This was only my second time to a SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) retreat and this one was even better than the last. We have an amazing group here in Wisconsin and our retreat featured some wonderful guests. I can only speak to the presenters I was privileged to see but:
Bruce Hale was entertaining and informative. I have been working on a novel (a story for another time) and his thoughts on creating suspense were very helpful to me. Also a very pleasant fellow.
Lisa Yoskowitz was wonderfully knowledgeable and approachable. As an editor for Dutton books she talked in great detail about how to pitch your book effectively and understand the publisher (how to "think like a publisher" to quote Lisa). I was very grateful for her candid approach and she was very generous with her time.
Loraine Joyner, art director from Peachtree Publishers, was an absolute treat for me (being an illustrator and all). Her presentation explored the process of the creation of the illustrations for
the book "Saturdays and Teacakes" by the artist, Chris Soentpiet. Wow! I wish that was available in video form. Chris actually drove from NY to Alabama (I think it was) to come to the author's home town (which was the setting for the book) and spent a couple weeks there creating references to more carefully capture the author's memories (which is the basis for the story). It was really amazing to see the pages evolve from the thumbnails to the sketches to the final drawings and, at last, the paintings.
Another treasure was the time that Loraine took with each of us at our portfolio critiques. I expected a glace over the work and then to discuss some general themes about my work. Instead, virtually each piece was carefully examined and discussed. I was very grateful for her comments.
Now we get to Mary Kole. If there was one of presenters that I felt I really hit it off with, it was Mary. On a personal note, her personality reminded me of a dear friend from HS so I am certainly biased. Outside of that, she was smart, well-read and had the greatest snarky, sarcastic sense of humor. Her presentation on getting an agent (which she is well qualified to talk about since she is one) was very informative, with lots of examples from children's literature. She is also an excellent reader - a great sense of voice for narration or for the character without sounding fake.
Mary was a fan of the piece I entered into the illustrator's contest (which could also make me biased). What? I haven't told you about the contest? Let's make that the subject of next time and I will take you through the process of it's development.