented and likeminded artists fully engaged in the classic Surrealist parlor game. The amalgamation of our unique drawing styles represented to me exactly why I spent both time and money to be at my first regional conference. It was not only to hone my craft but to collaborate with the other writers and illustrators from five different states, to share my knowledge and to learn from their expertise.
Above left: just packing the weekend necessities. Above middle: posing at the Friday night fair-themed party with my Iowa illustrator crew. Above right: my debut picture book for sale at the conference bookstore.
Now a few days later, I am still processing the wealth of information I acquired in a span of only three days. But if anything is certain, it is that I left Chicago with a clearer understanding of how I need to productively spend the next 12 months as a newly published illustrator and aspiring author.
Here are my biggest takeaways:
From a portfolio critique with Debbie Ohi
Include more obviously sequential artwork
Vary the angle of my compositions (consider close up shots, distance, etc.)
Add more emotional variety to characters’ facial expressions
Check the consistency of characters profiles from different angles. Practice character sketches.
From an art demonstration with John Parro
Start with your character first, then build the environment around her.
Consider what about your character’s expression will draw readers in.
From organizational guru, Ruth Spiro
Start with a mission statement as an artist. Ask, what do I aim to accomplish this year? What are my areas of focus?
Consider your work from a micro and macro level. What is this year about? What is this day about? What is this moment about?
Take advantage of small moments to get work done. And when you do find time to work, treat that work like it’s your full time job, even if it isn’t.
From author Carrie Pearson
There is no such thing as luck in the publishing world. There is serendipity though. Serendipity is when opportunity meets preparedness.
In order to find your agent match, first consider three things, your work, your offline presence, and your online presence.
Ideally, you need 3 to 5 manuscripts ready to go before you query for an agent.
Ultimately, I’ve decided that this is the year that I focus on creating. I got a taste of sweet serendipity when I signed my first book contract just a year ago without an agent, but I realize now that I cannot seek another opportunity to publish unless I take the time to prepare. For the next 12 months I plan to spend my energies not actively finding an agent, but honing my craft. I want to polish the two manuscripts I have already, write at least one more and create professional-looking dummy books for each story. In order to do so, I’m going to be more cognizant of what I say ‘yes’ to and not be afraid to pass up opportunities that don’t directly relate to my goal of producing the kind of work I need to build a strong portfolio as an illustrator and author.
But I’ll never say ‘no’ to another game of Exquisite Corpse!