Wild, Wild Midwest Conference

Hello, everyone, I hope you’re enjoying your spring!

Despite a relatively mild winter, spring has been pretty late in coming to those here in the Midwest; weeks of cool temperatures and rain can put a damper on just about anyone’s spirit.

Luckily I had something pretty awesome to look forward to that helped me to ignore the less-than-ideal weather, and that was the SCBWI Wild, Wild Midwest Conference! (image below designed by Michael Kress-Russick)

WWMW con 2016 image

This year’s conference was held in Naperville, IL, near Chicago, and what an event it was! People from all over the United States attended, about 500 people in all.

Every now and then I receive inquiries from people interested in either writing or illustrating children’s books, asking where their journey to publication can begin. To those people I offer my best advice: join the SCBWI!

The SCBWI is the Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators, comprised of some of the most kind, talented, and inspirational folk I have ever met! If you are serious about wanting to get started in the business of writing and illustrating for children’s books, this is the most important group you will join.

From April 29-May 1st, we were treated to a whirlwind of Breakout sessions, Keynote speakers, and networking with some of the finest writers, illustrators, editors, and agents in the business. The energy of the group was astounding!

Troy presenting sm

The above picture was taken at a Breakout session on creating picture book dummies, by author-illustrator Troy Cummings.

No matter where you are on your journey in writing or illustrating, attending an SCBWI conference is invaluable. Be sure to bring plenty of notebooks, sketchpads, pencils, and pens for note-taking!

I was excited to attend intensives and sessions with art directors Semadar Megged and John Sanford, listen to fantastic Keynotes Speakers Lisa Cron, Sarah Aronson, Linda Sue Park, and Candace Fleming, and was lucky enough at the opening dinner to be seated next to and have a nice chat with Melissa Manlove, an editor at Chronicle Books (who also delivered a very passionate reading of one of Chronicle’s picture books at her Breakout session)!

I was happy to see many people I have not seen in awhile, as well as making new friends. Coming from someone who can be somewhat shy in groups of people, it’s easy to make friends with those in the SCBWI. I was also thrilled to finally meet in person the amazing and talented Miranda Paul, who I had worked with in creating the logo for the Rate Your Story website.

me with my artwork r

There was also an art show featuring the art work of almost 90 incredible artists! Here is a pic of me standing next to my entry. The talented Heidi Sheffield, from our Michigan illustrator group, received second place with her fun and fantastic entry! Congrats, Heidi!

Big Magic

While I learned a great deal in both writing and illustrating that weekend, one of the best things I feel I took away from this weekend was about facing your fears and taking chances. Sarah Anderson, during her Keynote speech, shared a book called “Big Magic”, by Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat, Pray, Love). One of the largest obstacles I have always faced was my fear of submitting my work (I’m not quite done, I have more to learn, I still need to improve, and dozens of other excuses). This book is helping me to put it all in perspective; one of my favorite lines from the book is, “Fear is Boring!” And it is; fear wants us to live a boring life huddled in our safety zone and never take any chances.

So if you are interested in writing or illustrating for children, whether it be picture books, novels, chapter books, or graphic novels, don’t wait one more minute. Join the SCBWI and see where your creativity takes you!

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