2004 SCBWI SUMMER CONFERENCE – ILLUSTRATOR NOTES

www.LaraLakshmi.com

 

There was a lot for illustrators at this conference. This page has my notes that apply specifically to illustrators, but the general conference notes page has some good information for illustrators, too.

 

Illustrators Yuyi Morales and Loren Long gave touching and funny acceptance speeches at the Golden Kite Luncheon on Sunday, and they are both amazingly down-to-earth, warm people to talk to.

 

Yuyi’s workshop, In the Beginning Were the Pictures: Creativity and the Illustration Process, had such good handouts that I failed to take any notes I can summarize here.

 

Loren had long lines at his book signing, because of his popularity and because he took the time to chat with and encourage each attendee who wanted books signed. He signed my copy of I Dream of Trains and added a small illustration. Below is my bookmark from Mr. Peabody’s Apples, which Loren graciously signed because I didn’t have the book with me.

 

 

I have notes from the following speakers – you can read them all or use these links to jump to specific talks:

  1. The Artist: A Work in Progress – G. Brian Karas
  2. ROUNDTABLE: Marketing for Illustrators – Katie Davis & Priscilla Burris
  3. An Editor Speaks to Illustrators – Kevin Lewis
  4. The How and Why of When and Where: Q & A with an Illustrator – Robert Sabuda

 

Enjoy!   ~Lara

 

MAIN SPEAKER

 

The Artist: A Work in Progress – G. Brian Karas

Friday, August 6, 4:30-5:30pm

 

(His one word was art.)

 

Member of SCBWI for 17 years. Wife Sue is an artist, too.

 

He feels his books look like they were illustrated by many different people. He feels this is inconsistent – to him, it looks like someone else did them. It’s okay because he takes the cue from the words of the author – a world created by words.

 

He was wearing a T-shirt that says INSECURITY under his suit jacket. He lives in Reinbeck, NY. Used to live in Phoenix. He has two sons, Zachary (9) and Bennett (15). Took three year old Ben to a Grateful Dead concert and gave him a camera to keep him busy. Learnt about POV from photos Ben took at the concert!

 

Illustrator must show what the words are saying, but must expand on it too. He showed us art from Cinder-Elly by Frances Minters, which he did on reused materials (envelopes, grocery bags, etc.) He also illustrated Sleepless Beauty and Princess Fishtail by the same author. For Princess Fishtail, Brian suggested surfer instead of sailor, and California instead of New York as the setting, and the author and editor agreed.

 

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WORKSHOPS

 

ROUNDTABLE: Marketing for Illustrators – Katie Davis & Priscilla Burris

Friday, August 6, 11:45am-12:45pm

 

(Katie’s one word was tater tots.)

 

Submit illustrator articles (around 1000 words) & spot illustrations to the SCBWI Bulletin.

 

Sources for preparing promotional mailers:

www.4over4.com

www.modernpostcard.com

www.clearbags.com

 

Meredith Johnson, illustrator, is a great marketer. Try to find out more about her promotional materials and plans.

 

Check out local girl scout groups or high schools for interns to help out with mailers.

 

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An Editor Speaks to Illustrators – Kevin Lewis

Saturday, August 7, 3:15-4:15pm

 

Kevin worked at:

Books of Wonder (famous NYC kids’ bookstore) – 1 yr

Scholastic Book Fairs – 1 yr

Simon & Schuster – 7 yrs

 

He is now executive editor at Blue Sky Press, an imprint of Simon & Schuster.

 

He feels illustrators are so crafty that we want him to think we are not smart!

 

He made the following points:

  1. To get work, know your stuff
  2. Make your art pay the bills
  3. By any means necessary
  4. Using an agent or not
  5. Aim low

 

  1. It’s very impressive to see someone who knows their stuff. For example, author-illustrator George O’Connor, who wrote Kapow!, is a wonderful graphic artist, and knows more about picture books than anyone Kevin knows. He’s worked seven years at Books of Wonder.
  2. Make the art pay the bills … For example, Caldecott winning illustrator Tony DiTerlizzi, The Spider and the Fly, was doing very popular magic cards well before picture books. Loren Long, illustrator of Madonna’s Mr. Peabody’s Apples, (won the 2004 Golden Kite award for I Dream of Trains), did greeting cards and lots of editorial illustrations. Kevin routinely finds artists from greeting cards and magazines. He found Kadir Nelson, illustrator of Salt in His Shoes: Michael Jordan in Pursuit of a Dream, from his basketball artwork.
  3. By any means necessary … You have to hustle. For example, Kevin’s colleague was doing a dry run of (wedding?) makeup, and the makeup artist said her boyfriend does picture books. Kevin met him, and discovered Tony DiTerlizzi. And he met Derek Anderson, illustrator of Little Quack, at a party, introduced by a church friend. Derek had samples in his pocket at a party!
  4. The agent question … Yes, you DO need an agent. Maybe represent yourself or have a spouse do it, but you need someone to speak on your behalf.
  5. Aim low … Submit to Assistant Editors and even Editorial Assistants.

