Hen&inkblots: A Literary Blog

Of Laurent Linn, Mac Barnett, and dancing penguins

August 4, 2013 by Andrea Zuill

Day 2 of the SCBWI Summer Conference in LA. The Urban Wolf reports.

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Dateline: Los Angeles SCBWI Summer Conference – August 3, 2013 — Homer (aka the Coop’s Andrea Zuill) is on the ground. 

I’m so tired this morning I can’t believe it.  Well, that’s what I get for having fun.

The first keynote, that I made it to ( I told you I was tired) , was the Editors Panel on What Makes an Evergreen and What Makes a Hit. This featured Andrea Pinkney (Scholastic), Donna Bray (Balzer & Bray), Claudia Gabel (Katherine Tegen Books), Namrata Tripathi (Atheneum), Allyn Johnston (Beach Lane) and Melissa Manlove (Chronicle).  Here is a condensed version of what each of them said (Sorry if it’s a little cryptic).

Donna BrayA book finds it moment.  It’s perfect time for it to be publish and speaks to a universal truth.

Claudia GabelTiming.  A close examination of a particular time period.  Have a storytelling hook. Some books are great, but come out at the wrong time.

Andrea PinkneyMost hits are unexpected. A reader has to be smitten and fall in love with the story.

Allyn JohnstonEasier to spot hits/evergreens if you have a long relationship with an author.

Melissa ManloveHits are about current culture.  Evergreens are about human nature and universal truths.

Namrata TripathiYou just can’t always tell (if a book is a hit/evergreen).  It’s a surprise.

The next keynote was writer Mac Barnett.  He is a great speaker and a lot of fun.  Here are some the high points in his talk.-

  • We write for the best possible audience.
  • Between truth and lies is art.
  • Metafiction:  A book that is upfront that it’s fiction.  You are able to suspend reality even when a story acknowledges it’s not real.
  • A four year old can get any joke.
  • Make the unbelievable real.
  • Write a book with new rules.

He told a story about how in one of his books there was an offer, on the inside of the dust cover, for a child to get a blue whale (A real blue whale) for free.  Several children took him up on that.  One even sent a letter to him stating he’d bet the author ten bucks that it wasn’t a real offer.  Each child got a letter stating the whales where stuck up in Sweden, where the process for expediting the whale’s shipping was going slowly.  But, if the child wanted to he or she could call up a whale and say hi.  Included in the letter was the whale’s phone number.  The children called the whale.  What they got was the sound of a whale (like whale song) followed by a beep. At the beep a child could then leave a message.  One little boy called and left messages for the whale several times over 2 years. He just wanted to say “hi!” to the whale.

The first workshop I went to today was given by illustrator Jennie Ho on anthropomorphic characters.  Here are her tips:

  • Good Character Design – Strong silhouette, dynamic shapes, colors and varied texture, and accessories
  • Characters – Clear and definable.
  • Be able to show Emotion.
  • Able to draw character repeatedly and consistently
  • Characters have good eye contact.
  • For a story with more than one character make a line up to make sure they go together.
  • Remember who (what age) the book is for.
  • Design characters to match audience.
  • Be consistent with the characters.

At this point I decided to draw a little girl over and over because it was fun. Then I had lunch with friends.

Once again I decided to hear Laurent Linn give a talk titled Rethinking the Rules of Being an illustrator.  He basically covered the business of being an illustrator.  Here is an idea of what he covered:

  • Talent is worth something.
  • You are a business.
  • PROMOTION for getting all kinds of illustration work:  Websites, postcards, artist resource books & websites, art reps, social networks and conferences.
  • CREATING ART traditional vs digital:  Doesn’t matter, just stay true to yourself.
  • OTHER WORK:   Consider illustrating for educational materials.
  • WHAT MATTERS MOST:  Storytelling (Emotion, Good Art and Creative Ideas)

Finally tonight was the traditional Saturday night party. This year’s theme was Black & White.  Everyone came dressed in a black and white outfit or costume.  Let’s just say there were a whole bunch of penguins getting down and funky.

[EDITOR] P.S. A  little bit of Coop clucking! There are four Hen&ink Literary Chicks attending the conference — Andrea, Mary Dodson Wade and Sarah Towle and Julie Hedlund. Sarah and Julie are presenting this year. 

Saturday 3:30PM

JULIE HEDLUND – The Author as
Entrepreneur Encino Room

Sunday 2:45PM

Books and Story Book Apps: Same, Same
but Quite Different Encino Room

P.P.S. Melissa Buron (at the conference in spirit interview Mary Wade and other Chicks at http://melissaburon.wordpress.com/author/melissaburon/