Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The 2016 New York SCBWI Conference!

Hello everyone! I'm back from New York (landed late last night) and have to send out an initial warning: this is going to be a long post, as I try to write in my jet-lagged state. Please forgive any errors or omissions from this post as I know I will have left someone/something out very unintentionally.

As this was my first ever "big" SCBWI conference, and my 2nd time to New York (my last trip was in the very early 90's), I knew I was in for a complete treat and I wanted to soak up every detail and experience to the fullest so I decided to not focus on social media for the weekend. The only "commitment" (which admitedly I did not do very well) was tweet! I must say, I am so glad I tweeted a bit, and posted one Instagram post for if it were not for that, I would not have met some of the most wonderful people!

So here we go! I'm "bulleting" my thoughts to hopefully make things a little easier to find should you wish to check out any of the links I'll be adding (check 'em out if you have a chance) -
New York - what an incredible setting. The taxi drive into the city was beautiful as the city came upon me. The excitement after a long flight was building. I loved the Grand Hyatt hotel..the room was spacious and contemporary..and you can't beat the location, so wonderful to be connected to the historic Grand Central Terminal! Besides being artic-ly cold (in the single digits!), I thoroughly enjoyed the Big Apple.

• Community: I was blown away by everyone.. honest, generous, sincere, cool, witty, hilarious, awesome, encouraging, warm & welcoming, self-deprecating, crazy, and down-to-earth..these are just a few words to describe so many people I met or listened to this weekend.

Along with panel discussions and presentations by some of the industry's biggest stars, our focus that day was on career longevity and planning.
• The conference panel discussions, breakout workshops, and keynotes, kept me writing and writing in my notebook. Great information about the state of the industry, perspectives and advice.
• The Portfolio Showcase was 200+ strong. Some truly wonderful work!

• The wonderful presentations by Sophie Blackall,

were fantastic as they gave perspectives about their personal careers and paths to publishing as well as their thoughts about how to keep you working during the lulls in your career. Their commitment to their craft was incredible..research time and energy, and then execution of their efforts is what makes them the top-of-the-top in the industry. It was incredibly inspiring.
Lin Oliver was quite witty and smart and so enjoyable to listen to each day! Her "fireside chat" with the acclaimed author Rainbow Rowell was a highlight and made me want to read, read, read!

• Nancy Siscoe, Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, gave a great breakout regarding "Finding Your Unique Voice"
• Author April Halprin Wayland read her story, "More Than Enough", illustrated by Katie Kath during lunch...it was wonderful and a great little respite from the buzz of the conference..thanks April!
• It was a treat to listen in my 2nd breakout to Elizabeth (Liz) Bicknell of Candlewick Press speak about picturebook text. It was great to hear her speak about some of the greats for her house, Jon Klassen, Carson Ellis (I won her beautiful book, Home, in a raffle at the Illustrator Intensive...woot!), and the upcoming book, Toby, by the incredibly talented Hazel Mitchell. I can't wait!

The next day, thank you's were made to the incredible group of people who made the SCBWI Winter Conference possible...thank you everyone, it was SO well organized and executed, and the coffee and bagels were aplenty!

The renowned Jane Yolen gave the award for the two winners of her Mid-List Award:

 This year's Bologna competition winners were announced:

 Past Student Illustrator Conference Scholarship winners were highlit:
 and the 2016 winners were announced:
This year's Tomie dePaola Awards were announced:

 and finally, the Portfolio Showcase winners and honors were awarded:

We were treated to a keynote by Author, Rita Williams-Garcia, titled "Dos and Dont's in Children's Publishing from a Definite Don't"

and unfortunately I wasn't able to attend the rest of the conference or autograph session due to my travel schedule. Oh how I wish I could've gotten autographs for many of the books I purchased at the bookstore:

I had an incredible time at the conference filled with great moments that I know I will continue to remember more and more as the days and week go by. I took from this event two powerful things and that is that
#1) STORY is king..first and foremost. Paul Zelinsky's quote (you'll find it below) resonated with me, as did Dan Yaccarino's visit to the SF Illustrator day many years ago did as well, which is "why do you want to do this?" "Why is this book relevant?" Paul's quote is that it's not about you (the author/illustrator/publisher), it's about IT (the story). Yes.

