Sunday, January 31, 2010

SCBWI Annual Conference

After a weekend at this year's Society for Children's Book Writers and Illustrators annual NYC winter conference, I am feeling the creative spirit in spades. Surrounded by 1,047 attendees who range from the aspiring to the accomplished, the conversation at the conference provides insights into the creative process and offers many opportunities to connect with other writers and illustrators. As always, conference organizer and children's book author Lin Oliver never fails to deliver an energetic and humorous opening speech, so I couldn't help but accost her for a photo op. In a lively key note speech, YA novelist Libba Bray, fresh off of winning the Michael Printz award, aptly encouraged attendees to open a whole conversation through their work.
Indeed, it was a weekend of conversation. In one of the breakout sessions, I had the good fortune to sit next to award-winning children's book author Jane Yolen and her daughter, author Heidi Yolen Stemple, where we chatted about a wide range of topics from the evolving book industry to road trips with children. Yolen's recent book The Scarecrow Dance not only features beautiful images, it is a meaningful message presented in well-crafted verse, which was coincidentally scribbled down by Yolen during an earlier writers' conference. Yolen and I discussed the role of the new media platforms like Twitter and Facebook as a means of creating the author's persona and generating interest in his or her work. During the session, Simon and Schuster's art director Laurent Linn provided a fascinating analysis of illustration, comparing traditional paintings against the visual narratives of picture books. For instance, did you know that illustrations for picture books 'read' from left to right? Makes perfect sense.
At lunch, author and poet Jacqueline Woodson gave a great reading of her Newberry Honor book Show Way, the poetic retelling of her family history from slavery to segregation to freedom marches, and ultimately to her own daughter's life. I had heard Woodson read before at the Ethnic Pen Poetry conference in Bayshore a couple of years ago, and it was a treat to hear her read again.
The SCBWI conference wrapped up today with two more key note speeches-- one by Jim Benton and the other by Jane Yolen. Benton chronicled his career from screening tee shirts to television, proving that a great illustration and a clever wit can bring an illustrious career. And to end with the inspiring speech by Yolen brought the conference full circle.
I could go on and on, but in the end, it's time for me to get back to my own creative process.

2 comments: said...

Just to keep the record straight and not make it sound as if I wrote the book in a rush:

I actually only scribbled down the first verse of SCARECROW'S DANCE at a conference. Though it's true that particular verse changed little over the life of writing the rest.

The writing of the rest of the book took about a year. Then it went to about fifteen publishers,all of whom turned it down. Five revisions for the editor who finally bought it. Then it was gorgeously illustrated.

The thing authors try to do is make the work look and sound effortless. But years went into the making of this particular picture book!


Nadine @ BDG said...

Oh I do hope that I didn't minimize the effort nor the sheer talent that went into your magnificent book. I am amazed that it wasn't recognized immediately!
And to let you know, last night I sat with my ten year old and my six year old and we read the book together-- twice! It was a lovely way to end a Sunday night.
Thank you so much for your insights into the makings of this book. Best, Nadine