 

 

On maintaining your career, he had the following five things to say:

  1. Make your own music.
  2. You’re the boss.
  3. Everything in moderation.
  4. Embrace change.
  5. Branch out.

 

  1. Make your own music … In Kevin’s book, Chugga Chugga Choo Choo, the illustrator, Daniel Kirk, created the idea of a toy train. His point is, be inventive and let your passion show. He likes to encourage illustrators to write. Look at Tuesday by David Wiesner for a great book with very few words. Or reinvent a copyright free work (like The Spider and the Fly).
  2. You’re the boss … Think of yourself as a company dealing with another company. He likes Jim Benton’s attitude, but of course, he was a millionaire before doing his first book, an illustrated novel.
  3. Everything in moderation … It’s the kiss of death for an illustrator to have three or four books in the same year. Kadir Nelson does this a little bit. He illustrated Please, Baby, Please by Spike Lee and Under the Christmas Tree by Nikki Grimes in the same year. Kevin feels the Christmas book was Kadir’s best work, but the book was mostly panned.
  4. Embrace change … Don’t be put out when an editor leaves; look at it as an opportunity. There is sometimes lots of animosity on all sides, but really work at it. You may end up knowing two editors well. For example, Kevin has two books with Alessandra Balzer, his new editor at Hyperion, and two with his old editor, now at Scholastic.  … He expects to see more illustrated novels, like Tony DiTerlizzi’s Spiderwick Chronicles. It’s a return to a classic way of writing. Got to be a good draftsman to do them, though – good pen and ink work. (He feels that Tony is GREAT at talking to kids, by the way.)
  5. Branch out … Hit the road, go on school tours. He remembers Tony DiTerlizzi singing the Sponge Bob Square Pants theme song standing on a chair! Illustrators can create magic – things we doodle are a delight to kids. Most “muggles” cannot do it! And schools pay well. … Meet booksellers. A signed book is a bought book. … If the publisher’s marketing is not up to par, do some yourself. Publicists can be based on a percentage cut fee. The biggest successes are self-published books.

 

Don’t follow trends – make your own. By the time something is a trend, it’s over.

 

Be visionaries!

 

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The How and Why of When and Where: Q & A with an Illustrator Robert Sabuda

Monday, August 9, 10:45-11:45am

 

Astonishingly successful pop-up book creator, studied at the Pratt Institute in NY. Was a summer intern at Dial Books for Young Readers. In the early days, he did freelance design, including bra box package design for JC Penney!

 

Most important advice: you have to be very steely to be in this industry: nerves of steel, very thick skin, confidence in your work – realistic confidence, being aware of your faults and high points.

 

He did his first book for Putnam at age 22, using cut blocks of linoleum. His advice from that project – give your work your best.

 

About color reproduction in print, colors usually look duller than the original. His books don’t use process magenta or yellow. He uses Rhodimine Red and Fluorescent Yellow A09, which is printed last in the press. This yellow can sometimes appear too bright.

 

He is a member of the Movable Book Society, which has a US conference every second year in late September. The 2004 conference was in San Diego, and they were expecting 75-100 attendees, including lots of paper engineers, and featuring David Carter, the famous creator of several Bug pop-up books. The Society is about 10 years old.

 

About creating Saint Valentine, a story which didn’t have a lot of historical facts to work from, Robert says that you some times have to “fake it” and show you know it. He says, “Make your own bull and take it by the horns!”

 

He feels one needs to be steely with your editor, art director and agent.

 

About sending stuff to publishers, he notes that no one is going to steal your idea, because it’s cheaper to have you do it. “My stove has a lot of burners” is the approach he recommends, so you are not idly waiting for responses from publishers.

 

About finding a literary agent or artist’s rep, he suggests talking to people to find out about their experiences before picking one. Agents are useful for negotiating escalators on royalties and certain foreign rights.

 

His favorite illustrators are:

(He didn’t mention book names – these are my additions to the notes.)

  1. Ed Young, Caldecott winner for Lon Po Po: A Red-Riding Hood Story from China and author of many other books.
  2. Tomie de Paola, author of The Legend of Old Befana and many, many more books.
  3. Maurice Sendak, most famous for Where the Wild Things Are.
  4. Mercer Mayer, creator of the Little Critter character and numerous humorous books.
  5. Barbara Cooney, 1959 and 1979 Caldecott medal winner and illustrator of Miss Rumphius and many other books.

 

He suggests making your promotional material stand out in some way.

 

Remember this is NOT a fine arts field.

 

About self-publishing – it will not serve you best, except if you are trying to create a promotional piece. There are many drawbacks: 2500 books stored in your house to sell – the realities are labor-intensive. No reviews. He definitely dissuades it, and feels you are better off working on your craft.

 

About submissions for a novelty book, he recommends keeping in mind what happens when the submission is received: publisher opens it, flips through it, and if he likes it, shows it to other people at the house. So, the piece should be well-manufactured – it can’t fall apart with handling.

 

About a portfolio for an unpublished illustrator – it should contain only one consistent style, based on a strong, solid technique. Display excellent drawing, color and composition skills. Most of your time should be spent on your craft, not on promotions.

 

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Thanks for visiting! ~Lara

www.LaraLakshmi.com