This weekend, I attended the Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI) Conference in the southern city of Birmingham, Alabama. I always enjoy being around other people who are like me. People who haven't quite grown up, who still live half-way in the real world and half-way in their imaginary one. Most of all, we are people who are children's book junkies. We love a good story. Tell us one and you'll have our attention for life!
This weekend, I met women who wear outstanding hats, men who are unashamedly animated characters and hot-peppered, southern-seasoned, flavorful writers and illustrators from all over the south - each bringing their own stories for why they were at the conference. Some of us need a little nudge to navigate the book industry. Some of us came back to see good friends. But all of us came because of the story.
And the beauty is every story that we bring has value. They often times spring up from our childhood memories, and ironically, we find out that we really aren't so unique. Our story is also our neighbor's story. There is beauty in seeing your mirror in someone else.
I love being outdoors and hiking. The opening artist session was held at the Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve so I was in heaven! It was my immense pleasure to attend the Illustrator's Intensive featuring R. Gregory Christie on the opening day. Artists, of all levels, were able to have a seat at the table to receive valuable information from Mr. Christie, who has worked on numerous children's books during his career. He gave us tips on art and the industry; he inspired us to think of new ways to do what we love to do - CREATE GREAT ART.
"YOUR ART REPRESENTS YOU IN PLACES YOU CAN'T GO"
-R.Gregory Christie, Artist
This statement resonated with me because just a few short years ago, I was scared to let "my babies" (i.e. my art work) go. I also was trying to find out where I fit in as a creative person. Like most sensitive souls, when I create something it is done from a place of love. We want others to appreciate, respect and value our work. Christie's statement reminded me my main job is to do the work. The work will find a home with those to whom it speaks. But an artist's primary job is to create. When we do, our gifts will go out into the world to show others who we truly are. It will find a home with whom it belongs.
Birmingham showed me it's beauty this weekend with its natural landscapes, rich history and architecture, and its growing community of hipsters and cool kids. As always, I enjoyed the interaction and information received from publishers, agents and editors. Every year the Southern Breeze WIK Conference brings its southern charm and aims to please.
A last word to all of you who love kids lit and want to write or illustrate:
If you are not a member, you should be. If you are, I'll see you soon.
Until then, I have lots of childhood memories to remember, stories to write and a great imaginary world of pictures to paint. Until next year....