Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Look out for the skibbis!

I found this handy note from my daughter in my suitcase just after arriving at the New England Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators conference in Nashua, NH. I call it Skibby for short; leave it to an 11-year-old to manifest a mascot. I was there primarily to worship: so many great writers and illustrators in a single place all devoted to the celebration of craft and story for young readers.

My hotelmate, Kirsten Cappy, graciously introduced me to new folks during the Friday evening cabaret. My island neighbor, Annie O'Brien was a hit in the off-off-Broadway parody called the Seven Deadly Sins, alongside the vixen/editor, Yolanda Le Roy, from Charlesbridge Publishing, and David Hyde Costello, author/illustrator/hearththrob. The wake-up call came way too soon Saturday morning.

Laurie Halse Anderson gave an inspired address peppered with quotes from Picasso, such as "Success is dangerous" and "Never put off til tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone."
She challenged the audience to grant ourselves permission to make art, to write in a dedicated space. I have all that, it's the time piece that's the biggest challenge.

Next up for me was Mitali Perkin's workshop on pajama promotions. She thinks I'm generous; she gives her wisdom away! There is an abundance about her that is refreshing in a competitive world. I had to sketch her:

I just finished First Daughter: Extreme American Makeover and realized she perhaps learned all about the blogosphere as research for that story. I vowed to get more with it.

Later, I snuck in to the second half of Melissa Sweet's workshop on adding emotion to your picture book. I've been a correspondent with Melissa for years; we both enjoy a good old-fashioned envelope in the snail mail, cheerfully decorated with stickers, choice stamps, and loopy hand lettering. She brings a colorful serendipity to everything she does. Sigh.

We were led through a typical illustrator's exercise: drawing a letter three ways: as a gesture, as a 3-dimensional object, and then as color. After we watched a brief youtube spot of the Ramones singing Sheena is a punkrocker, Melissa challenged us to draw the letter as a punkrocker. Here's mine.

Melissa's latest book, Tupelo Rides the Rails, is a gem. Especially if you love dogs, wishing on a star, and lonely train whistles.

Kevin Hawkes wrapped the afternoon up with his magical cast of eccentricities
and sweet anecdotes of his formative years as a member of the "treefort generation." With numerous moves in a military family, the libraries of Europe became a stable home, where Kevin could revisit the friends he'd read before.
It's backstories like this that make an event worthwhile. Kevin is another former island neighbor (did I already mention there are artists under every rock here?) and each encounter with him is a learning moment.

Following Kevin's address, the awards were announced for the poster contest. Nope, I didn't win.

But I wasn't at all dismayed because the winner's was gorgeous and deserving. Congratulations, Kelly Light!

I hung out in the Speakeasy for awhile with a couple of illustrators, Casey Girard and Andy J. Smith, and a hot new writer, Kat Black. Plenty to discuss comparing notes on the workshops and the ratrace known as publishing. Later, I located my pal, Kirsten, at where else...her favorite Indian restaurant that makes a stop in Nashua so very delicious.

Yes, the food is excellent, but I imbibe the atmosphere as well. The art and ambiance take me to another place.

I also got to meet two more illustrators, Teri Weidner and Robert Squier.

It was a loooong day but we all departed energized by the whole skibby shebang.
Note to self: drag out that picture book dummy and rework it while the inspiration is still fresh!

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