Conference Re-Cap through Octo-Pus in Boots!

This weekend at NESCBWI Conference ’12 was incredible. I had a wonderful time visiting with everyone. Reconnecting with old friends and getting to meet a few folks face to face for the first time after being long time twitter friends.

Some of these wonderful people kindly gave me their interpretations of Octo-Pus in Boots check out the contributions received at this conference!

Ruth Sanderson


Sean Bixby


Andy J. Smith


Dan Yaccarino


Ernie D’Elia


Jane Yolen decided she needed to show the illustrators how it’s done. She broke in with a poem about Octo-Pus in Boots.


Nina Crittenden


Kristin Sorra


Jennifer E. Morris


Hazel Mitchell


Harry Bliss


Russ Cox


Greg Matusic


Brian Lies


Dan Moynihan


Thank you everyone who drew and Octo-Pus in Boots for me! I love them all. You rock!

Next time I will be sure to bring a better camera than my phone.



What a weekend!

My trip to NYC started Wednesday and ended Sunday night. I was able to visit friends, have a portfolio review in a publishing house and spend intensive time at the National SCBWI Conference. Every day was packed from early morning until late or even early morning, every night. I seem to have survived on mash potatoes served up in a glass and jamba juice smoothies, with perhaps 23 hours of sleep in total. My body is telling me how it feels today about my weekend choices. However, I am telling my body to suck it up because this Monday does not bring me relief from projects due. That is another story, lets get to the good stuff from the weekend.

Wednesday: I visited with friends, Alison Morris and Gareth Hinds. I got to see the inked pages of Gareth’s latest graphic novel, Romeo & Juliet. They are stunning! He goes all out for every project. I can’t believe the task he has put himself to. For the evening we stayed up watching Jim Gaffigan, talking about the books we love, and postage stamps.

Thursday: I had a portfolio appointment at a publishing house in the afternoon. So, I took my time in the morning making one stop at the Society of Illustrators to see the Illustrators 54: Book & Editorial Show. It was great to see illustrations from Sophie Blackall who I would hear speak over the weekend. During the evening I was able to meet many of the SCBWI Illustrator Coordinators and Regional Advisors. Everyone was extremely welcoming. I am very happy to be a part of the SCBWI family. It is wonderful to be able give back through my position as Illustrator Coordinator of New England.

Friday, Saturday and Sunday were the conference. It was more than incredible as always. As I look back at the faculty there was such great representation for illustrators. The topic I want to showcase is the Book Maker’s Dozen Panel on Sunday. Moderated by Laurent Linn the answers given by the illustrators provided helpful tips about their work, their process, and how they get it done while still having a family. It was inspiring and encouraging to know it is possible to get everything done; you really do just have to give up sleep.

After the panel and wonderful final keynote by Kathryn Erskine it was autograph party time. My search for more Octo-Puss in Boots continued. I failed to bring my book with me but, after a smart suggestion from a friend I realized I should use my current sketchbook. I could secure the pages into the real book with photo corners. They are now safe and sound in the tome.

I love the new entires! With one that is a totally new concept on the idea. Octopus tentacles for whiskers from Roxie Munro. Check out the incredibly creative entries from the illustrators themselves.

Ryan Hipp

Leeza Hernandez

Brett Helquist

Roxie Munro

David Gordon

Aileen Leijten

Sergio Ruzzier

Peter Brown

Thank you to all the illustrators that gave my a sketch!

My weekend ended in calm. I made sure to give myself a few hours between the conference end and my train ride home. I was able to get dinner with friends AJ and Lumi. We discussed what happened over the weekend and talked about the plans for their wedding in Romania.

I had hoped to work on my train ride home but, with so much having happened over the weekend I needed time to reflect. Four hours of quiet to myself was a perfect end to an amazing weekend.

These are my personal views and do not reflect the views or opinions of the SCBWI.

Octopus in Boots the Sketchbook

For those of you that remember this prompt started with David Hyde Costello last September. He was offering a small painting with each of his signed books at the Carle last year. I told Matt he should pick what we got and he loves to come up with something outside the usual. Octopus in Boots was his idea.
Six months later we went to MoCCA where we learned our friend gets a drawing of her dog or a dog made by all of her favorite artists. The idea hooked us and our goal is to fill a sketchbook with as many artists interpretations as there are pages.
I feel pretty lucky because I was around some AMAZING artists all weekend when at the LA SCBWI National Conference. Check out what they drew!

First to make some lines were my two fabulous roommates
Diandra Mae
Diandra Mae

Angela Matteson
Angela Matteson

My favorite doodler!

