Tuesday, July 1, 2014

New Jersey SCBWI Conference 2014 Recap

Hello everyone!  I just came back from a long, but wonderful weekend at the New Jersey SCBWI conference (NJSCBWI).  SCBWI is the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, which is a great organization!

I attended this conference with my friend Clare Cannon. She went to the conference last year and kept saying how wonderful it was. I was immediately convinced I needed to go this year.

First I have to say - what a wonderful weekend.  The committee that put the conference together did a fabulous job!  Everything was so organized and everyone was so friendly and helpful.

My journey started long before coming to the conference with preparations.  I needed to update my portfolio, create postcards, business cards, and make a piece for the juried art show.  I also made a second book dummy just before the conference as well (blog post about this dummy coming soon)!

My promo postcards

The big auditorium

The conference started with check in, followed by a welcome ceremony in the auditorium and a keynote speaker, Floyd Cooper.

Floyd Cooper giving a demonstration during his keynote

The rest of the day was filled with workshops of our choosing.  There were over eight going on at once and we chose which ones best suited our needs.  One of the great things about the conference is that all the meals were included (snacks too!) and that at meals I could choose where I sat.  The tables either have a writer, illustrator, editor, or art director.  This was very nice because I could have a meal with someone in the business and ask them questions.  Great for connections as well!

My folder and name badge I received at check in

The workshops were very helpful and I learned so much.  Some of the topics of the workshops I went to were "How to Pay the Bills as an Illustrator", "What an Art Director and Agent Desire to See From Illustrators", "Making Your Picture Book More Marketable", "Examining the Space Between Text and Art", and more!  I learned many new things as well as had reinforcements on things I already knew.

Having fun at the conference

There also was a juried art show with the theme "Down the Shore".  Below is the piece I entered.  It was so wonderful to see such a variety of interpretations of the theme in so many different art styles.  One of the reasons why I love children's books so much is that the art is so diverse.  I also had my portfolio included in the portfolio showcase.

Many people told me that they liked my piece- always nice to hear!

I also decided to pay extra money to meet one-on-one with an art director to review my portfolio.  I found that it was very helpful and received great feedback (and a wonderful connection).

My portfolio I had in the portfolio showcase and had the art director review

Other things at the conference:
  • There was a book fair on Saturday where books were available for purchase and authors and illustrators were signing them. 
  • There also was a fun cocktail hour.  
  • Saturday night there even was a hilarious comedian named Robin Fox!  
  • We started off Sunday with a presentation on the state of the children's book market - it looks like things are improving and going strong! 
  • There also was keynote speech at the closing by the author Rachel Vail. 
My conference experience is illustrator based; there were other things going on for writers including peer critiques, pitches and more.
Robin Fox the comedian - I laughed so much!

What's next?  In a week or two I will receive contact and submission information from editors and publishers on how to submit my work.  By attending this conference I am able to obtain contact information and submission information exclusive to conference attendees.  I'm very excited to send my work out!

I also received valuable information on how to improve my portfolio and present myself as an illustrator and author/illustrator.  It also was great to learn about resources available to me such as helpful blogs (example: http://kathytemean.wordpress.com), and connecting with fellow illustrators.

Some of the wonderful postcards I picked up at the conference

Top Takeaways from the Conference and Tips for Attendees:
  • Be friendly and introduce yourself, everyone is very welcoming and supportive
  • Ask questions during the workshops
  • If you are an illustrator enter BOTH the juried art show and the portfolio showcase. You never know who will see your work and it's best to show in both places.
  • If you have a one-on-one session come prepared with questions. It was helpful for me to learn what to improve upon and how to better present myself.
  • Come rested in comfortable shoes and with a notebook.  There is much information throughout the whole weekend.  At times it can seem overwhelming.  Remember to pace yourself.  Also many people thought the building was cold, so a sweater would be good to bring as well.
  • Bring extra money for buying books- many authors and illustrators will be there to sign them.
  • For me it was worth it to stay two nights at the hotel, Friday night before the conference and Saturday as well.  I felt refreshed and ready to go Saturday morning by staying the night before and not having to travel far.
  • Always have a business card or postcard to hand out.
  • Social media! I was on Twitter during the conference tweeting about various things. At least three times people walked up to me and asked if I was the person tweeting about the conference- and I was!  It also was a great easy way to thank the presenters for their workshops.
I had a great time at the New Jersey conference and hope to go next year. I'm also really excited for the New York conference in January!


  1. Great blog post! Loved your work and look forward to seeing more of your work in the future.

  2. Loved your art at the conference!


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