Three days after the conference and I am still "decompressing" after what for me was the best of the three NESCBWI conferences I have attended. That is saying a lot since last year I won second place "People's Choice" in the poster conference, and this year I didn't win anything. Last year I had taken to heart Jane Yolen's keynote about getting and understanding rejection letters in which she mentioned that even though she has over 300 books published she still gets rejection letters. To hear her talk about that was important to me since I arrived home to find my first rejection letter. This year Jane gave the ending keynote, most of which I missed for reasons I will talk about later.
At the Carle "Mix and Mingle" which kicked off the conference, Cindy, Brook, Marcella and I were standing talking to each other and up walks Jane Yolen, who started talking to us. I just realized that we talked for about five minutes and I didn't think to take the camera out of my purse and get a photo of all of us with her. She was very generous with her advise, wisdom and encouragement. It was magic!
Since I was a volunteer, I missed the first part of Sara Zarr keynote as I was wrapping up my volunteer duties for that morning. As Jeanette, I think, already posted she read from Frog and Toad and then relate it to our journey as Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. As in Frog and Toad in the Garden, we all want our careers as writers and illustrators to grow RIGHT NOW and not give the stories or our abilities time to develop, nurture and grow. We are impatient. There were many other lessons from her keynote that makes me want to keep a copy of Frog and Toad next to my work area.
What made this year better for me personally is that things started falling into place, barriers falling. I was very happy with my crit on the YA novel that I am writing, in which many positive things were said, but just as many, if not more suggestions for improvement were given. One needs to hear what one is doing wrong, or not quite right to make the changes needed for success. I came into the critique with that mindset. The man who was my critiquer said that I had done some of the very hardest things very successfully and that I needed to tap into the "bad" place and use that emotion to create more dialog. He also gave me a typed page of strengths and areas to improve. After the crit I ran into Tina, one of my RISD friends, who knows me well enough to see that there was something behind my eyes that wasn't quite right and asked me if I was OK. I had no idea what she was talking about and surprising myself, I burst into tears. The crit was so perfect, made me so happy and yet there I was crying. Finally I realized that I was already tapping into the "bad" place thinking about the process that lay ahead. I had the emotions ready for the work that lay ahead of me.
I attended workshops both for writers and illustrators that were perfect for for the work ahead of me. One was for creating authentic, believable dialog. One was writing for picture books and one was on illustrating picture books. The person who gave the workshop on illustrating picture books was very generous with her time. She started the workshop an hour early, for those who wanted to come early, missing the morning panel discussion. She worked through lunch, through the autograph signing hour, and finally through the second session of the day ending just after the start of Jane Yolen's ending keynote. I learned so much from listening to her critiques of everyone's portfolios and the book dummies that they brought to the workshop. She told everyone at the start that she was not their mother so she was going to be brutally honest with her critiques. She said that if she wasn't that she would be doing us a disservice and wasting our time and money. Her critique of my portfolio told me exactly what I needed to change. She told me that I should send my postcards out to educational publications and that my digital work is perfect for that right now. She loved how I could create emotions and interaction between characters. She told me that even if I continue to work digitally, that I need to get back to hand work, sketching, painting and sculpting. Her favorite pieces in my portfolio were the clay sculptures. She made some suggestions as to how to get my digital work up to the next level to be ready for "trade publications". All in all a great session. Throughout the day, since my portfolio was the second one she looked at, whenever she said something that might be upsetting to the person getting the critique, she would say, "Just ask Lin", or "remember what I said to Lin about her portfolio." It was tough, but what I needed to hear.
Spending time with all of my RISD friends that attended is part of the magic of the conference as is meeting new people and networking. We were all excited for Marcella and Milanka for their success at the conference! What makes the group so special is that everyone is genuinely excited for the success of anyone from the group, or the people that they have met. Jealousy does not the rule in this group! As I heard in some of my workshops in other groups it does. We are blessed!
Finally, here is my "post-apocalyptic" New World poster I made for the poster contest. I imagined who would be the next to rule the world after people had gone the way of the dinosaurs.