I am back from a 4 day trip to Florida. I attended the SCBWI Florida regional conference.
Each step I take towards this goal of being a children’s book illustrator changes me. One year ago this month I took Elizabeth Sayles’ portfolio class at SVA. Since then, not only has my work changed for the better, but so have I. Every time I show my work, it’s with more confidence. Every-time I meet an editor or agent or art director or established illustrator , my hand is no longer shaking before I shake theirs.. but it practically has a mind of it’s own now, shaking the other hand enthusiastically. Instead of the nervous nausea this weekend..I was excited. I wanted to get out there and experience the exchange of work and ideas.
As I boarded the Magical Express bus to the Coronado Springs – “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart makes” was playing. -I love this song.
“A dream is a wish your heart makes
When you’re fast asleep
In dreams you lose your heartaches
Whatever you wish for, you keep
Have faith in your dreams and someday
Your rainbow will come smiling thru
No matter how your heart is grieving
If you keep on believing
the dream that you wish will come true”
That moment was the first of a long weekend full of great moments. Off the plane – I rushed to Down Town Disney to meet my college roommate Sara Au, the author of Stress Free potty Training. I got to spend time with her 2 kids, who are beyond cute.
That evening, I met an email friend face to face. Through my BNL artwork, I have gotten to know a woman who works for Disney. I had the BEST time getting to chat face to face with her. We have so much in common and she was kind to offer to pass along my work to the Disney folks for consideration. Then we went to the “Adventurers’ Club”- an amazing improv-interactive show that starred her husband as the dashing explorer. He slid down a long ladder from ceiling to floor as an entrance- whew-impressive, and he can seriously arch an eyebrow,I wonder if you can get an eyebrow cramp? -It was great fun, and I hope to have made a new friend.
The next morning the conference started. It was the “Illustrators Intensive”. The group was small, but that made it an intimate experience. The 2 illustrators leading the day were Linda Schute and Janeen Mason. Janeen is the Illustrator coordinator for the FL SCBWI. She is a force of nature. Linda, yin to Janeen’s yang is quietly inspirational. It was a good match. Janeen’s work is bold and colorful and exuberant, Linda’s elegant and insightful. They were both possessive of the rare talent to critique without criticism. Giving each person a kernel of hope, a direction to go in and a pat on the back. The work of the artists was diverse and the level of experience varied, but everyone was eager to offer what they could to each other. There were 3 participants that impacted me, I believe her name was Danielle, she was from Belgium and brought a complete book dummy of originals. -She was tuned in to a very different frequency than I, her art was amazing. Susan, who has her first book published full of gorgeous realistic watercolors. And Kathy – a former Disney Feature Animator, who I had an awful lot in common with. She’s new to this world of Illustration, kind of where I was last year, but look out!- she’s gonna make her mark!
We were given the time to redraw our name tags on the spot, which is what is up above. I thought nothing of it, but I was told, the water color sketchy-ness was a look to pursue, instead of the slick digital painting I have been doing. The comments made that stuck with me are,”I can’t believe you’re not already published” and “Throw out your computer”. ….. I won’t break up with it, but I will tell it, we need some space.
I hear from my Mother in Law that when you enter the airport in Israel there is a big sign that says “Welcome Home” – and as a jewish person, that is what she felt. Well… that’s how I feel when I go to Disney. When the soles of my shoes hit the cobble stones of Main Street USA… I’m the happiest person on earth. I went to the Magic Kingdom Friday night. I rode the Haunted Mansion, Small World and Splash Mountain- my three favorite rides. I watched the parade and cried like a fool when I thought it’s been 30 years since I my first trip here. I stood watching the parade go by across from the Country Bear Jamboree and flashed back to how I felt at 7, how that’s exactly how I feel now, full of possibility.
Saturday was filled with breakout sessions. One about pacing and word sounds, which tellingly, I did not do well at, I drew pictures. – Need work at writing. I went to a “How to deal with rejection” session with an editor from Putnam, which had a lot of good info. There was a writer Lisa McCourt- who was a dynamo. The three read first pages and gave immediate critiques which were on the money.
Then @ 5:30 I had a one on one to show my book dummy. Mind you, my book dummy is only 4 spreads done. I have notes and sketches and research but, I showed it as is, to get an inkling if it was as good as I suspect(hope) it is. From the cover , to the end of my brief schpiel; the critiquer – loved it. I heard “It’s the best thing I’ve seen here.” – That was a moment. So, I need to finish this dummy soon and get it into the Editor.
This trip, I had drinks and lunch and dinner with great people, got to stroll thru the Happiest Place on Earth – shopped like a tourist – and came away from this trip feeling more encouraged and hopeful (and tired…). It’s really about the journey – and enjoying the ride, and like the rides at the Magic Kingdom, there’s wonder, thrills, surprises – you may get soaked once in a while, but all in all – get on the ride… no matter how long the wait on line – because it’s worth it.