Sunday, July 23, 2017

My take homes from the SCBWI LA Conference 2017

I have been blessed to attend many SCBWI conferences in Texas, Oklahoma and both national conferences in NYC & LA. This summer was my third time attending the conference in LA. I've come to realize that so much of what I gain from these conferences is friendship and networking with those who have cracked the code and have made it into the world of children's publishing.

Recently, I was the winner of a new book - not yet released - by Mitzi Tulane and illustrated by Debbie Ridpath Ohi entitled "Preschool Detective: The Secret Ingredient". Debbie emailed me to tell me I had won her contest and then proceeded to email back & forth with loads of encouragement and tips to get my work noticed. What a huge gift that was. I think she is one of the most creative & sweetest gals out there! So, in the spirit of paying it forward, I'm sharing with you what I learned in LA.

Fellow introvert, Kat Yeh
First of all, if you are like me, AKA an introvert, it's okay. Don't worry that a big conference is going to be overwhelming. It might be, but you'll be with a room filled with folks just like you and so it's much easier to handle, I promise. For instance, the adorable & very talented author of The Truth About Twinkie Pie, Kat Yeh, gave a keynote speech in front of the whole room where she told us that at her first conference she was so nervous, worried she wouldn't know anyone, and was sure it would be just like high school where she wouldn't be able to hang out with the cool kids & their cliques. She even ate lunch in her hotel room by herself. She made some friends at the Saturday night gala and BOOM! she felt like she had found her peeps. (I saw her in the elevator later that weekend and told her I could relate to her story and appreciated that she shared it.) You don't have to be the center of attention, be loud and vivacious. It's okay to be quiet. Sometimes extroverts ask me if I'm okay because I'm quiet - that's fine. I figure it's their deal if they're interpreting my quietness as an issue because I am doing great without being super talkative. But that's probably just me - I think understanding the different reactions between introverts & extroverts helps. Just know that SCBWI is like a family reunion - you will find those you love to hang out with and some you might enjoy from afar. The good news is that it's a big event and you can hide in your room when needed.

Speaking of the Saturday night gala. This year was The Silver Lining Gala. Even though I looked like an eccentric, nutty old lady, I had fun getting my glitter on.
My roomie, Rebecca Evans and I at The Silver Linings Gala. I've decided to wear those sparkly glasses when I work on my writing and illustrating from now on. :)

Vanessa Brantley-Newton is the real deal, folks!
Which brings me to the keynote speech that everyone who attended will remember forever. One of THE BEST gems from the whole shebang! The keynote that kicked it all off: Vanessa Brantley Newton! I was too busy being mesmerized by her, laughing, crying and doing the hokey pokey (honest, we did) and didn't get a good photo. (Plus, my iphone seriously takes less than fabulous photos) Here's one of me and Vanessa at her book signing on Sunday.Click on her name above to check out her blog. She is so incredibly talented, but also has a heart of gold. I have been following her on Facebook for a while now and when we finally met on Sunday, she gave me the biggest hug that really touched my soul. During her keynote, she spoke of overcoming adversity and how you need to "Shake it off and pack it under!" Don't let it all drag you down, you just shake it off. You learn from it, grow from it and when it's packed under it will lift you up to where you belong. I thought that was beautiful. Remember that the next time you feel broken. Shake it off and pack it under! You'll get there. :)
North Texas SCBWI members enjoying lunch together in LA

So, honestly, the biggest thing I learned, is that there are so many great people in SCBWI who are more than willing to help you achieve your dreams. Make a point of going to your local chapter and getting to know the folks there . I got to know my group better  while I was at the conference, and I'm so glad I did. What a fun bunch! So encouraging and eager to share their knowledge or help out if they can. Like illustrator, Sean Qualls, who shared his process during a breakout session. He had so many samples of his work and showed us how he works from a book dummy to finals. So very giving of his time and experience. I truly appreciate that.
Sean Qualls book Lullaby and the book dummy he pitched
Sean Qualls, sharing his process