Ruth McNally Barshaw

Then Ms. Kathy and Ms. Kelly my fellow conference gals.
Kathy Blackmore
Kathy Blackmore

Kelly Light
Kelly Light

Winner’s from the portfolio showcase!
Christina Forshay
Christina Forshay

John Deiniger
John Deiniger

Eliza Wheeler
Eliza Wheeler

A lovely illustrator all the way from Australia!
Sarah Davis
Sarah Davis

Yep that’s right, I asked Kadir if he would draw one for me. He was all alone at his signing table. . .
Kadir Nelson
Kadir Nelson

Another fellow conference gal!
Linda Silvestri
Linda Silvestri

The most patient illustrator I’ve met, hand building through stitching, felting, and gluing each illustration over 2 weeks to a month!
Salley Mavor
Salley Mavor

A very hip chick with the same hair cut as me and a talent for woodcut printing.
Erin O'Shea
Erin O’Shea

Thank you, you talented people you! I love my sketchbook of wonderful!

My 1st National LASCBWI Conference Experience

All right, I just have to “vomit this out”* but you readers are lucky. You won’t have to read my first draft, I will edit it before I publish.

To say this conference was eye opening is an understatement. To say this conference was amazing is an understatement. The National LA conference is a room filled with all the love, trust, experience, honesty, loyalty, support, and determination you can ever imagine from a group of creative people who live and breath making books for children. The passion levels were higher than any concert I have ever been too. The intensity was on par with witnessing history. I was moved to tears more than once, not just by heart wrenching stories but, also all by the love and support emanating from over 1300 people as they cheered on the masters of the trade. This was a conference worth traveling half way around the world to.

And there were people from all over the world. I met folks from Australia to Israel. There are lists of people I need to include here but I am only going to include some, check out SCBWI’s official site for full details of everyone present.

Jon Scieszka is crazy. Really, for people not in children’s publishing he is like Bill Murray except 100 times more radical. The thing he said that was funniest to me was “3 to 4 year-olds are like Alzheimer patients on acid”

Kadir Nelson a god among men with his ability to capture human emotion through masterful rendering and color palette. I found him ALL ALONE at the book signing. Having not had a session or speech yet, many hadn’t learned who he is. I should have tweeted then calling over anyone not paying attention. However, I was too busy taking full advantage of this and spent a fan girl amount of time with him. He was incredibly polite with every answer being “that’s fine” said in the most proper polite tone.

David Small, for me was the most moving of all keynote speakers. His memoir, Stitches, is deeply emotional. Recalling a childhood not made of love. His presentation covered that part of his life and the present. I believe the amount of love that exists in his life now makes up for what came before. At the end of his keynote we were all sailing on love. Lin Oliver wrapped it up perfectly saying “There is hope on the other side of pain.”

Ruth McNally Barshaw a marvelous doodler. The first children’s blog I started following many a year ago was hers. I love the way she captures her experiences in moleskin after moleskin. Her talent was recognized and she has the delightful series Ellie McDoodle. I am over the moon that after meeting her at this conference I am now a part of one of her sketchbooks.

My main co-conspirators of the conference, Kelly Light, Diandra Mae, Angela Matteson, and Kathy Blackmore.

Also often part of the action were, Anna Boll, Linda Silvestri, Jim Hill, Bonnie Adamson, and
Ruth McNally Barshaw.

I ran into fellow suburbanite of Boston, Carlyn Beccia! We did parlor tricks at the pj party, palm reading from her and dancing the worm from me (you will have to find us at the next conference).

I have one more big thing to say that is rather serious. Before we get there here are the conference sketches I am willing to show. I allowed myself to make bad sketches throughout this conference just to keep my juices flowing, so most are never to see the light of day again. However, it was a great exercise.

People that can speak their opinions without letting their emotions overrule their rational are so smart. They are the people that can truly bring about change and should be the leaders of our world. Because when you are talking about the betterment of our planet you need to keep your head. Donna Jo Napoli, Bruce Coville and Laurie Halse Anderson are masters of this gift. They are magnificently insightful and present clear and intelligent arguments as to why keeping books with tough subjects from children is a mistake and why librarians should be higher valued members of our society. They don’t use fear to make their points or put down the voices against them. They simply state their case. What greater case than children are our future and they are only as capable as the powers we present them with through their communities. We do them an injustice by not providing them with the most powerful tools to achieve the brightest of futures.**

*Bruce Coville on getting your first draft down repeated many times by Lin Oliver and Henry Winkler locking it into my memory.

**I have put what I felt their point was into my own words. So if there is any discrepancy between what I said and what they feel that is on me.

Conference Recap

This conference got me jazzed. In the past couple of years I have left the conference rather deflated. I have felt I had so much farther to go. However, I feel like real progress has been made-that I can see where I am going and am closing in on reaching my goals. In the long run, it could still be many more years before anything comes. Never the less, I believe that my persistence will pay off. Hence, I am excited.

