"Fire in the chute!" That was Lin Oliver merrily shouting in response to the alarm system going off for probably an hour on Saturday morning in the Hilton and delaying the conference a bit. She said she's always wanted to yell that, even though "it's a boy thing to say." Apparently there was a small fire on one floor of the HIlton.
Lin greeted 1064 conference attendees from 45 states and 10 countries. Yep, it's a big conference.
The first keynote speaker of the day was Nikki Grimes who spoke on the power of poetry. "Poetry is the place where words and music meet." "Poetry at its heart is about painting a picture with words."
Next was my favorite speaker of the whole conference, David Wiesner. I just love his books! Here he is talking about his young days of drawing disconnected arms (you can see his artwork on the screen):
David said that early in his career he became known as the cute lil' animal guy, illustrating books like Owly. He wanted to do more in the line of folktales and fairytales, so he redid his portfolio to show the kind of work he'd like to get. In 1983 he started working on his own wordless picture book, Free Fall, filled with all kinds of imagery he had been working on for his own personal pieces. That book was published in 1988 and won a Caldecott Honor. He's won 3 Caldecott Medals (Flotsam, The Three Pigs, and Tuesday) and 2 Caldecott Honors (Sector 7 and Free Fall). For references, David likes to build models of the characters or buildings in his artwork in order to experiment with lighting, shadows, and perspective. He showed us slides of model frogs, pigs, and buildings. Here are some photos of his process (click them to see them bigger):
The choices for the breakout sessions were all editors, no art directors. I was disappointed in this because the editors seemed to speak only on writing and just skimmed over the illustrators, basically giving the publisher's guidelines for submitting illustrations which we could get online.
For the morning breakout session, I saw Anamika Bhatnagar, a Senior Editor from Scholastic. She's looking for books with unique writing and a strong narrative voice. Picture books need to make her laugh out loud. She likes short, simple, alliteration, rhyming, fun sounds, satisfying, strong verbs and actions. Some picture books she likes: A Birthday for Cow, I'm the Biggest Thing in the Ocean, and Jane Yolen's dinosaur books. She wants chapter books starring characters she wants to be friends with. She loves school books, grounded in reality for either gender, humorous and satisfying. For illustrations, she likes everything, paintings to cartoons, graphic novels, very realistic to simple, black and white illustrations in books like Clementine. Anamika seems like she would be a fun person to work with.
At lunch I sat next to an illustrator, Carrie Harman, and an agent who spends her time between England and the U.S. The luncheon keynote speaker was Carolyn Mackler, a teen novelist. She was funny, but since I don't have any desire to ever do teen novels, I didn't get anything out of her speech.
For the afternoon breakout session, I saw David Gale from Simon & Schuster. He said he's best known for teen novels (wish I knew that ahead of time!) The few picture books that he does, he wants to be as short as possible, just one line per spread, and he despises rhyme. He wants kid-friendly books with a beginning, middle, and end. His list is full with previous authors and big sellers, so if he takes on a new book from one of us, he would have to take off one book from his list. He said to send manuscripts to the general submissions pile, so that junior editors can pick them up. For illustrators, he basically just read the guidelines from the website. No insight for us.
Last on the agenda for the day was an agent panel. Again, nothing really helpful for illustrators. The agents pretty much addressed the writers. For picture books, we heard character-driven picture books with clever plots that are short, simple, and easy to read, get great reactions from kids.
So overall, this day was for writers. David Wiesner was the only super helpful speaker of the day for illustrators.