I came home from the conference exhausted but full in the best way. The richness of the faculty, their personalities and presentations, and the great gift of being in the room with friends and strangers, each a creative force, always overwhelms me at some point during the weekend. Sitting on the patio with my husband at the end of Sunday I tried to recount my experience, the keynotes that resonated, the workshop sessions that brought new tools and food for thought, the many conversations and personal connections sprinkled throughout the conference. I know I’ll have to sit with the weekend in order to absorb it in full, but some things are vivid for me – already percolating in the work and in me.
This year I did a fair amount of reading and internet trawling before the conference, trying to learn about the work of the faculty, and I was glad I did. When illustrator Melissa Sweet gave her keynote about her work, using Balloons Over Broadway to show us how she develops a project and creates a book, I already knew and loved it so that the 5-year journey she described had deeper meaning for me. It was fabulous to see her source material, her research and development, her thumbnails and dummies, and most especially her passion for the work. Melissa is an artist who could do nothing else but what she does, and one who sets an exceptionally high bar for the rest of us.
Bonnie Becker’s Bear and Mouse books are beloved by kids and a sure thing for adults when a picture book is needed. She chose to accept her Crystal Kite Award, voted on by regional SCBWI membership, before her keynote. I loved how Bonnie always wants to have written what she loves as a reader – she quoted from Anna Karenina – but how she has come to realize that her best books come from the very heart of who she is. Something too scary or embarrassing to write about? Chances are that’s your personal gold as a writer. Again and again during the conference the intellectual curiosity, wide reading, idiosyncratic approach and personal mission of the writer and illustrator came forward in conversation and presentation alike. Bonnie’s personal, direct and honest story captivated me and has stayed with me as I sit with the conference, trying to absorb the experience and all of its useful goodness.
Tomorrow: Bruce Hale, Rachel Vail and Matt de la Peña