A record 250 people attended the Austin SCBWI 2018 Writers & Illustrators Working Conference on April 28-29 and left feeling inspired and ready to work.
Three of the biggest publishing houses were represented with Little, Brown Books for Young Readers VP, Editor-in-Chief Alvina Ling, Scholastic Senior Editor Mallory Kass and Simon & Schuster Art Director Lucy Ruth Cummins. Agents Marcia Wernick from Wernick & Pratt Literary Agency and Sarah LaPolla from Bradford Literary rounded out the publishing faculty.
On the author/illustrator side, we were thrilled to have National Book Award finalist author Elana K. Arnold, award-winning author/illustrator Selina Alko, illustrators Thomas Jung and Marsha Riti, as well as authors Chandler Baker, Cate Berry, Bethany Hegedus, Mari Mancusi, Joy Preble, Christina Soontornvat, Jennifer Ziegler and Cynthia Leitich Smith doing remote critiques.
Once again we began the conference honoring local members who had a book published in the last year. On the panel were Bethany Hegedus, Mari Mancusi, Laura Creedle, Julie Herman, Jennifer Ziegler, Kat Kronenberg, Misha Blaise and Cate Berry, who’s debut picture book came out at the beginning of this month. Congratulations, Cate! The authors talked about how perseverance made a big difference in their publishing journeys, and how SCBWI conferences were instrumental. Misha Blaise won the Portfolio Showcase a few years ago and said she leveraged that to get her agent and book deal.
Starting the presentations on Saturday, Elana K. Arnold spoke about honoring what YOU want to create and not what you believe agents, editors, readers or the industry want to read. In her keynote, illustrator Selina Alko shared an intimate look at the personal journey behind not only her development as an artist, but the different legs of her career, and the picture book collaborations with her husband—Sean Qualls. Simon and Schuster art director Lucy Cummins wrapped up the day with an informative—and often hilarious and candid—talk about what’s happening in the industry. (Narwhals are out! Unicorns are in!)
The editors, agents and art director answered attendee questions in a publishing panel, moderated by author and Austin Assistant Regional Advisor P.J. Hoover.
Saturday also featured nine breakouts on writing picture books and novels, including humor, characters and series; a professional development track including tips from a bookseller.
The illustrator track featured inspiration, advice, and practical application. Marsha Riti offered sensible insight into bringing a fresh wind to your work. Thomas Jung shared an overview and tips on the nuts and bolts, and the art, of digital painting. Alvina Ling’s “What makes a good picture book?” session was standing room only. She provided an insider’s view on the industry and the craft of picture books.
On Sunday, attendees dug into their work with intensives on novels, picture books and illustration.
In novels, Elana K. Arnold talked about finding the shape of stories and other revision techniques, and Mallory Kass discussed developing a strong voice for you work.
Bethany Hegedus started the picture book track, looking at classic and current books and helping attendees find their own stories. Alvina Ling gave tips on revision and editing to end the day.
In the Sunday intensive track, Lucy Ruth Cummins provided feedback on two assignments—sketches of a picture book character and spread, or a middle grade cover. Her critiques were insightful, offering direction, while being generous and fair. She then presented best practices on self-marketing to art directors, agents, and other industry professionals. In her session, illustrator Selina Alko had the attendees donned in their art aprons as she lead them through several exercises to create their own collage journals. The work Selina does is very personal, and she encouraged the attendees to dig deep as they worked.
The weekend also included critiques, pitches and awards.
We honored three new recipients of the Betty X Davis Young Writers of Merit Awards: Ke’Myra Jackson for high school, Nubia Fuente for middle school and Sydney Moise for elementary school. The students read their winning pieces at the conference to a rapt audience. Read more about them and the award here.
Marsha Riti was honored with the Meredith Davis Volunteer of the Year Award.
Look out for a new header for our website and enewsletter from Beth Mills soon.
And the nominees for our Cynthia Leitich Smith Writing Mentor Award are Kim O’Brien, Michelle Lambing, Pamela McCartney Lindsey, Amy Bearce, Kristen Kiesling, Ben Cross, Aimee Thomas, D.S. Yates, Kari Lavelle, Robyn McGrath, Gene Brenek and Sheryl Smith Rogers. Our 2018 mentor, Jennifer Ziegler, will announce the winner soon.
We were also thrilled to have our Creators of Diverse Characters Scholarship recipients at the conference as well. Read about them here.
We’re hard at work planning our 2019 conference. See you there!