#2, the people you "meet" online are indeed REAL! Meeting those who've I've admired and followed and enjoyed on social media for years in REAL LIFE was one of THE BEST things about the conference experience. To turn around and have a discussion, a "hello", a hug, or share a meal with someone you've known only through social media, well all I can say is WOW..it was incredibly rewarding and simply a beautiful thing. Beyond meeting those I've "known", getting to meet others in this industry, writers, illustrators, industry experts, and more, it was an awesome experience and I will forever remember this experience.

I'll leave you with the pre-conference prep work, printed postcards and business cards and pins, and some new pieces from the portfolio. I'm really happy that I was able to create 6 new pieces and share most of them in the book. If anything, I gathered very valuable feedback, some incredibly kind and generous feedback, and the knowledge that I was able to push myself to work towards a final body to represent myself at the event. I didn't give up and learned some wonderful techniques as I created the pieces..that is incredibly valuable on this journey. I'll also leave you with some inspiring quotes from the conference..yet another incredible body of information to reflect upon in the coming year as I continue working on my craft and stories. Hope they help you in your quest to make wonderful books!
Pre-conference prep: A whirlwind of a few weeks, and I have to thank my husband and daughters first and foremost for their patience with me as I was a bit of a mess before the conference trying to prep for the portfolio showcase that I almost didn't participate in. PSprint.com did a great job printing my new business cards and postcards as well.

This past month or so I have been finalizing color illustrations for a second book by Magination Press, and so with not much time left to prep for the conference, I decided to simply to create as many pieces as possible before the trip. This was probably not the best idea as how possibly could that be any good work, right? But, I knew that I wanted to push myself. I sometimes feel that given that hard deadline and the ability to say that the point of the process was for me to create, gave me this extra energy to think, sketch, execute in a manner that I only have done once before and that was before the most recent SCBWI event I attended, the Illustrator Day at the Fort Mason in Sept. 15.

I recently watched a wonderful online video by Lee White, titled Visual Storytelling Techniques from Will Terry's Society of Visual Storytelling's site. It was something I've been needing to help me craft new work with the techniques in mind, and I can't wait to learn and grow in this manner as I continue in illustration. After the tutorial, I thought, "Wow, what if I focus on "storytelling" in my new portfolio of work?" and so I started sketching concepts specifically for my first piece so that I could take it to the printers for new postcards and such. 

My work turned to "storytelling" and storytellers and so, with that, here is the final postcard:


 I thought that since I was printing purely for the conference takeaways, that I should just use up all of the space, front and back, for illustration..and so I hope that it tells a story..did I succeed?

I also had some business cards printed, and my daughters helped me put together a few buttons to hand out as well....

This little piggy is writing...and rewriting...

This is not quite the story-teller image, but more of a continuation of a real story I have been tinkering with...

Little Hopkins the fox is reading about his famous relative..another story I've been tinkering with.

So long from Grand Central Terminal!

Some notable quotes:

"Go out and hustle a bit..you are the driver of your career!" - William Joyce
"Getting a good review in the NY Times doesn't make a big difference." - William Joyce
"Winnie the Pooh, by E.H. Shepard - the illustrations drew me in and I loved that book." - Sophie Blackall
"Keep busy." (referring to the time between working on books, and in this reference was to her blog illustrations for Missed Connections, which then led to the book itself) - Sophie Blackall 
"Be connected to the community such as visiting sites like: The Niblings, A Fuse #8 ProductionSeven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, 100 Scope Notes, All the Wonders, Nerdy Book Club, and Design of the Picture Book." - Sophie Blackall
"Take risks, take leaps, people will begin to trust you, be nice to everybody." - Sophie Blackall
"To improve your writing, find other writers (authors) whom you love, and read." - Sophie Blackall
"Put your colors on your palette in the same place all of the time (meaning, don't switch places), as that way you don't have to find them (making it easier and more of an innate motion to paint)." - James Ransome
"Flex your muscles by illustrating scenes with lots of buildings or crowds. Give more and put as much effort as possible into each and every piece of work you do." - James Ransome
"I was the strange guy who sat in the kid's section of the bookstore and read children's books." - Mike Curato 

