August 2017
Summer Conference Wrap Up: Some Highlights
Almost 1,200 people attended the Summer Conference held in Los Angeles from July 7-10.  They hailed from 46 of the 50 states and from 11 countries across the globe. Over 40% of the attendees were published, and approximately 30% were illustrators or illustrator/authors.  The new venue, the JW Marriott in the LA Live Complex in Downtown Los Angeles was met with such enthusiastic approval that we have already retained it as the home for next summer's conference to be held August 3-6, 2018.
Several themes emerged across many of the keynote addresses.  The first and most resounding theme was the need for perseverance and optimism in the face of dejection or rejection.  Speaker after speaker told how their path to publication was filled with impediments which were eventually overcome by the power of their dreams, the constant work of improving their craft, and the search for their authentic and unique voice.  A second theme was the need for diversity in children's books and how publishers are pursuing this initiative.  All stressed the need to define and encourage diversity across all areas including ethnicity, gender, religion, age, disability, and cultural heritage.  All children should be able to find themselves in the pages of a book.
SCBWI Team Blog covered the entire conference.  Each blogger submitted a report, featured below, on a session of particular relevance or interest.  These reports are presented below.     

Blog #1: A Society of Committed Book Writers and Illustrators
by Susie Ghahremani
Stephanie Garber giving her first SCBWI keynote
The Summer Conference always seems to deliver a heartening message I didn't realize I needed. This year, I discovered it as a recurring theme: commitment.
I think I can has a counter-refrain:  but maybe I won't. Over our lunch together(!!!), the iconic Judy Blume said, "You can have all the talent in the world, but if you're not determined, you're going to let something stop you."
Commitment can take shape as the dedication to process itself, like how Sean Qualls uses his art-making as "his constant" in life. 
Vanessa Brantley-Newton giving her inspirational keynote
Or, it can mean perseverance: Stephanie Garber broke our hearts recalling the challenges of her first manuscript, but triumphantly she navigated to new ideas instead of giving up---demonstrating the value of dedication to developing voice, not stubbornness of a singular idea. Likewise, Vanessa Brantley-Newton shared how adversity can drive our choices instead of limiting them.  Commit to finding and telling your story, then do it with all your spirit.
Commitment also means accepting that the path may not be easy. I'm not sure it's possible to casually make a book that is worth reading. We need to maintain flexibility to collaborate, to evolve, to edit, and to try new directions. But our work is also self-driven and we need to be confident stewards for it.
Commitment also means taking responsibility: we're communicating to the youngest, most vulnerable, open-minded audience. If it were easy, it wouldn't be extraordinary, and we wouldn't have a reason to gather here at the summer conference. 

Blog #2: Drafting the Middle Grade Novel with Kat Yeh 
 By Jolie Stekly

Each year, one of the Crystal Kite recipients is selected to deliver a keynote address at the SCBWI Summer Conference. This year, Kat Yeh, author of The Truth About Twinkie Pie (the New York Crystal Kite division winner) was chosen for the honor, sharing ways in which stories help readers connect and feel like they are not alone in the world.

During Kat's later breakout session, she connected with fellow writers who, like her, find the drafting process daunting. "The idea of holding the whole universe in my head, and to feel the edges of it, felt overwhelming," Kat said.
Now with two middle grade novels published, Kat generously shared advice on drafting from her own personal experience. "Don't stress over your draft," she said. "Let things go. Anything you do can be fixed later."
Kat encouraged writers to remind themselves that there are no mistakes in rough drafts; to keep going; to know you can fix it later; to keep going; and that the only way to get to the point of revision is to finish the rough draft. So keep going.

"The best rough drafts have a loose, untamed feel that's based on instinct and emotion and the ability to not care if you get it wrong," Kat said. "You never know what might happen."

