Ever feel like a debutante? Even though I've been in graphic design my entire life, and in children's books for six years now, Saturday night in LA felt like my coming out party. I mean, I advertise, I send out postcards, I have my online portfolio, but for some reason, I felt like many of the people there were seeing my work for the first time . . . and they were oohing and ahhing!
My Fairy Godmother and head of the SmartWriters.com W.I.N. Competition (I was this year's Grand Prize winner!), Roxyanne Young, made a point of introducing me around like a super-star.
I spoke with Tim Gillner, Art Director of Boyds Mills Press, for quite a while - what a down-to-earth, nice guy. Laurent Linn (pronounced the French way), Associate Art Director for Henry Holt Books, spent quite a bit of time with me and my portfolio and said wonderful things (yeah!). So did Rachel Griffiths who graciously offered me a mini-critique after making sure I wanted to hear it - of course I did!
Y'know, I overheard someone quote an editor, "If a book is this great (hands held apart), it can be THIS great (hands stretched wide)." I know it will mean a lot less sleep and frustration at times, but I'm really looking forward to being influenced by talented art directors and editors to bring my work up to a level I never would have thought possible. To make my work THIS GREAT!
(Fellow SmartWriters winners: Leslie Muir, Jay Asher, Me, and our mutual Fairy Godmother, Roxyanne Young)
And there was more! I got a hug from Lee Bennett Hopkins who kept one of my bookmarks, and I met Caldecott winner, David Diaz. I met Alice Pope, editor extraordinare of The Children's Writer's & Illustrator's Market (part of my SmartWriters prize!). I was especially thrilled to meet Cynthia Leitich Smith, who's website has been such help to me over the years, and whose latest book, Tantalize, had my mouth watering. In fact, we had a great breakfast the next morning.
(Kirby, Me, Alice, and Roxyanne)
I got to hang with several of my fellow Picture Book Artists Association members: Kevan Atteberry (awesome dancer); David Hohn (we actually hung out a lot, he's a strong advocate for illustrator's rights and a great guy!); and Laura Jacobsen.
I tell ya, the conference could have ended right then for me, I was so wired and excited about all the great comments I received.
But we weren't finished yet!