SCBWI NY 2013: “Internal Migrations,” Being Superlative, and Cold-Calling Maurice Sendak

Shaun Tan autographed my daughter's copy of Eric. I was elated!

Shaun Tan autographed my daughter’s copy of Eric. I was elated!

I had a great time at the SCBWI Winter conference this past weekend. I’ve been three times in the past six years and always walk away inspired and energized. Some of many highlights for me this time around:

1. The Illustrator Intensive on Friday. The entire day was one big highlight. It’s a day of presentations from some of the top illustrators in our field. This year we heard from Shaun Tan, David Ezra Stein, Barbara McClintock, Floyd Cooper, The Brothers Hilts, and Mark Teague.

McClintock told us a great story about cold-calling Maurice Sendak when she was an aspiring and “naive” illustrator in North Dakota. She called Ridgefield, CT information and his number was listed. Sendak answered the phone, talked to her for twenty minutes, and gave her great advice on starting out. I love the guts in that move.

My favorite quote of the day came from Shaun Tan: “You know when [an illustration] is working when it starts talking back.”

2. Shaun Tan’s insights into his work and his process in his keynote speech “Internal Migrations.” His work blows me away and it was thrilling and moving to hear him talk about his experience and his process, and to also learn that he is a really nice, cool guy.

My favorite quote from Shaun’s talk: “You don’t need to tell a story to tell a story, let the reader do the work.”

For more about Shaun, check out his great interview with Lee Wind here. And for more about his speech at the conference check out the scbwi blog post here. [If you don’t know Shaun’s work, let me introduce you.You can start with The Arrival and get ready to have your world rocked. You’re welcome.]

3. Mo Willems’ very funny, very inspiring talk entitled,  “How to Write in 4 Easy Steps, 4 Kinda Harder Steps, and 1 Pretty Much Impossible Step.” 

My favorite quotes from him:
“You may own your story’s copyright but you don’t own its meaning” and
“Writing is reductive.”

Mo has generously posted these nine steps on his blog. The “impossible” but aspirational step #9: Be superlative.

4. My super-talented peers. It’s always great to meet and talk to fellow illustration nerds. The portfolio showcase was very impressive this year. Here are the Honor Award and Grand Prize Winners:

Grand Prize Winner
Andrea Offermann

Honor Award Winners
Lori Nichols
Jessixa Bagley

Congratulations! Can’t wait to see your books on the shelves.


  1. “You know when [an illustration] is working when it starts talking back.” And that is also when you might consider seeing a specialist.


  2. Pingback: My Very First…SCBWI! «

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