An added tip for the times you feel stuck: Kat writes to her mood of the day. If she's angry, and there's a scene she needs to write where that same emotion is expressed, Kat will write that scene. "That's your strength of the day."
Blog #3: Precision Composition
By Jaime Temairik

Every year without fail the Illustrator Intensive guest speakers share something (or more than one something!) that I have kept with me and used for the betterment of my craft and career.
This year we had figure drawing with Ramón Hurtado, and character design from both Vanessa Brantley Newton and LeUyen Pham. Raul Colón talked about color development, John Rocco spoke on lighting, and Javaka Steptoe led us through a hands-on mixed media workshop.
I would move to California just to take a class from Marla Frazee. Her talk on composition began with putting Marc Simont's The Stray Dog up on the big screen. We examined the composition of every spread and Marla pointed out all the blatant and nuanced brilliance of that book. Marla reminds us children are much more expert at reading pictures than we adults are, so you've got to wow them with your composition.
Marla then shared early and final thumbnails from a few of her books. Mrs. Biddlebox is one of my favorite of Marla's books, and you can see her thought process in her refinements on even such a tiny scale as thumbnail drawings. Visit Marla's website to get a peek at a few more.
Blog #4:  To Curse or Not to Curse:
That's the Question 
by Lee Wind

Cursing in my new YA manuscript came up in a discussion with an editor at the conference  Friday, and it resonated through the #LA17SCBWI weekend.
Sonya Sones and Kwame Alexander
On the one hand, Kwame Alexander spoke about his character Blade in his upcoming YA novel-in-verse Solo saying, "scares the holy night out of me" rather than the expected and more profane phrase. Kwame shared that he tells kids they don't need to curse---and he took his own advice. Sonya Sones pointed out (and I agree) that Kwame's solution revealed a lot about Blade's character. 
Judy Blume spoke about struggling with a particular line in Here's to You, Rachel Robinson, and whether her character, Charles, should curse.  In the end, she asked herself this question:  would Charles truly use profanity or not. And there was her answer. Yes. Charles would absolutely say it. So it stayed in the book.
The one and only Judy Blume
Then Linda Sue Park answered someone's question at the We Need Diverse Books + SCBWI diversity social about which of two ways should they go with their writing. Linda Sue's answer was simple---and brilliant: Don't waste time thinking about the decision. Try one way, then the other. One path will resonate more, and go with that.

So for my work in progress,  I'll try it both ways. See if I can reveal more character by not cursing. Or see if, for my characters, their truth includes dropping some F-Bombs. Inspiring. Intriguing. Upping my craft. Just some of the many reasons I loved this year's SCBWI Summer Conference!  
SCBWI Conference Pics
  Highlights from the 46th Annual Summer Conference in Los Angeles!  
Vanessa Brantley-Newton and Jennifer Dees

The Art Browse draws a crowd

Lin Oliver and Judy Blume were the cherry on top of the Golden Kite Luncheon

Lin Oliver and Art Director Laurent Linn show off their silver for the Silver Linings Gala

Mother-daughter team Lisa Yee and Kait Feldmann sport their creative costumes for the Silver Linings Gala

Agents Tricia Lawrence, Jennifer Laughran, Alexandra Penfold, Kate Testerman, and Quressa Robinson

Student Illustrator Scholarship winners Julie Kwon, Irena Freitas, and Director of Illustration Sarah Baker
Illustrator Sean Qualls at the #LA17SCBWI Autograph Party

Bologna Illustration Gallery - Members' Choice Award
Congratulations to our British Isles member  Nicola Robinson
whose entry Billy Goats Gruff is the winner of the inaugural Bologna Illustration Gallery - Members' Choice Award, which was just announced at the Summer Conference in Los Angeles. Nicola's entry also received an Honourable Mention from our judging panel. Find Nicola's entry here.

About the award:
For our 2016 Bologna Illustrations Gallery, over 500 entries were submitted. From these, our panel chose the shortlist and winner for the 2016 Bologna Gallery. This year, as part of our Bologna showcase, we ran the first ever Bologna Illustration Gallery Member's Choice Awards where our SCBWI members were able to vote online for their favorite entry from the 43 finalists. The SCBWI will once again be present at Bologna next year. More details will be released at our website.

