Below are my personal experiences during the SCBWI Winter Conference in NYC. Beyond recommending that you work hard to get your money’s worth, I’m not offering any advice, just recounting my time. Do with it what you will. J
JET LAG up the wazoooooo
Just came from New Zealand, was home for 36 hours, and then headed to New York for the conference. My internal clock was on the fritz. Tried to go to sleep at midnight EST, ended up awake, staring at the ceiling at 5am. Needless to say, the next morning, I was not bright-eyed and bushy tailed.
This sold out intensive began with a live interview of Tomie De Paola about the importance of composition, a topic that woke me right up out of my jet-lagged stupor. Being a visual person, I especially appreciated the accompanying powerpoint presentations with Tomie’s work illustrating each point he was making. The other speakers were engaging as well, but I don’t remember them as clearly, since their topics weren’t as pressing for me.
Live critique of WIPs
After the break, an editor (Arthur Levine of Arthur Levine Books at Scholastic), an agent (Holly McGhee of Pippin Properties), and an art director (Melissa Manlove of Chronicle Books) all critiqued illustrators’ art on the fly, as our images were projected on the screen. My submission was chosen to speak about, and I didn’t hear a single negative word about it. Arthur Levine claimed it had “European sensibilities.” (ooo la laa!) and that it was telling that the first two rounds of remarks had gone by and not one person had asked why the dinosaur was doing yoga, which meant that the image had done its job successfully.
In the next phase of the intensive, participants were made to sit around large tables at which one faculty member would individually review each participants’ “homework” assignment. Which was to illustration a scene from Snow White. He said mine was a good start, and that I needed to do another round with more cohesively themed details, but that would come in the editing process. So nothing bad about the art itself. Wow!
In fact, Arthur even sought my portfolio out to review the next day at the portfolio showcase (he didn’t throw a contract in my face or anything, but it was still a step in the right direction!)
Faculty Party (to which I was not invited)
That night, SCBWI threw a faculty party for which they invited all the local agents, editors and art directors. All the Illustrators’ Intensive participants were allowed to leave their portfolios out for review by the partygoers. I wasn’t allowed to attend, but boy, did I want to see what they thought of my portfolio! All I know is that they must have liked it, because I didn’t have a single postcard left by the time I was allowed to pick up my portfolio after the party! (The number of postcards left after a show is the only way to gauge what people thought of your work, as comments and critiques are no longer part of the process. So for the cards to have all disappeared before the other attendees even had a chance to take any was a VERY, very good sign.)
Lest I sound too much like a braggart, you should know that there were awkward moments too: Trying to get to know an agent I’d been researching and just getting nowhere (more on that in another post); knowing so few people at the gala party that it was hard to get introductions to other people so they didn’t think I was just a weirdo showing up and introducing myself; eating lunch by myself because I wasn’t included in any groups’ plans. I did feel like a “new girl,” trying to navigate preexisting groups of friends. It was definitely tiring, since I am not a robust extrovert. But, the rest of the conference was spent getting inspired by authors and illustrators who had “made it to the big time” and solidifying fledgling friendships, and I left having gained experience and a little fact time, so all in all, it was probably a worthwhile expenditure IF those funds are readily available. AKA, this “fun” trip was NOT cheap, so I’d recommend really forcing yourself beyond your comfort zone during the conference to make the most of the investment.