I was sitting on a train headed from New York City to Boston with a woman who knew exactly where she needed to be but had no idea how to get there. She didn't speak much English, which wouldn't help when the train attendant asked for a ticket or a photo ID. "Ticket or ID please." "I don't have one, you already took it," the woman replied in much more broken English than I convey here. "Unless I see your ID or ticket, I have no idea who you are and I can't let you stay on this train." "But..." The heated, back and forth conversation persisted for nearly 3 minutes before the attendant finally asked her to clarify, "Well, where are you going?" To which she replied, "New York." The attendant shook her head. "We just passed New York and we were sitting there for 15 minutes! You have to get off at the next stop and go back." Completely stupefied, the woman stared at the attendant with her bottom eyelids and jaw hanging down.
And this moment of extreme clarity is a great analogy to the way I feel after attending the SCBWI conference in New York.
To rewind a bit, I arrived in NYC on a Friday afternoon. I didn't participate in the illustrator intensives, though I have always wanted to. Instead, we ventured to the Flatiron Building to meet some new friends and visit some old ones!
The elevator of the Flatiron Building was so beautiful I couldn't resist taking a picture of it, though there was no escaping a selfie in this well mirrored machine:
I had a great time meeting Noa Wheeler, Editor at Henry Holt Books for Young Readers and Colleen AF Venable at First Second Books. There's so much to love about rooms spilling over with books and chatting about them with people who adore them enough to alphabetize. A million thanks to both of you for making me feel so welcome.
Afterward, it was back to the Grand Hyatt to explore all the hubbub that was the 100th anniversary of Grand Central Station! My most favorite part of the whole terminal was the Market. We waded through gobs of people at rush hour and spied piles and piles of color in every direction. My friend, Kate and I decided that if we walked through Grand Central Terminal every day on the way home from work, we would be broke.
Aside from all the sillies, colors, and adventuring... the conference, itself, was inspiring as usual. A few of my highlights will do better in list form:
-I finally met Giuseppe Castellano, Art Director from Penguin US, in person! (I wish I grabbed a picture!) Giuseppe has been tweeting useful art tips and publishing advice, check it out!
-Molly O'Neill, Editor at HarperCollins Children's Books, gave a really smart, insightful presentation as to what kind of projects she's looking to add to her list:
-It was also a joy to speak with Kate Fletcher, Editor at Candlewick Press. Her presentation focused a little more on the visual side of what she looks for, and as an illustrator, it was helpful to see. I live 3 minutes away from Candlewick Press, so it's ironic to me that I would get to meet someone in NYC who normally is so close in Somerville!
-I got to spend time with many of my kidlit art friends! I regret not taking more pictures, but I do have more in my Facebook Album. L to R: Me, Kelly Light, Courtney Pippen-Mathur, and Heidi Stemple:
-I met and heard Tomie dePaola speak...twice. I learned he is the reason for the "I" in SCBWI, to which I am forever grateful. Here he is speaking at the Illustrator's Social:
-I got reintroduced (mostly from my seat) to the team at SCBWI who collectively run the whole event, plus the blog, grants, website, twitter, bi-monthly bulletin, and more. Here is Lee Wind directing a massive crowd wave to celebrate our hashtag (#ny13scbwi) trending on Twitter:
-I also got some invaluable time in with my hotel roomie, great writer, friend, professional cab hailer (*see below), and also my coworker at FableVision, Kate Cotter. My proudest accomplishment of the whole trip was introducing her to this brilliant community of writers and illustrators. I just knew she would feel the embrace that I felt at last year's conference, and it would inspire her to keep pursuing her dreams. She hates this picture, but I love it because she is so confident and doesn't even realize (do you see the metaphor here?):
It would take a really long time for me to describe all the presentations and feelings I felt. I think that SCBWI Team Blog did a really great job of recapping the events so I highly recommend skimming through the posts.
My way of taking notes is to doodle. I don't document everything that is said, but with every curl of my line I'm recording an emotion.
In some cases, I took inspiration from an event.When I got off the train at Penn Station, there was a man yelling "More cats, more cats..." To which I internally replied, "Ok."
And this drawing came out of what I took to be the most important bit of advice from Magaret Peterson Haddix: "Plot."
When I got home, I laid all of my collected postcards out on the table, stood on a chair, and snapped a photo. I met most of these talented folks (that's a lot of folks!), some for the first time, some the second or third. It makes me feel great to know that all of these people (and more) are just like me:
To get back to my story of the woman on the train:
It may be a bit vague how it relates to my experience at the conference, but let me explain. When you attend a conference, you know you're going to leave feeling inspired, that's a given. Everyone can take the information they receive and filter it in their own way. I like to use the conference as a means to pull back - to recognize that I might be overdoing it here and there.
And it's when that *extreme moment of clarity hits me like a brick, the moment that sends a knowing tingle up my spine, that I know I'll be rerouted to the right track. It sure is not a bad thing, it's just someone (or in this case, a large group of people) helping to steer me towards the correct path.
And I will gett off this train, wait for the next, and continue to do this dance for as long as it takes...because I love what I do.
Thanks for reading this far, and hope to see you again soon!
*You've almost got it, but you're going the wrong way!