Friday, July 29, 2011

SCBWI Conference Tips for Newbies

Unfortunately I'm not able to attend the SCBWI Conference in LA this year.  Pouty face.  But I will be following along on the Conference blog and wishing everyone a great time!  With a sold out event and celebrating it's 40th anniversary, this conference will be an event to remember.  Did I mention the pouty face?

I thought I'd share a few tips with illustrators who are attending the conference for the first time.

1. The Portfolio Display is More than a Competition - Sure you want to get noticed and maybe even win, but once you are at the conference it's time to let it go.  Be confident in knowing you are showing your best work.  But look at the portfolio display as more of a learning opportunity than a competition.  As you go through the display, take note of what catches your eye - what images really stand out.  Take a few moments to pour over the portfolios that have a crowd around them - why are they so appealing?  What postcards make an impact on you as you go from portfolio to portfolio?  Pick up your favorites. 

Be inspired, be encouraged - do not go away from the display thinking "I'm not worthy." (yes, make sure you say that in a Wayne & Garth tone of voice.) Everyone is at a different place in their creative journey.  If you feel like a beginner, don't feel overwhelmed.  Get excited - you are just starting out and have a fun path ahead of you!  Learn from the best, they will be all around you during the conference!

2. Don't be shy - Go to the Illustrator's Social on Friday and talk to as many illustrators as you can.  Just jump in and join a conversation.  Introduce yourself - share your business card or postcard.  Bring your portfolio.  In fact, my best advice is to talk to as many different people as you can through the whole weekend - you never know what friendships may be forged or what you might learn! 

3. Go team!  Each chapter has a time they meet at the conference, look through your welcome packet and find out when your local group is meeting and go say hi.  It's nice to see a familiar face at the conference and you'll find out what's new in your region.

4. Listen to the Authors - Don't miss events with the keynote speakers even though they are writers - you will learn something.  I have heard the most inspiring and soul-stirring speeches from today's top authors.  They share lessons that you will never forget.

5. Party!  Okay, don't go crazy, but do put on your pajamas and head to the costume ball on Saturday night.  I know it may feel awkward at first, but just start talking to people.  Everyone is friendly - this is your tribe after all.  Dance, enjoy your free drink, have fun people watching.  You need to unwind during the event and let your brain rest - this is the place to do it.

6. Pick Your Sessions Wisely - There is always a great illustrator's track, but there are tracks that have illustrators or art directors that aren't designated for illustrators - so I'm assuming they will share a more rounded talk about picture books for author/illustrators.  After looking through the schedule I would have a hard time picking a session.  If you are with a group of illustrators, you might want to break up, attend different sessions and compare notes.  And take good notes throughout the conference, it's so easy to forget the pearls of wisdom.  Check out the conference app to help you plan your days.  Study the faculty to learn more about the speakers before the event.

7. Follow Through - After the conference, make your list of editors and art directors and send out a packet to them.  Thank them for speaking at the conference.  Or send all the editors & AD's a thank you postcard after the event with your best image on the front.  Touch base with illustrators and authors you met and keep in contact after the conference.

Have the best time ever - the conference in LA is always my favorite SCBWI event!  I will look forward to reading the reviews on everyone's blog.