Sarah LuAnn Interview: SCBWI 2019 Winter Conference Experience
Interview with Sarah LuAnn Perkins about her SCBWI 2019 Winter Conference experience
When I read that Sarah Luann was going to the SCBWI 2019 Winter conference I asked her if she would be up to being casually interrogated about her experience, and she readily agreed! I have never been to a conference before and I am signed up for the SCBWI NorCal Region Spring Spirit. I plan to go to the Summer conference in LA as well, so I thought to ask Sarah about her experience, just to get an idea of what to expect. I looked at the event schedule and tried to ask the most appropriate questions based on the activities offered. I’m hoping this will benefit all of us rookies out there, and the events that we attend in the future will not be too intimidating for it. We did the Q&A over email so some of the questions and answers repeat just a little. Thank you Sarah for doing this!!!
Did you travel far to get to the Winter conference?
Not really--I live upstate, so I drove about an hour and a half and caught a train to take me into the city, a ride that takes about 2 hours.
Did you stay at the Grand Hyatt (where the event was) or somewhere else?
I stayed at the Hyatt.
Did you attend all three days?
Did you attend any of the events (Golden Kite GALA, Socials, Peer Critiques, Networking dinner, Book signings)? If yes, what was your opinion of them?
I attended the Gala and portfolio show/signing event that happened the first night. It was a lot of fun! My main complaint about the Gala is EVERYONE had to make their remarks, which if course made it take longer than expected, which cut the time for looking at portfolios, getting books signed, and general socializing short. Still, I got to meet up with lots of friends, both those I'd met at previous conferences as well as those I'd previously only known online.
Did you participate in the Portfolio showcase? If yes did you bring another portfolio to carry around to share?
Yes, I participated. I brought only one portfolio, but I brought many postcards (3 different images) as well as business cards to share.
Did you bring postcards or giveaways?
Yes, postcards and business cards. By the end of the conference, I'd say about 2/3rds of those had been taken/given away. I also brought extras from a couple other postcard promos I'd done in the previous year, as well as business cards I had already had printed for previous events. I didn't count how many of those I brought so I don't really have an idea of how many I had total. The one I brought for the showcase were 5x7, the others were 4x6, so sometimes people had a preference for one of the sizes, though of course generally that wasn't a big deal.
About how many of each business and promotional cards did you bring?
I brought 100 of the card I specifically printed for the portfolio showcase (per their instructions.)
Approximately, what percentage of your cards, business and promotional, do you think you ended up handing out?
Percentage of them all given out.... maybe 50%? Hard to tell, since as I said, I didn't have a count of all the cards I brought. Many were taken during the portfolio showcase, others I exchanged with illustrators I met, others I left out on a table with the promos left by other illustrators.
Do people generally ask for cards or do you have to ask them if they want one?
As far as giving/exchanging cards, it was a very casual sort of thing--when the conversation got to that point where we were interested in each others cards, either I'd offer or they'd ask and we would happily pull out the cards. Nothing awkward or "HERE LOOK AT MY WORK" about it, it was just a way to connect with each other. It was an easy way to keep track of and remember the people I met there.
What workshops did you attend? Were you happy with or disappointed in any?
I attended three intensives:
Illustrating for Middle Grade, Chapter books, & Early Readers: What You Need To Know.
I loved this intensive! I feel like picture books get a lot of attention and focus from would-be illustrators, so other illustrated books are not thought of as much. There were 2 illustrators who had worked on books for older readers (one who did chapter books, the other MG) as well as an AD who handled book cover design. All had useful and interesting information to share. I definitely want to increase the MG/B&W work in my portfolio after attending this! (After I get my dummy completed, of course
The Visual Heart of a Story: The Balancing Act of Illustrating Book Covers
I loved this one as well! Again, there were two illustrators sharing their process along with an AD who talked about their end of things. They included exercises for us to work through, so there was a pause periodically throughout the presentation where we all got to do some quick sketching or brainstorming, which helped break it up and keep us engaged. I definitely want to do more book covers for my portfolio now! (.... after completing my dummy. Dummies are a lot of work!)
