Monday, February 18, 2013

Lessons from the SCBWI winter conference – be bold, avoid discouragement, let go of the outcome

I am so so happy that I was able to attend this years SCBWI winter conference, with incredibly inspiring speakers who shook my mind up and planted some beautiful ideas. It was an overwhelming experience and will take some time to let all the information sink in, but I would like to share a couple of thoughts that especially stayed with me:

Shaun Tan talks about meta style (photo by Debbie Ohi)

Shaun Tan’s idea of a meta style or deep style that comes from who you are and how you think more so than the way you draw or type of medium you use got me inspired to have more confidence in my way of solving a problem in my art and to take risks. Shaun Tan also shared his practice of creating a „bubble of delusion“, which you should carefully construct around yourself to give yourself time and space to keep critics voices out and allow yourself to be able to be creative.

Surround yourself with encouraging people, avoid discouragement.

In his second lecture, Shaun Tan spoke of internal migration, the journey within your mind rather than to exotic places, that will allow you to find inspiration in the smallest details. He pointed out that the world we live in is exotic, and we forget that. Artists work against this blindness, and show the „weirdness of the world“. He also shared that to him the truths that can’t be spoken about, can’t be communicated through words, are the most interesting. He said that in his stories he is not telling a story but setting the stage for the reader to come in and „do the thinking on his behalf“. I loved this.

I brought my copy of "The Rabbits" from Germany, now it has a beautiful drawing by Shaun Tan in it! :)

Barbara McClintock shared several bold moves in her career, e.g. how she cold-called Maurice Sendak to ask him how she could become an illustrator, or how she approached her agent to suggest a project to illustrate Natalie Merchant’s CD „Leave your Sleep“. Her advice was to

be bold

voice what you want and

keep trying.

David Ezra Stein shared a poetic metaphorical story about working yourself through an inspirational block and balancing your inner artist with your inner critic. He seconded the lessons the first speakers offered and added another two that I will definitely take to heart:

David Ezra Stein and his "inner artist" (photo by Debbie Ohi)
Take care of yourself.


Let go of the outcome.  

I loved his suggestion of putting a block in form of a question and then letting go of control.

Mo Willems finished the conference with a „step-by-step guide to writing a successful children’s book“. One of his remarks that might seem self-explanatory but rang very true to me was:

The writer should be invisible.

He also encouraged us to have big dreams, aim to have our work change the world, and, most importantly, write and illustrate books that will be some kid’s best friend.

listening to legendary Tomie dePaola

As I said, these are just a few excerpts from the many wonderful speakers we got to listen to. Throughout the tightly-packed conference there was still a little bit of time to meet writers and illustrators from all over the world, catch up with fellow mentees, meet the legendary Tomie dePaola at the illustrator’s social and look at the amazing portfolios at the portfolio showcase.

supercool mentee "band" photo by Debbie Ohi

And then, on top of all these fantastic experiences, I won the grand prize for my portfolio, what a huge honor! I was shaky with happiness and humbled by all the talented people around me! JessixaBagley and Lori Nichols were also honored for their portfolios, their work is magical, please check it out!

one of the portfolio showcases

Thank you SCBWI for the wonderful opportunity to come back to New York and share my work with art directors and editors! 

Thank you, Debbie Ohi, for this photo of super-shaky me receiving the grand prize!

And from the bottom of my heart a superspecial thank you to the mentors and mentees of the SCBWI mentorship program, the last two years have been amazing, I am so thankful that I got to know you all and learn so much!

mentee discussion after the conference with David Diaz, one of the mentors of the SCBWI mentorship program (photo by Debbie Ohi)


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