I was also blessed to take part in a peer group portfolio critique by a group of Illustrator Coordinators who are all good friends. Thank you for including me, ladies!!! It was a little intimidating because they are all wildly talented, plus the fact that literary agent, Jennifer Laughran stopped by the table just as they were starting my critique and she stayed for the whole thing . . . whoa. I kid you not when I say that I learned more in those 15 minutes than I have in years. Thankfully, there were some pieces that worked just the way they were (whew), but to get feedback on why something isn't working and suggestions on how to fix it . . . PRICELESS! Honest to goodness constructive criticism!! YAY! So, don't be afraid to put yourself out there.

If you do, you too can meet and chat with your favorite writers & illustrators! Just like fast friends!
Fan girl moment with illustrator Joyce Wan 
One of my favorite funny writers, Bruce Hale

Sean Qualls is so talented & super nice too!

Out of body experience: I met Judy Blume!!
That's right, I grabbed the opportunity to meet Judy Blume. I was told she's super shy and really doesn't enjoy all the hoopla, so I asked nicely if I could have a photo and was very respectful of her personal space. She's an American treasure. Look how nice she is to stand there and smile with me! 

So, here's the deal. If you have the overwhelming desire to work in the field of children's publishing, you NEED to get yourself to an SCBWI meeting. Go to local conferences, and save your pennies to go to a national conference either in NYC or LA or both. THEN, get out there and say hello to people. Don't be afraid to say "Hey, I love your work!" Who doesn't love a compliment?! Most people have moments where they might question whether or not they're good enough, and you might be that uplifting voice they needed to hear. Plus, it's an opening to be able to talk to them which is great if you are like me and are better when someone else makes the first move. Learn all you can from these lovely people and work on your craft. Don't be afraid to put it out into the Universe through social media and conferences. That's the only way you're going to get noticed and find an agent/art director/editor/publisher. Actually, I think that is a huge part of cracking the code! All the work you put in learning, working on your craft, networking, revising, working some more . . . it's all leading up to the day the lock springs open and HELLO, you get the joyful news that someone likes your work so much that they have to publish it! WHOOHOO! Oh how glorious that must be. 

Remember to enjoy the journey. :) And on that note, I'm off to work on some sketches. Thanks for stopping by. Have a great day!

Monday, May 01, 2017

IF: Shoe


It's very important to know the rules when learning how to tie your shoes. ;) No velcro or loafers - you've just got to have those laces!

Friday, April 21, 2017

Feel Good Friday Five

It's Friday, and that alone is something pretty special, but I was inspired by illustrator Gina Perry to make a list of 5 things that I'm super excited about. In no particular order . . .

1) I booked my flight to LA for the SCBWI Conference this July! Woot! Woot! I'm registered, got a roomie and now my flight is booked (with airline credit card points too! #winning) It's been 4 years since I went to my last SCBWI conference in LA. I'm already bubbling with excitement that I'm going back - wait for July! Whew! I could probably fly there myself!!

2) I've been revising a dummy book the past few weeks. I sent it to my dream agent and she asked for revisions. At first I was a little stuck because, face it, when you've looked at a story/pictures for so long it's hard to imagine it any other way. But I spent some time doodling, looking through my stash of favorite picture books for inspiration, and letting go of what was to make this book even better. I really like how it's coming along. I've realized that while it was good before, good can sometimes be a bit boring. Time to crank it to 11 and make it fantastic.

3) My postcard was in a photo tweeted by Giuseppe Castellano, Executive Art Director at Grosset & Dunlap. He posts pictures of all the illustration promo postcards he receives each week. Mine was right in the middle of his stash and that made me smile. I'm getting my work out there. Doing what it takes to break in to the publishing world, and believing in myself.

4) I was asked to design a T-shirt for my local chapter of SCBWI. I went to a workshop in Oklahoma a few months back and they had chapter t-shirts, so that got me thinking that we should have some too! Can't wait to wear one and spread the SCBWI love around town.

