A party in February

Erik KuntzAmy Rose Capetta and Nick Alter made this video of the Austin Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators 2012 Regional Conference, Something for Everybody. 

I get a kick out of how the thumbnail on YouTube shows me in the crowd, getting a hug from illustrator Marsha Riti. So of course I had to include it here.

Erik, our web designer and webmaster and Nick, our chapter’s social media strategist produced the video around Amy Rose’s wonderful portrait photography. They put it all together on the fly — while the event was still happening, in time to show the attendees at the day’s end.

You don’t want to miss hearing the Muppets in the video’s second half.

My own photos will never be as good as Amy’s — but they’re illustration-centric and include shots of the illustrators’ intensive session by Patti Ann Harris, senior art director for Little, Brown and Co.

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Yes, it was all back in February! But the experience feels fresh still. Highlights for me were a session Patti did with Random House (Golden Books) editor and author Diane Muldrow on the art director/editor relationship at a house  — and a special award that our chapter presented to two of its beloved members:  Authors Cynthia Leitich Smith and Greg Leitich Smith. The award recognized this married pair for being our chapter’s friends/mentors and Ambassadors for the Austin Kid-Lit Community to the world.

I loved how the Girllustrators organized the illustrators’ print and original art donations for the silent auction and ran herd on the portfolio room and portfolio competition (won by Jeff Crosby.) They represented our group splendidly.

Others’ thank yous were given out many weeks ago. But I’ll add mine now — thanks to the Girllustrators, our terrific guest faculty, especially author Lisa YeeDebbie Gonzalesour chapter’s regional adviser (RA) and assistant RA Carmen Oliver, also Meredith Davis, Shelli Cornelison, Samantha Clark, Sheryl Witschorke  and so many volunteers, and Sister Donna Jurick, Ramsey Fowler, PhD. and Rebecca Rodriguez of St. Edward’s University who allowed their beautiful campus to be our base for the second year in a row.

Girllustrators at the conference

The “Girllustrators” who coordinated the Portfolio Showcase and portfolio contest. Left ro right standing are Emma J. Virjan and Shelley Ann Jackson, seated – Divya Srinivasan, Marsha Riti, Patrice Barton and Amy Farrier — with Emma J. Virjan, Marsha Riti, Patrice Barton, Amy Farrier and Shelley Ann Jackson at the Mabee Ballroom at St. Edward’s University. Not pictured are Lalena Fisher, Tiffany Vargas and Amanda Williams.

A Crystal Kite for Patty

Austin SCBWI’s own Patrice Barton joins Michigan SCBWI’s author Shutta Krum in winning a 2012 SCBWI Crystal Kite Award for their picture book Mine!

The Crystal Kite is given by the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators each year to recognize the best books from 15 regional SCBWI divisions around the world. Peers, children’s book authors and illustrators in the 15 divisions, vote for their favorites.  Mine! was the winner for the Texas-Oklahoma Division.

Last summer we interviewed Patty for Marks and Splashes course students. In this excerpt from video interview Patty did for students of the Marks and Splashes course  she talks about working on the illustrations for Mine! 

 And remembering Maurice Sendak

Who brought many of us back to children’s books — when we thought we’d left them behind long ago.


Conference debrief

More than 200 children’s book writers and illustrators (aspiring and professional) converged on a little Unitarian church just north of Austin for the 2010 Destination Publication SCBWI conference January 30.

Poet Liz Garton Scanlon and Illustrator Marla Frazee

Poet Liz Garton Scanlon and Illustrator Marla Frazee talk about their many months of collaboration with each other and Beach Lane Books V.P. and publisher Allyn Johnston who was their editor.

Guests and speakers arrived from Texas and everywhere for a day of inspiring presentations and professional critiques of manuscripts and portfolios.

“The most expensive people — all  those who were trained by the great editors Ursula Nordstrom and Margaret McElderry are gone,” agent and former editor Mark McVeigh said in his rivetting keynote,  “Defending Your Muse.”

Still children’s publishing is  “not an industry in ruins, but in transition,” he continued.  He spoke about the emerging digital media and mobile media (Kindle, iPhone, etc.) marketplace.  But he kept returning to the sovereignty of language, individual creativity — and the Emily Dickinson poem he keeps in his wallet.  You can read  Mark’s recapping of his time with us in Austin and see the full text of the Dickinson poem  on his agency blog .

Later in the day  Curtis Brown agent Nathan Bransford elicited a gasp or two with his comment that he sees 15,000 to 20,000 submissions a year and might take  four to five clients per year from that pile. Yet his presentation hit inspiring notes.  He refers to the Austin conference in his publishing news packed- blog.