Books for Readers - Keep Them Coming!
Donations from members are pouring in for Books For Readers. So far, we've received an array of books that will be sure to please the kids and families at Kinship House and the Refugee Dream Center. You can send donations of your own books (no more than four copies) or those of fellow members, to us here at the Los Angeles headquarters. Donations can be sent to us anytime now through September 8. Please address all packages as shown below:
4727 Wilshire Blvd, Suite 301
Los Angeles, CA 90010
Attn: SCBWI Books For Readers
Listen to the newest podcast with Allyn Johnston, VP  & Publisher of Beach Lane Books, an imprint of Simon and Schuster . Enjoy these intimate, behind-the-scenes conversations with leaders of our industry, recorded especially for SCBWI members.  Listen Here 

 Illustrator Info:
Illustrators' Intensive 

This summer's Illustrators' Intensive was titled Constructing and Deconstructing Narrative Illustration: Reinforcing Your Illustration Foundation to Expand Your Career - A Day of Demonstrations. The premise of the day was to take foundations of narrative illustration---anatomy, character, composition, lighting, and color---and explore how experts in the field tackle them.  

Ramon Hurtado, a teacher and expert of narrative anatomy drawing, spent an hour with a live model teaching us how to work with a model and how to build a scene---from blocking out positions and body language to adding more detail at the end.  
Vanessa Brantley Newton led us through her process of developing authentic, joyful, racially diverse characters, focusing mostly on faces and hair. She encouraged us to observe people all around us and think about what makes our characters true individuals.  
LeUyen Pham gave the class a pre-conference assignment to send her character sketches. She chose some to discuss in the session, drawing over them to show us how to improve the overall shape of the characters, making them more expressive, active, and dynamic.  
Marla Frazee began her session on composition by taking us through The Stray Dog, by Marc Simont. This set the tone for discussing composition as a way to guide the emotional content of a book.  
John Rocco discussed lighting as a tool to guide the viewer and to convey mood, tone, and emotion. He showed different versions of cover images to explain what a huge difference the lighting makes.
Raúl Colón is well-known for his creative and masterful use of color, and we got to look inside his sketchbooks to see how he experiments with, plans out, and organizes color in his projects.  
To conclude, Javaka Steptoe spoke about his process of exploring materials to help him convey the true nature of the characters and topics in his books. He passed out surprising, colorful materials for us to work with and encouraged us to create a collage inspired by where we are in our own creative journeys. It was a perfect, inspiring ending to a jam-packed day of learning.

Update: Corporate Committee for Library Investment
By Lin Oliver

As a follow up to our June INSIGHT coverage of SCBWI's decision to join the Corporate Committee for Library Investment (CCLI), a group that advocates for the federal support of library funding, we have hopeful news to report. In mid-July, the House Appropriations Committee approved the library funding requested in the 2018 budget, with NO CUTS to  either  the Library Services and Technology Act  or  the Innovative Approaches to Literacy program. When passed by the House and Senate, th ese acts  will provide the necessary funds to support matching grant programs to libraries and to support the purchase of books and educational materials for the country's neediest children.  However, neither the full House nor the Senate has yet voted on the bill. Although  amendments to the bill are unlikely , it's  not yet time to be complacent. CCLI  and the ALA  recommend that  over the summer,  we continue  to advocate for library funding by  invit ing  Members of Congress to  our  libraries, writ ing  letters to C ongress and  OpEds thanking members for helping to assure no cuts to  the library bills  thus far, and to speak out on the value of federal library funding for one of our democracy's most treasured resources, our public libraries.

Contact all Members of the House and those who will next be shaping the bill and voting on the Senate side: 
  • Chairman Thad Cochran (R-MS) and Ranking Member Patrick Leahy (D-VT) of the full Senate Appropriations Committee (both supportive);
  • Senate Labor-HHS Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) (both also supportive); 
  • all other  Members of the Subcommittee; and, soon thereafter...
  • all Members of the full Appropriations Committee.

Draw This!
Draw This! is our monthly prompt word for illustrators.  

The June prompt was Celebrate

Congratulations to the June Winners:
Jordan Hill

Joie Foster 

See all the entries here: Gallery   

August's prompt is . . .   WILD
Entries are due August 20 to 
Submissions for August will be up in our September gallery.