Best Practices: Digital Prepress for Illustrators
I wasn't very excited about this one... the title just sounded, well... boring. It turned out to be incredibly interesting and useful information! Again, two illustrators showed their process for creating artwork digitally. A lot of this was Photoshop focused, which is fine considering that Photoshop is what most illustrators use. Therefore, as an Illustrator user I felt a little bit left out for some of these parts. (Some people asked questions about how to do things in photoshop, and of course inside my head there was a little voice saying, "If you all would just use vectors you wouldn't have that problem!".... I like my vectors.) The most interesting part, though, was not the illustrators (though they had a lot of good things to say!) but the other speaker they had, who is the guy who prepares the files for print. He talked about all the things you need to do in order to make sure that an images not only looks good on the screen, but also when printed on the page. The printed book after all is the actual final product of our work, not the image you see on your screen. He talked about how to make sure your dark areas don't get too heavy with ink, how to make sure you're using colors that will actually print, etc. So I was pleasantly surprised with this intensive... they need to figure out a more exciting title for it.
Did you win any door prizes? =)x
Did you make contact with any publishers, agents or reps that you thought might be interested in your work?
No, and I didn't really try to (unless some picked up my postcard at the showcase, which I wouldn't know unless the contacted me.) Oh, wait, I lied... I did get to shake Arthur Levine's hand and talk to him VERY briefly, and he invited me to send him a postcard. I made very sure not to monopolize his time or shove my work at him. People going to your first conference, or thinking about... DON'T be that person who is hunting down agents/editors/publishers and talking at them. Don't. Do. It.
First-time conference goers seem to think that meeting these people is what conferences is all about. This was my fourth conference, so while I'm no expert I have to say that meeting those people can be a nice perk but, in my opinion, not really the point. The real value of the conference, for me, was networking with illustrators and friends, the portfolio showcase, and the information learned in the intensives. Maybe this sounds disappointing, but it really isn't. Having been to a few other conferences, I got to see friends from previous conferences, as well as others I had met in other ways, such as the SVS forums or the #Kidlitart chat. I got to chat with a couple of these friends about their agents and editors as I'm thinking about where to send my dummy (when I get it finished. Heh.) If you end up connecting with an agent/editor/whoever... awesome. That does happen at conferences. Hasn't really for me yet, but I still find them worthwhile. But if you do get that chance to talk to one of those people... treat them like a person, not Your One Chance To Make This Conference Worth It. Because if you have that attitude, you will miss out on connecting with some really awesome peers.
Did you make any friends?
Definitely! And met up with a lot of people I'd known previously--either by meeting at a previous conference or online.
Did you meet up with any SVS friends or SCBWI peeps from your own region?
Yes-- I met Simona Ceccarelli and Naroth Kean from SVS, and several people I know from the twitter #kidlitart chat. There were friends from previous conferences and several from my own region--as I said, its easy to travel to NY from here so it makes sense that lots of us would make it out.
Do you plan to go to any future conferences?
Definitely! I feel like I get a lot out of conferences still, as I am just starting out in this career. (I hear from more established illustrators that SCBWI becomes less useful late in your career, but I am very far from that point myself.)
What will you do differently next time you go to a conference?
As far as doing something differently... I know enough people that go to conferences now that I might try to find a roommate to split hotel costs. Other than that, not really. I really felt that this conference it finally "clicked" for me, and I was able to come out of my introvert shell and just bond with people and make friends, as well as "talking shop". I'll definitely be back for more!
Name one thing that stood out, good or bad, from the whole event?
It was encouraging and inspiring. It got me going on personal work again. I came home and said, its time to complete my dummy and show these publishers what I can do. Since I've been working on it since early 2017... it's about time! Though of course I had a BABY in the intervening months, so not having it finished yet is perhaps forgivable ;-).
Thanks again, @SarahLuAnn
No problem! It was a great experience, and if anyone has any other questions I'd be happy to answer them.