I believe a huge part of my excitement are the illustrators & writers I connected with or finally got a chance to hang out and talk to. To name a few:

Melinda Beavers
Katia Wish
Anindita Sempere
Kat Black
Anna J. Boll

I know I am leaving people off but this list could go on and on, folks you are all so amazing, inspiring, and supportive. Thank you for participating and making SCBWI one of the greatest communities of people I have ever known.

As always this conference was non-stop. There was an incredible number of amazing speakers that participated at this milestone conference, Jane Yolen, Lin Oliver, Tomi DePaola, Harold Underdown, Heidi Stemple, Steve Mooser, Sue Burgess and the list goes on.

Including four people that came together for the Advanced Illustrator Academy,
Dani Jones, John Lechner, Kerry Martin, and Nicole Tugeau. They deserve rounds and rounds of applause as they went above and beyond for our group. To accommodate the 5 conference keynotes the Sunday intensive sessions had to lose an hour. We managed to meet for an hour Saturday to make up some time but we still needed more. Working through Sunday lunch(they still had the food too) and door prize announcements they tirelessly critiqued every attendee’s website leaving everyone with excellent information with how to improve their sites.

The day was not without humor. Along with time constraints we also went through 3 projectors. Nothing broke we just had to switch a few times for varying reasons. Despite these seemingly major issues everything ran smoothly. I thank all of the attendees and faculty for hanging together and working through the troubles. It is this flexibility that is going to help us embrace the new possibilities of digital media.

As it was said again and again, publishing is changing, as is the world. We have a new tool within the digital realm. There is much to be learned and together we will find the best new ways to make stories, hopefully accessible to even more children.

Conference Recap

Last weekend’s NESCBWI conference was amazing. I left feeling I had personally achieved more than in previous years. My personal focus for this conference was to improve upon my portfolio. I did as many activities as were possible to get other professionals to give feedback.

First was a peer critique lead by David Hyde Costello. He set up, in the fashion of speed dating, one on one portfolio speed critiques. All the participants sat at separate tables in pairs and then took 6 minutes to check out and critique each other’s portfolios. In our 55 minute session we were able to have 8 different people give advice on our work. I want this session to be a Friday staple year after year from now on. I am hoping next years conference picks it up and/or David agrees to run it again.

Then I had a one on one critique with an Art Director. I was terribly nervous going in, it isn’t much different from a job interview, basically because it is! However, it went very well. I got a good response on my less tight art style and feel more confident in pursuing this style and have new pieces in mind.

By Sunday I had eliminated 4 pieces from my portfolio and could see it was a stronger representation of my work, which was just in time for another brief critique by two Illustrator Academy faculty, Ann Stott and Matt Phelan. It went well and it sparked a thought that I have two looks to my work, the hand drawn and the vector digital. I link this with each being created with separate hands. So, my future endeavor is to set up my online portfolio to represent left and right hand studios. Keep a look out for the update.

My other focus for the conference was organizing the Illustrator Academy, bringing together Ann Stott-Art Director/Candlewick, Yolanda Scott(new name!)-Editor/Charlesbridge, and author/illustrators David Hyde Costello and Matt Phelan, for the theme-the process of making a book with an author/illustrator. In our slotted four hours we filled and smoothly went through three activities and two presentations. Thank you faculty, this all came together because of your enthusiasm and talent!

We started the session with an ice breaker, finding out that many attendees keep bizarre things in their freezers-dead animals not meant for consumption! Then Ann and Matt continued on with their presentation. Their relationship is Art Director to author/illustrator and writer to illustrator. Ann has written two books(Always and the other coming soon) and was able to see Matt illustrate them. The conference was the first time they met face to face. Matt talked about his process on Storm in the Barn, he begins writing getting that completely finished then he moves to the illustrations. His method comes from illustrating books for other writers. He sees himself as Matt the writer, then he feels free to be Matt the illustrator. Ann brought our two dummy books paired with their finished books from two illustrators that work from start to finish in completely different manners. Showing the gap between the ways in which you can put together a book.

Our three activities were a writing/illustrating exercise led by David, portfolio reviews, then a review of homework. I hope all the attendees felt they received good feedback.

Sandwiching the activities we had Yo and David wrap up the Academy with their presentation and show. Their current project together is David’s book, Little Pig Joins the Band. They took us through their humorous journey to its almost completed stage. We saw how they joined forces, his original dummy, and then how his text and illustrations changed at the same time to reach its current stage. With a few last thoughts they realized the best way to finish explaining the process of the author/illustrator was in a song. Their final performance gave a dashing touch, which earned them a standing ovation.

In the end we realize there is no right or wrong way to write a book, as unique as all of us our, so too are our processes. Although, I do believe there is no better guide than an incredible editor or art director to help guide you on your journey. It was beautiful to see the passion that Yo and Ann had for the growth in the art of David and Matt. We thank you for sharing this excellent information with us all. It was a pleasure to work with all of them for this Academy.

