Thursday, April 17, 2008

Conference Notes

Finally, as promised, notes from the New England SCBWI conference this past weekend. I'll keep them rather brief-- one, because it would take forever to write about all the different and interesting people I met; and two, because many of the speakers and presenters give these talks as part of their living, and I've learned that it's really not cool (and possibly not legal) to post too much of the content in a public forum. (Anyway it's almost impossible to decipher my chicken scratch a few days after the fact...)

So... that said-- the keynote speaker on Saturday was author Laurie Halse Anderson, whose books include Speak and Fever 1793. For me her talk was the perfect kind of speech-- a mix of her personal story on the path to becoming a writer-- funny and inspirational-- with specific tips that the audience could use in the pursuit of their own writing/artistic projects. Author Mitali Perkins blogged about the conference here and here, and had the official okay to post notes on her blog-- so check it out if you're interested.

In past years I've chosen writing workshops, but this year decided to focus on the illustration side. Illustrator Terry Weidner gave a terrific 2- part workshop called Giving Visual Punch to your Picture Book. It covered the many design elements to think about when putting a book together-- such as page layout, picture composition, and type placement. She showed slides from many different PBs as examples. Funny, since I have a design background you'd think I'd remember all these things, but it's so easy to get caught up in the individual pictures or text that you forget to think about the book as a whole.

After lunch there was another 2-part workshop given by one of my favorite illustrators-- Melissa Sweet-- called Adding Emotion to your Artwork. She talked about how shape and color on the page can help to draw a reader in to the story. Also, about how things such as lighting and character gesture and eye contact between characters help a reader feel more connected, which will ultimately make them want to read the book again and again.

Both presenters suggested analyzing and dissecting picture books to figure out what makes them work. Both also mentioned Picture This: How Pictures Work by Molly Bang. (There's an older edition with a different title, but it's the same book.) I've had this one on my to re-read list-- good time to pull it out.

The afternoon keynote was given by the wonderful illustrator Kevin Hawkes. (The Wicked Big Toddla, Weslandia, Library Lion) His was a visual talk, showing how his work had changed and progressed over the years (I love seeing this!) and also showing his working process on particular pieces.

I drove home Saturday in the late-afternoon exhausted and with a head spinning full of ideas in typical New England weather. (If you don't like it, wait 5 minutes and it will change...) For most of the 3 hour drive the sky was split straight down the middle between pitch black, pouring rain and blinding, blue-sky sunshine. Then as the sun went down the clouds turned all pink and lavender and there was a perfect double rainbow. I had to mention this because it was so surreal-- felt like I was on a movie set! I wish I could have taken pictures but really didn't want to risk an accident...

The New England region staff and volunteers put on a top-notch conference-- it is so worth going if you can. Next year I'll have to stay through Sunday. (Two nights in a nice hotel room? Yay! Mom's weekend out!) I hope these notes are helpful to someone-- any questions, ask away.


Julie said...

Thanks for posting this!

Jennifer Thermes said...

You're welcome Julie (thanks for linking!)

Frank Dormer said...
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Kelly Light said...

Jennifer, it was nice chatting with you Saturday morning. I figured out which poster was yours later on, it was wonderful. I took your card with the cats... my daughter snagged it immediately(she's 8 and a big cat nut) Your work is beautiful! Stay in touch!--Kelly

Jennifer Thermes said...

Hi Kelly-- Thanks, and you, too! I'm glad your daughter liked the card. (Do you have any idea how hard it is to get cat hair off of those plastic portfolio pages??) ;-)

Yes, keep in touch, definitely!

gail said...

Thanks for sharing!! I'm gearing up for our next annual conference. Really looking forward to a little motivation and inspiration.


Jennifer Thermes said...

Gail- You're welcome! I'd love to hear about your conference, too.