So last February I went to the Society of Children's Books Writers and Illustrators conference in New York City. Made the journey all by myself, leaving my toddler 871 miles away with daddy in Atlanta. The first night there I got food poisoning, forcing me to miss the entire morning session on Friday. Oh, did I mention I was 2 months pregnant as well? It was an experience for sure.
But none of that really matters. What matters is what I learned from the convention and what came out of it. I've wanted to attend for years and was not disappointed. Learned a lot, including how to approach my portfolio and branding for the next time I attend.
What's especially wonderful is how many art directors/editors are right at your fingertips. The conference allows for a lot of self promotion. During the open portfolio showcase, where you get to display your portfolio as well as leave out business cards and postcards, I had an editor ask me about one.
He especially liked the little girl and wanted to know if there was a story to go with her and if I would send it to him.
"Yup!" I replied. I did have a story, just didn't know what it was yet.
So after the excitement, nervousness, panic, and anxiety went away, I asked a few experienced illustrators and writers at the conference what I needed to do exactly. Elizabeth O Dulemba gave me some great advice. If an editor or art director asks you if you have a story, always say you have a story (check). Then take a couple months and write it. Editors expect it to take some time, and 2-3 months is not out of line. But make sure it is perfect! Illustrations to accompany are a bonus, but not necessary. He already liked my illustration style, he just wanted to know what it was all about.
So I followed their advice, kind of. Being pregnant and moving just a few months after the conference set me back a bit. Then a severe case of writers block set me back even more.
"You need to work on that story," my husband would often say.
"I know," was my only reply.
I have a lot of picture book ideas. I'm not saying every one is gold, but they are an idea, a place to start. But having an illustration and being told "come up with a story for this" put my mind in a fog I could not overcome. So I did the only thing I could do, took my time. Did research, had some creative procrastination and worked on the story little by little.
Till voila, I had an idea. Which developed into a story. Which has since become a world with characters and setting and concept. Here is a little peak.
Once the storyboard is finalized I will send it off to the publisher! Only 6 months late.