When The Going Gets TOUGH... The Dragon Hunts for Kinko's!
Talk about a roller coaster of emotion. I just turned in my portfolio for tonight's portfolio review competition and it bears absolutely NO resemblance to the portfolio that I brought down in my carry-on!
All of yesterday's sessions were incredibly informative, overwhelmingly helpful, impressive and inspiring. It was affirming to be with almost 1000 people who work in the children's book industry or hope to one day.
Everyone has been so gracious in answering pesky questions from the very tall Canadian dragon!
The Professional Track luncheon gave me incredible insight into how an Editor's mind works, how hard their job is when they go to bat for a book to the marketing and sales departments of the publishing houses etc. I'd never looked at things from their point of view before.
At last night's wine and cheese reception, I was lucky enough to have Bruce Coville ask to see my portfolio in reference to a comment about dragons vs. unicorns. He pointed out which images were my strongest and told me that I should move things around in the portfolio so that my strongest images were at the very front for the judges, editors and art directors who will be walking through the exhibition to see. They have a lot to look at and will only have a few glances at best.
GREAT ADVICE from someone who has been in this industry a LOT longer than I have. I just felt a little nervous taking ART advice from a writer! (Silly Dragon!!)
After that, we had a gathering just for illustrators with Cecilia Yung (Art Director and VP at Penguin Young Readers), Freida Gates (who puts together key events in NY for SCBWI) and Dilys Evans, Art Buyer. The session talked about what works in self-promotion and what doesn't, what editors/buyers/art directors look for in portfolios etc. Again, I heard that you only have a FEW images to grab them with... and the worry in my stomach turned to full blown terror. I was able to ask a wonderful woman to look through my portfolio to see if she agreed with Bruce... and she even called Dilys over to look at a few of our books and offer advice.
By 10:30 at night (2:30 am back home) I walked up to my room almost in tears, but determined to make the changes I needed to before turning in my portfolio. Out came all my little explanation tags. As they pointed out, the pictures need to stand on their own. Out came my first page promo slick and in went the image that had made them all laugh "The Fear of the Blank Page!"
I then swallowed my pride and divided my portfolio into two sections - one for the contest tonight with my strongest images in it, and the back half of my portfolio with the tighter Hanen Centre, Owen and more detailed illustrations in what they called my "more textbook illustration style". If I pick up work from publishers like that, that works too.
Then... I went to sleep around 11:30 California time.
I woke up at 5:00 am here (9:00 am back home) from a dream of reading to a dragon. I grabbed my sketchbook and the only 2 pencils I had and began to draw a new spot illustration to introduce the Children's Book section of my portfolio. I inked and coloured a little picture of a teddy bear with a backpack on and offering an apple in one paw then coloured it will the coloured pencils I brought along. I also called home to talk to Nick and the girls because hearing my family's voices reminded me of why I am here and who I am doing this for.
The time was now 7:30 am. I showered, dressed, grabbed some stuff from my little fridge and went down to find out if the business centre would be open early.
So another illustrator and I jumped into a cab and drove to the nearest Kinko's.
THANK GOODNESS for Kinko's!!
There, I was able to make colour copies of the little bear, a two page spread from Just Nanny and Me that they felt was strong, print out some new computer text titles for the two new sections, use their paper trimmer, buy some double-sided scrapbook tape and jump back into the waiting cab. We made it back JUST as the first session of the morning started at 8:45 am!!
While I believe in my artwork and my own personal style, I also know that the wisdom I received last night and my willingness to rearrange stuff, simplify and play editor may have just saved me from being totally dismissed as "not ready to play in the big leagues."
I am a bit punchy, a bit trembly... but I honestly believe that I am MUCH stronger for this drastic pruning experience. I am also incredibly grateful to have had access to such experience and input BEFORE the competition tonight. Having seen some of the other artwork here, I am sure I don't even stand a chance of winning the top prize, but I have heard so many stories of how shows like this have led to publishers matching people up or providing that first chance... that winning the contest isn't everything. Getting my samples into the hands of so many top people in the industry is.
Time to go eat some lunch... you can only run on adrenaline for so long!!!