Saturday, August 02, 2008

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.

It wasn't.

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!!!

Friday, August 01, 2008


I arrived safely in Los Angeles yesterday just before lunchtime local time and got a shared shuttle van to the hotel. There were lots of conference attendees in the van to meet and share names with, one of whom named David LaRochelle who writes the most wonderful books!! I found his at the SCBWI book sale this morning and bought two called "THE END" which is a fairy tale told backwards and "The Best Pet Ever" about a boy who has a dragon move in as his pet in order to convince his mother that a dog would be better! Google them! look them up on Amazon! They are AWESOME!!

There is a mall close to the hotel that has a grocery store and a food court, so I was able to request a fridge for the room and pick up some food to keep there. California prices are just a WEE bit more expensive that Moncton ones! Sadly the delicious Yoplait Fat Free Yogurt here has more Potasium Sorbate than my allergy could handle... so I will be looking for someone who wants the other 4 hiding in my fridge!

This morning, I woke at 1:30, 3:30 and 5:30 local time. The 3rd time I just got up and wrote in my journal for a bit.

At 7:30, I was bright-eyed and bushy tailed in the registration area picking up my name tag and conference information. Here's where the Jumping up and down with Excitement part comes in...

Sunday Morning, my one on one portfolio review will be with Mark Teague!! Google him and just look at how lovable he makes his T-Rex and other dinosaurs or how he uses dramatic composition and you'll understand why I am OVER THE MOON! If there was one brain that I wanted to pick at the conference, it would be his!!


Back down to the conference opening and keynote speaker... but I had to get on and write this for everyone to read. Sorry about the spelling mistakes if there are any. I had to write this right in Blogger!

Skipping off with my dragon claws barely touching the ground.....

Wednesday, July 30, 2008


I am so excited I could burst...

I am so nervous I could barf...

I don’t know how much sleep I will get between the end of “So You Think You Can Dance” at 11 pm and the taxi arriving at 4:15 am, but I am all packed and ready to go.

Time to chase my dream!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


Ok... I look a little like this dragon as I race around to get my portfolio wrapped up and get packed for Los Angeles. I just need to remind myself to take a deep breath now and then and trust in what I can do and in following my dream.

My iTunes mix right now consists of my two theme songs for this summer. Both songs have words that I have mumbled and sung to myself over and over. The first is Walk On The Moon by Great Big Sea and the second is One Step At A Time by Jordan Sparks. I will be humming them in my head all weekend in Los Angeles any time I get nervous!

It helped that a good friend who is an award-winning graphic designer came over last night and looked at my portfolio to see what needed to be moved around, edited etc. He had some very valuable insights and also pointed out some strengths I hadn’t realized about the work that I’d put together....

So now I feel a little calmer than I did when I drew this yesterday morning!

Of course this dragon can also apply to many of you who read my blog and visit my website...


There has been a wonderful flood of e-mails, messages, condolences etc. pouring in... and many of you seem to be grieving because you think I won’t be designing anything or selling my existing designs or creating any large designs or doing anything except teach in person.....

I tried to make things clear in my blog and on the website, but maybe I’d better clear up a few points of confusion.

1) I don’t own a shop and I am not going out of business! There is a WONDERFUL store right here in Moncton that will continue to carry and sell my stuff. I will also continue to sell my existing designs to shops through Hoffman and directly to shops that I deal with. You don’t have to worry that stuff will suddenly go out of print! If I do run out of any inventory of OLDER designs, those will be transferred to so that they can still be enjoyed by stitchers around the world.

2) I am not quitting designing completely! I have spent a great deal of the past 15 years focussed on cross stitch, but just because my focus is changing a bit does not mean that a design won’t creep into my head and demand to be stitched instead of painted. Some images that I have created could ONLY have come to life through needle and thread. I doubt that will change... it just may not be as often as fans would like.

3) Having new designs on won’t mean that they will all be small ones... just look at some of Teresa Wentzler’s designs on there!!

If you could see how crowded my poor 10 x 10 self-store is, you’d understand why I need to stop SELF-PUBLISHING cross stitch patterns for now. There is only so much room to store things, especially with a dozen or so cases of Owen & The Dinosaur books in there too!

To all those who sent messages telling me how much my designs have meant to you over the years... THANK YOU! The biggest joy for any artist is to know that they created something that touched another person in some way. That isn’t going to stop until my head and my hands aren’t capable of making pretty pictures anymore.

So Don’t Panic! Trust me... I’ve been doing enough of that for everyone!