"To journeys!" - Mike Curato 
"Don't be afraid to break the rules" - Paula Wiseman
"Persistance and adaptability."- Holly McGhee
"Be that person who sits in the kid's section of the bookstore and read children's books." - Paula Wiseman
"Harry Bliss wanted to move his work to children's books and went to the library every night and studied five picture books..he did this tirelessly." - Holly McGhee
"It's not about you (the illustrator or author), it's not about them (publishers/editors/ADs), it's about it (the book/story)." - Paul O. Zelinsky
"Let your hand be the work." - Holly McGhee
"Don't think about the next book deal (focus on the book at hand)." - Paul O. Zelinsky
On advice to those embarking on a career in illustration:
"Rule out the possibility of doing anything else." - Holly McGhee
"Don't quit your day job before you've moved into the field with steady bookwork." - Paul O. Zelinsky
"Get to know the history of children's picture books and illustrators." - Paul O. Zelinsky
"Crippling self-doubt..it's common and reassuring that it's part of the process for everybody." - Peter Brown
On age in the industry: "It doesn't matter at all. Beverly Cleary is going to be 100 on 4/9/16."- Laurent Linn and Paul Zelinsky
"Every single one of you brings something to the table no one else does." - Cecilia Yung
"It's the best time to be in children's books." - Jean Feiwel
"Write for that audience. If you're writing for a 6-year old, know a 6-year old..talk with a 6-year old..get to know that audience and write what you believe in." - M. Loehr

Well, it's crazy late...I took a bit of a break to catch up with my girls and take them to see Kung Fu Panda 3..(I highly recommend it!) so until next time! Thank you SO much for surviving this long read. I hope you all are doing well and have enjoyed a bit of this post! 
I had an extremely rewarding time in New York. Thank you SCBWI and my family for putting up with me!  ~ Shirley

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Gung Hay Fat Choy!

As promised, I'm posting the final Chinese New Year's piece. This'll be my last post before the big conference and I'm so excited! I'm packed with my new portfolio, postcards and buttons! I'll be tweeting at @shirleysillos so swing on by to Twitter..or I will try to also post to FB if I can figure this all out on my phone. :)

'til then, I am wishing you all well and thanks for stopping by! I'll do a full recap when I return!
~ Shirley

Sunday, February 7, 2016

My version of "Tea-painting"...something new!

Hi Everyone! Hope this finds you all well..and getting ready for Super Bowl Sunday! I am so excited to know that just down the freeway, all of the festivities are ready to start..the whole Bay Area is jumping and I plan to listen/watch the game while I continue preparation for the New York SCBWI Conference...it's coming up fast and I'm starting to get excited. It's the final stretch and I'm taking a tiny break from my work to share a little something that I tried the other day...and that is "tea-painting". Well, so I'm not sure if this is a bonafide way of doing this, but I found it to be something to add to my repertoire. If anyone knows of the proper technique, please do let me know...I'm continually in a quest to learn and grow, so thank you in advance.

I sketched this new piece thinking about how my mom used to play "Go Fish" with my girls when they were little. Boy, would they have the best games! Many times they'd end up in giant balls of laughter..such wonderful times. Excited to celebrate Chinese New Year tomorrow, I grew up celebrating the holiday at my grandparent's home, and then at my parents..we celebrated with laysee (red envelopes), special foods and candy, stories of firecrackers, watching the Chinese New Year parade on t.v. and live in San Francisco. What great memories..I'll be celebrating tomorrow and wish you all a Gung Hay Fat Choy!

I scanned the sketch into the computer and enlarged the sketch to fit on an 8.5 x 11 sheet. I printed it and layed it on a light table, and retraced the sketch onto a sheet of Fabriano Hot Press, towel dried the sheet, then stretched it on a board..then I made a hot cup of Tazo Earl Grey tea, poured the tea into a small cup, grabbed my widest brush and started painting. It gave it a wonderful golden-tone. I found that if I let it dry, and go over the area once again, the tone would become even more golden-tan. At the end of the painting, I made another cup of tea, and added more of the golden tone to areas I needed to bring in to make the piece more cohesive.

Here's a snapshot of the piece..

I'll post the final piece closer to the start of the conference....hope you all have a wonderful Chinese New Year! It's the Year of the Monkey, my brother's year...yay! Best to you all ~ Shirley