Thursday, August 30, 2012


An illustration created for my conference portfolio.
While preparing for the SCBWI Summer Conference, I thought a lot about my journey so far. It began when I joined SCBWI in 2005. Suzanne Morgan Williams, the SCBWI Regional Advisor to Nevada at the time, was one of the first people I met and I was instantly struck by her genuine enthusiasm to find out about me and help me get where I needed to be. She truly cared. I didn't realize how important that was at the time. I also didn't know much about children's publishing. Since I was already an illustrator, I figured I would just submit my work and start getting jobs. (What a knucklehead.) I wasn't fully invested in my pursuit for another four years. That's when I finally accepted how much work I needed to do and started working - hours and hours every day. In my mind I would do this concentrated work on my portfolio for a couple years and I would be in. (Again - knucklehead.) But the years ticked by and I realized working on my portfolio 8-12 hours a day (unpaid) and then moving on to several more hours of client work (paid) every single day wasn't realistic for the long haul. I know illustrating is an endurance sport, but when desperation creeps in I start to wonder how long I can or should keep up this pace. Was anyone else going through this? Was I kidding myself?

A quick sketch of Bryan
Collier during his keynote.
Enter Bryan Collier, whose soulful illustrations inspire me tremendously. He gave an amazing keynote at the SCBWI Summer Conference that was like an illustrator's sermon comparing this journey to the planting and growing of a seed into a fruiting tree. It was such a relief to hear someone acknowledge the struggle, the sacrifice, and as he put it - being so close to the dream it's like looking at it through a glass wall. He described it so well. He knew. Bryan Collier took his portfolio to publishers every week and looked through that glass wall for 7 years before he was published. He acknowledged the sacrifice many of us made just to come to the conference - hours and hours preparing, spending money that perhaps we needed elsewhere in our lives. He knew. The room was full of passionate hardworking people on a quest with these struggles, many of them with tears pouring out of their eyes. I've heard plenty of great stories about illustrators and writers being discovered at conferences, but this year I needed to hear something different. Bryan Collier provided that and so did Tony DiTerlizzi, who worked on and sent his portfolio to children's publishers for 10 years before he was published.

This opened an important dialogue with my friends about maintaining hope and sometimes losing it. These are things we don't often talk about - not really. We pretend the struggle doesn't exist or we believe so strongly that something is about to happen and if we sleep a little less and work just a little longer, it will. But now we're talking - about being realistic, being balanced and how important our peer connections are. Otherwise we might just drop out and disappear like others we know who were so close to breaking through that wall.

All of these conversations came full circle at the airport after the conference. I had the great fortune of flying home with my friend, Suzanne Morgan Williams. The timing couldn't have been more amazing. I was actually sitting there writing an email to her when she said my name. I had an important story to tell her. She didn't know that four years earlier she was the reason I hadn't succeeded in giving up on my own dream. I had already stopped going to conferences and submitting my work when Suzy took the time to contact me - out of the blue. She had been looking at my website and said if I was serious about illustrating for children's books I needed to take advantage of the Nevada SCBWI Mentor Program. I considered what she had to say and it was then that I committed to the work it would take to attain my dream. I applied to the program, was accepted and had the amazing opportunity to work with Yuyi Morales. It was a turning point. I would love to give you a publishing success story here, but I'm still looking through that glass wall.

Who knows how long it will take, but I will continue working on the illustrations I love at a slower pace now, keeping in mind what my wise friend Suzanne Morgan Williams says to do. Live your life.  It's something we can forget as we push for our dreams and work one more hour, just one more day, or one more year because we are so close, but living our lives to the fullest gives our dreams the best place to grow…

It is no wonder that Suzanne Morgan Williams received the SCBWI Member of the Year Award at the 2012 conference. She has made a difference to countless members over the years - including me. Congratulations Suzy!

If you get a chance, do look for Bryan Collier's illustrations. At the time this was posted, his website was not working.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012


Heading to the 2012 SCBWI
costume party at the LA conference
This is the longest I have been away from this blog since I started it in 2009. It has been a time avalanche since I began preparing for my March workshop (which was absolutely fantastic). I spent the rest of my time getting ready for the 2012 SCBWI conference in Los Angeles and, of course, doing client work. I also had a lot of important family events to give special attention to. Something had to give and it was the blog. I am back now and look forward to posting about the conference very soon. Until then, I will be processing it all...and unpacking...and catching up with my family. See you soon...