Liz reads one of Marla's e-mails

Liz reads one of Marla's e-mails

“Designing the ‘page-turns‘ is the most important thing,” asserted two-time Caldecott Honor illustrator Marla Frazee in an extraordinary presentation on the the picture book creation process.

“Use the page turn in the narrative when you want the mood to shift and your images to really stand out,”  she continued.

“Save diagonals for the most dramatic parts of your story. They’re like exclamation marks!”

Marla demonstrated how she filled the imagery for  All the World (2010 Caldecott Honor book penned by Austin poet Liz Garton Scanlon) with imagery from her own life  — landscapes of the central California coast,  her grandfather,  a favorite cafe — even the outdoor chairs and tables from the student union of her alma mater — props, settings and people that mattered a great deal for her.

A wonderful interview by Julie Danielson in her blog Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast will give you a sense of the presentation by Marla and Liz and contains much of the same imagery.

In a special breakout session with the illustrators Marla discussed the artist’s voice, characterization and setting as the  foundation for illustrating books for children.

“I’ll start with a sketch trying to get to know the character. It’s about digging into the character.”It doesn’t have to be complicated. If you can get the reader to feel the emotion your character is feeling,  you’ve won most of the battle.”

As for setting,  details are important. “It should feel like you’re opening up a world.

“It’s really a matter of putting the time in.”


Poet Liz Garton Scanlon watches illustrator Marla Frazee discuss the cafe scene in the 2010 Caldecott Honor Book "All the World"

spread from "All the World"

spread from "All the World"

Frances Yansky's portfolio in the illustrators' portfolio display room.


Marla Frazee (bottom left) visits with attendees at the conference breakfast

While the illustrators soaked up Marla’s words and instructive  slides,  writers were treated to presentations by Newbery Honor author Kirby Larson, agent Andrea Cascardi (Transatlantic Literary Agency) ,  Editors  Cheryl  Klein (Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic) and  Stacy Cantor (Bloomsbury, USA), writer and former Farrar, Straus and Giroux editor Lisa Graf, and author Sara Lewis Holmes.

Attendees also heard from our own power gang of authors Liz Garton Scanlon, Sibert Honor author Chris BartonNewbery Honor author Jacqueline Kelly and Shana BurgPhilip Yates, Jennifer Ziegler, Jessica Lee Anderson and P.J. Hoover and power illustrator Patrice Barton in a fun panel discussion moderated by author Julie Lake (a former regional advisor of Austin SCBWI)


Long time Austin SCBWI illustration chair Christy Stallop

Longtime Austin SCBWI illustration chair Christy Stallop.

Illustrator and writer Erik Kuntz

Illustrator and writer Erik Kuntz shows illustrator pals a picture from his book " A Dog a Day"

Conference illustrators' hangout

Illustrators had their own portable building to hang out in. Left to right around the circle starting with Christy Stallop are Amy Farrier, Clint Young, Mike Benny, Don Tate, Kim Edge, Jamie Adams, Erik Kuntz and Diandra Mae

Here’s an Austin SCBWI round-up (so far) of blogposts on the conference:

Marla Frazee shows an early storyboard for "All the World"

Marla Frazee shows an early storyboard for "All the World"

Audrey and Amy Farrier

Audrey and Amy Farrier

Rumor has it there was a national SCBWI conference in New York City that same weekend.

OKAY,  it wasn’t a rumor.  It was the giant Winter Conference. Here’s the SCBWI team blog coverage of that major annual event that somehow messed up and booked the same date as ours.

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Author-illustrator Mark Mitchell hosts this blog and teaches the  self paced course  Make Your Splashes; Make Your Marks! Drawing and Painting for Children’s Book Illustration.

Newbery Honor author Kirby Larson and Mark Mitchell

Newbery Honor author Kirby Larson and author-illustrator Mark Mitchell

Success panel

In the line up photo of the panel, Regional adviser Tim Crow is introducing the panel and left to right are Jessica Lee Anderson, Chris Barton, Patrice Barton, Shana Burg, Julie Lake, Jacqueline Kelly, P.J. Hoover, Liz Garton Scanlon, Philip Yates and Jennifer Ziegler.

In the line up photo of the panel, Regional advisor Tim Crow is introducing the panel and left to right are Jessica Lee Anderson, Chris Barton, Patrice Barton, Shana Burg, Julie Lake, Jacqueline Kelly, P.J. Hoover, Liz Garton Scanlon, Philip Yates and Jennifer Ziegler.

Scene by Marla Frazee from "All the World"

Scene by Marla Frazee from "All the World"

Illustrators decorated mirror frames for the silent auction.

Illustrators decorated mirror frames for the silent auction. Assemblage photo by Christy Stallop