Sunday, August 11, 2013

My Experience at the SCBWI LA Conference – The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Whew! What a whirlwind! It's really hard to describe how I feel after a conference like the one I just attended. I feel like a different person somehow. It seems like I felt everything at one time or another – inspired, at home with my tribe, like an outcast, like a pro, like an imposter, like one of the cool kids and like a dork.

I'm think this photo from the Black & White Gala sums up my experience perfectly:

I don't know these women, but I had to snap this pic when I saw their wonderful costumes. I have since learned that they are (right to left) Claudia Pearson, Jo Kittinger and Heather Montgomery.

The Good

Laura Zarrin, Tracy Bishop, Me and Debbie Meyer
OMG! I have never been so inspired in my life. It seems I learned something from every speech and breakout session I attended. I got to meet so many of my cyber friends and be surrounded by people who love children's books as much as I do.

I got to meet some of my heroes in the biz and hear some really moving speeches. Laurie Halse Anderson, Jon Scieszka, Mac Barnett, David Wiesner, Jarrett Krosoczka and Richard Peck where just some of the few who blew my socks off!
Rebecca Evans and I are ready to party!

I stayed with 2 of my friends I met online and had a blast. It was like we were at an 8th grade slumber party, and giggled a lot!

And the party was a blast. The only other national SCBWI conference I had attended before was in New York, and they don't have a party. It seems like the socializing aspect is a higher priority in LA.

The Bad

There were too many good breakouts that it was hard to pick which one to attend at any certain time. I'm glad I teamed up with my buddies and traded notes because I didn't want to miss anything.

Having so much crammed into 3 days is exhausting!  My brain and body ache . . . but is that such a bad thing?

The portfolio showcase was disappointing in that I didn't get to see very many. I just couldn't stand all the people crammed into such small aisles. I got a chance to look at maybe 10 portfolios before I started to get a little freaked out, then just grabbed some cards and left! Maybe the short time period allotted for the show can be extended a little next time, so all 1200 attendees aren't there at the same time!!

The only other bad thing I have to say is that at the Golden Kite Luncheon, where we where supposed to have been fed a sit-down meal, I feel I was gypped. 

As a vegetarian, I made sure that I checked that option when I signed up. When I told the waiter that, he sounded unsure as to whether there were any available. Then, when he did bring it out, I felt like the meal portion had been left out. It was a delicious "sandwich" of vegetables with portabella mushrooms substituting as the bread. Vegetables does not a meal make, people! I asked, along with the other hungry vegetarian at my table, if I could maybe have another roll, he said there weren't any more, but he could steal one from someone's table! REALLY?!? No protein + no grain = no meal!

And to add insult to injury, the chicken that was part of the regular meal was served on top of non-meat (I can't remember if they said they were filled with mushrooms or cheese) ravioli. HELLO - can us non-carnivores get some of that?!? We are humans who still like to eat meals - I thought that if anyone in the world got that, it was Californians! With the day being so filled up with lots of stuff to learn, my stomach went empty while my head was being filled with inspiration and knowledge.

The Ugly

I told myself that I wasn't going in with any unrealistic expectations, but I was still disappointed that I felt pretty much invisible. I had the imposter syndrome thing swirling in my head, since there were so many talented artists there that blew me away. As I mentioned above, I really wished I could see more portfolios, but maybe it's good that I didn't. I have been a graphic artist for more than 30 years and it still happens. Maybe that never stops. At least I got my stuff out there, right?

I think the first-look panel at the illustrator's intensive really added to my self-doubt. It wasn't what I was expecting at all. Our optional assignment was to enter 4 pieces, individually and anonymously, with labels of what genre you thought each piece fit into (books for toddlers, picture books middle grade, graphic novels, etc.).

I thought the panel was going to look at individual pieces of art with no knowledge of the artist, and give up their first impressions of the piece. I thought I could learn a lot from that! But they showed the panel the art beforehand, and as a grouping with the artist's name on them. And after they announced that the art they were about to show wasn't just what they liked, but something that fit into the discussion, they launched into a love-fest of a very small number of artists. Not much critique on what to improve, just that they loved each artist and why. More self doubt crept in.

I have loved this experience, even if it does bring some ugly thoughts and feelings to the surface. I am still reeling after a week – but from the inspiration, knowledge, fun and comraderie I experienced, and not from those ugly thoughts.  If you ever get a chance to attend one of these conferences, DO IT! You will be changed forever.


mike r. baker said...

Great post, insightful and inspiring. I agree about there being so many workshops per breakout session that it was upsetting I could only take one. Also, thank you for not using that one photo of me for "the ugly."

mike r. baker said...

Also, regarding self-doubts, I think everyone has them. A lot of them. I certainly left the conference with enough self-doubts myself. But it was balanced out for me with inspiration and a new urge to create. You and your work are awesome.

Will Terry said...

Nice write up - looks like you guys tore it up! :)

Lynn Alpert said...

Mike, you're so silly!

Carol Green said...

Just wanted to let you know that I was at this year's conference, too. My second time. I must say that last year's conference - and others have said this, too - was much more inspiring and inclusive. Very little Picture Book stuff this year. I felt the conference was out of balance with the emphasis on YA, etc. The few PB workshops they had were packed with no admittance. And even though I connected to a lot of people last year, not so in 2013. I also agree that there should be something done about the illustrators showcase so that everyone gets a chance to see. I stayed until I was overwhelmed and had to go after seeing less than half of the fantastic work displayed. Oh, well, maybe next year... Or through Mira's course and our camaraderie. Onward!

Vanessa Brantley Newton said...

Hey Lynn,
I haven't been by in a long while. Just work and moving and family stuff. I have moved twice since last we spoke, but I have been watching. I wanted to say to you that miss you and think of you often. It's nice to see you on Facebook at least I get to see your lovely face.
Okay about the conference. I am so proud of you! I am glad that you went and experienced the whole thing for yourself. I have gone maybe all of 3x and I made promise to myself that I wouldn't go back unless it was benefiting me! LOL! The first time I went It was fabulous! Oh my goodness how wonderful and this is where I need to be. Second time not so much and the third time..... Hell NAW! I felt horrible after the third one. I didn't want to go back and didn't renew my membership for a while either. I watched to of my very good friend cry. One was a guy! He and his beautiful wife had come to be encouraged and he left feeling like he was a failure. All of us left feeling like we had failed in some kind of way. The editors that were suppose to view our portfolios, that we paid $$ to have viewed, came and ate and left. We all were disappointed and angry. One of the speakers who is on the board of SCBWI got up in place of the speaker that was late and called us fakes and told us that our work was nothing interesting, that we didn't have any real talent and that we didn't know what we were doing. It was Tomi Dapola. I was so angry and hurt. More hurt then anything else. I felt like I paid good hard earn money to come and be told I was nothing. Things didn't change until I said enough was enough and I will work on my own stuff and hone my own gift. I don't know if I will ever go to another. I hated how I felt the last time I went. I really did look forward to meeting all the wonderful people. That is the best, but I won't put myself in harms way when I pay hard earn money and should be encouraged and lifted and inspired. Everyone should leave that way. You are an excellent illustrator and you can have beautiful expression. I can't wait to see what you are going to do now. Be encouraged. I have been doing this publishing thing for a while and it's not all that its cracked up to be. There is a lot that is not said and a lot that goes on that we don't see. I have to keep speaking to my own self and encouraging my own self. I hope to have my own conference one day to inspire and lift people. Only to encourage and support and celebrate! HUGS TO YOU MAMA! Run to your destiny Lynn!