5) I've revised this one three times already. Basically what I want to say is that I'm living with an attitude of gratitude! I recently read "How the Secret Changed My Life" and it gave me goosebumps. I related to so much of it and recognized things that have come into my life as a result of the laws of attraction. I highly recommend reading it (and The Secret) Yes, I still have self doubt occasionally, but  as far as my path, now I have a sense of I CAN DO THIS. I believe. I'm stoked about children's picture books and I feel confident that this is my place in the world. I was given this desire years ago when I was in elementary school - it's the path I was meant to take. I feel more at home with my fellow SCBWI peeps than in an job I've ever had. I don't have to be the next Beverly Cleary or Eric Carle, but there is a place for me and I love that. I thank God every day for rekindling this feeling and for helping me reach my goals. I'm grateful for opportunities and talent to bring a smile to people with my art. :) I also recommend reaching out to those you admire/appreciate and say Thank You for making the world a better place. I did that recently, and I was overwhelmed by the love. I think that's what this world needs more of. Kindness, respect, appreciation, and sharing things to make the world better.

And just because I always feel blog posts are always better with art, here's a chickie I drew this week. Happy Friday!

Wednesday, April 05, 2017


I've gone to national SCBWI conferences in the past, but I am extra excited about this one. I feel like my work has gotten so much better than the last time I attended a major conference. I've learned more, I've grown as a writer & illustrator. I believe in myself more. It's a great feeling. I feel like I belong!

Now, I'm not going to lie, it's pricey. However, I see it as professional development. People all over the world have to put in time at conferences or other types of professional development for their jobs, why shouldn't we make that a priority too? Yes, I'm the one paying for it, but getting out there and networking with other children's writers & illustrators, agents, editors, art directors . . . learning, enjoying the company of other like-minded people, filling the creative well . . . it's totally worth it! I can't wait!!

My new motto is "Leap and a Net Will Appear!" This conference is being paid for by illustration jobs (they will appear, I'm sure). I'm leaping into the children's publishing world with a new excitement & gusto. After a time of questioning my place in the world, I'm positive this is where I'm supposed to be. It feels right. My goal is to give back - to repay the Universe for the years of enjoyment I've had with children's books. I want to make future kids smile with a funny story or colorful artwork.

I'm determined to hold a published picture book that I've written & illustrated!! In order to make that happen, I need to believe, learn more about the submission process/how to get a foot in the door, and create every day, I am a professional, and I deserve to attend this conference! :)

Friday, March 24, 2017

IF: Umbrella


This is from "Don't You Wonder About This World", a coloring book I illustrated for Warner Press.
I love the simplicity of B&W line work of coloring books. I illustrated 5 coloring books for Warner Press, and really enjoyed the process. Sometimes simple can be very freeing.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Tuesday, March 21, 2017


The last couple of days during lunchtime I've been reading "How The Secret Changed My Life". I've read The Secret before, and believe in the power of positive thinking & the power of attraction, but haven't consistently put it into action. (I have a pair of sparkly purple Converse and an extremely sweet dog that I believe came to me because I put it out there though.)

Today, I was reading a chapter about how to use The Secret to gain good health. At first I didn't think that really applied to me. Thankfully, I'm healthy. And then it dawned on me that it would apply to my thyroid! I've had a low-producing thyroid for about 30 years and lately my doctors can't seem to get my medications to level out. I've always been negative about how weak my thyroid is and how its the reason I'm tired, or can't lose weight (in reality it's probably not 100% to blame). I've decided to show some love to my little butterfly shaped thyroid gland.

So, I present to you my happy, incredibly healthy & super strong thyroid gland!! He's a powerhouse! Never have you heard of a thyroid as efficient as mine. The next time I go to the doctor for bloodwork, she will tell me I don't need medication anymore because my amazing thyroid is working perfectly. :) Whoohoooo! You are doing a fabulous job, Deb's Thyroid!