This summer I went to the 40th annual SCBWI Summer conference. This was a well organized event I was referred to while going back to school to finish my BFA. I don’t know many artists personally who specialize in Children’s Books and I am a new comer to the field, so I went as a student of the game. It was hella (very) interesting and well worth the trip from the Bay Area to L.A.
Creative Capacity Fund to obtain professional development. Originally a year ago an instructor suggested I go, but I was unable to pay the fee then. This year I decided to find a way. The entry fee was around $500. The grant paid for over 90% of that cost. But renting a car, food, etc was another expense.
-I met people in my field! I know a lot of artists, but not many children's books illustrators/writers. It was paramount that I go expand my horizons by meeting some new people.
-I learned many insider tips about the business. Things that the website does not come out and say, like for example. If you are a member of this organization, when submitting manuscripts or portfolios, some publishers will give Scbwi members first peek.
-I met some elders. Its comforting to know that there are people who do this successfully and can earn a living doing what they love.
-I got to see what my competition looked like. There were tons of portfolios out there, and tons of people both new and experienced to ask questions of. Most were open and helpful.
-Most of the art I saw was phenomenal!
-It affirmed my suspicion that there is a desperate need for someone, anyone with the guts to put bilingual and children of color focused books at the fore front. Both of these are barely a blip on their radar (in my opinion). It’s unfortunate for them because I felt like they’re blind to a lot of people by not being more inclusive of more diverse stories. But, it’s good for me because it showed me a wide-open opportunity.
-I got encouragement from pro’s first hand. When I submitted my portfolio for the competition I didn’t win, but one of the judges came up to me and spoke to me about my work after wards. That was extremely helpful!
-I gathered information and resources. Eventually I want to be able to share what I know about this business with others. I wouldn’t be able to share much if I didn’t go to learn from events like these.
-No People of color (POC)! There were about 2000 attendees including presenters. About 5% of them were people of color.
Specifically, No Men of color! Out of the people there, 70% of them were women. Brothers!! We need to be involved in this! When I go to the major book stores, even the black owned stores it is hard as hell to find a book that shows a positive, thoughtful, or even edgy image of a father of color taking care of his kids! That has got to change. Fail!
-Bi-lingual books. Ok, beyond just welcoming POC and making them a constant presence at an event like this, it is important to acknowledge language. Spanish and Chinese (mandarin/Cantonese) are the most widely spoken languages around the world next to English. But, no mention of bi-lingual books! None! Wack! Unacceptable!
-The cost. Most young artists, students, and aspiring illustrators or writers cannot afford $500, plus a plane ticket if they don’t live in LA, plus room and board. This event is grand, the hotel is grand, but they need to figure out how to cut costs somewhere so that more young people can attend. The majority of the women there were over 40, probably with regular 9-5 jobs. What about recent college grads? After the last day there were extra workshops that could have been useful to me, except for the fact that the cost $300 each
-Children! Here at a conference about children, there were NO children at the event. No young speakers, no classes invited, beyond the illustrated books, not one single image or mention by kids them selves. I feel like children although young have a lot to offer the discussion on how to make better children's books. Also, I am a young parent. What if I wanted to go but needed childcare? That was not an option, and it should be. Especially for single parents.
Sarah Stern - Sarah is one of the newest staff members to Scbwi and she made an impact on me because she remembered me. Months before I attended the event, I sent my work to various publishers, agents, etc in an effort to produce, work, and learn. One of the people I contacted and sent my work to when I first became an Scbwi member was Ms Stern. And when I checked in at the front desk, she remembered my work and my name before she saw me. That helped ease the anxiety of being one of maybe 10% of people there under the age of 50, and being probably the only man of color there, period!
E.B. Lewis -This brother was very nice. I was sitting outside in between workshops eating lunch. A little frustrated at what I didn’t see there, but trying to appreciate what was in front of me. I offered my food to anyone around me as a way to just make conversation and network. Low and behold, one of the people I talk to was E.B. Lewis! If you’re not familiar with his work look up “I love my hair”. This brother not only gave me advice, but he acknowledged me, my concerns, and my questions. All without an ego or authoritative tone. To hear about his work and his life helped me focus and be present.