As a conference is a brilliant way to network and other networking tools exist for the in between times. Twitter is my new favorite. Throughout the conference I posted numerous pics, some behind the scenes ukulele playing! and now I am keeping up with some tweeps I met: @melinabeavers, @danidraws, and @johnlechner to name a few. Check out who I follow to learn about more amazing publishing people.

Here are some other blog links of recaps of this conference:
Smells Like Crayons
Guide to Literary Agents
And from our Conference Co-Director Anindita, her own collection of blog recaps!

Poster for Conference

Lucien copy

My time recently has been wrapped up in moving and preparing for the annual New England SCBWI conference. The conference is this weekend! I am very excited to get there, see old friends, and be engrossed in publishing. The piece above is my contribution to the poster showcase for “Moments of Change”.

Once I am back from the conference I will give an update on our move, with pictures of the new studio space, which is much more inspiring. It is above ground, with walls of windows, and filled with plants. I am so much happier in our new space. Good things are here, life is good!

Completion of Stamps

Over the summer the only vacation resort I managed to get to was the Wii Sports Resort. I learned how to fly a plane and visited all of the suggested sights. As well as said hello to all the people on the island by popping their balloons, it made them happy, really, they jumped up and down for joy. Tonight I completed my fifth and final stamp for my flight training and I am honestly happy to have this finished and behind me. It was a lot of fun but, that goal was hanging over my head. This is why I don’t play a lot of games, I get way too serious about them. I have a desperate need to finish what I start.

Other more meaningful goals and projects I have had recently were also completed today. In the wee hours of the morning I finished Bram Stoker’s Dracula, one of the 100 Books on the Everyone Should Read List I found at the beginning of summer. Since I found the list I have been reading every night after I finish drawing to chill out before bed. Finishing Dracula marks my 33rd book off the list. The next book I am going to read is a derivation from the 100 list, Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential, I am jazzed to start this book.

My final goal finished today was signing up all four faculty members for the SCBWI New England Annual Spring Conference Illustrator Academy. Everyone is excited and ready to get to work planning the day. For now I am not going to reveal anything more about who or what.

Now to work on painting “I Love You Every Second”

Awesome Conference

After a years worth of work, back and forth emails, and phone calls a fantastic conference was held in Nashua NH. This was the annual Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) New England (NE) conference and my first conference aiding in the organization. My main task was gathering the faculty and then helping them to organize the day for the Illustrator Academy (IA), an intensive for participating illustrators. Anna Boll started this new tradition the year before, but was a little too busy running the whole conference this year to organize the IA too. We illustrators are very happy it is becoming an integral part of the conference, so much so we even had representation from Florida. NE is potentially becoming a home base for illustrators.

Our faculty this year include Chad Beckerman, Phil Falco, Gareth Hinds, and Anne Sibley O’Brien. The focus was the graphic novel. We learned that the graphic novel is a beautiful art form, with a limitless definition, and a load of work. It takes a dedicated soul to create one. As well as requiring you to have a story which is truly best told in this format. Every faculty spoke to the class, we had an in-class assignment, and a critique of that assignment and the homework assignment. We packed the day as full as we could. Four hours just wasn’t enough time. However, I feel certain that the majority of our class was happy with our program. Personally, I got good feed back about my assignments and I look forward to continuing on them.

For the over all conference I was ill prepared to represent myself. I had a poster in the showcase. Although, I am very happy with the piece, I know it wasn’t the strongest piece for the topic. The idea came out rather institutional. Even still “it felt like breathing” when I was working on the piece. I had only the midnight hours to work on this painting and I never felt tired.

Watercolor was the medium of choice. Recently I have been using watercolor for all of my finished work, even though in the past I have used only colored pencils. This isn’t to say I am intending to abandon my colored pencil art. At present it is nice to have a speedier way to create.

I think both ways of coloring my work are showing up as me and both are fun for me. They have a similar feel to their finish. However, the watercolor has a looseness that I can’t achieve with colored pencil. My greatest desire is to be looser with my art. When I sketch, lines are every where there is activity within my sketch. I don’t think that is transferring over completely to my color work.

When I get to color I want full body saturation, with colored pencil you have to draw for layers and layers to get this. For watercolor my training taught me a strange way to begin, it calls for only glazing ontop of a shaded under painting. The only colors that were taught to me were Alizarin Crimson, Prussian Blue and Cadmium Yellow, so that is where the majority of my exploration has been. There is a full rainbow of colors out there I want to try them all and see how they work together.

Which leads to my other problem. With colored pencils I can layer color on top of color. You can’t do this forever in watercolor, you end with mud. I know how to not do that but, I have this feeling there is a better medium for me to work in. The next step, try out what I think will work. Talk to you after some experimenting!