NESCBWI 2016 recap and other musings

The sun is shining and feels so warm and sweet, the birds are singing, and my flower gardens are begging for mulching and attention - it must be spring! The arrival of spring also means the annual NESCBWI conference, and about a week and a half ago, I was there.

This was only my 2nd (I think) NESCBWI conference - the first time was years and years ago when it used to be held in Nashua, NH. The past few years the conference has found its home in Springfield, MA, so I packed up my portfolio, my bags, and took a little road trip.

This year's experience was wonderful. It was so inspiring to be with like-minded folks, so immensely talented, and happy to share their knowledge and celebrate creativity. I won't recap all the workshops I attended, but I walked away with some great nuggets of information, techniques, and a deep drive to KEEP GOING. I had a lovely portfolio critique, met amazing people, and gained a heck of a lot new Facebook friends. I also figured out and cemented the idea that I should start writing. WHAT?! Yes, writing. If you're interested in reading workshop recaps, I highly recommend Mishka Jaeger's blog post. The keynote speakers were fantastic - especially Jarrett J. Krosoczka who was so entertaining, talented, and dived deep into the story of his career and process. Long live the Lunch Lady! I have a secret desire to do a graphic novel...shhh don't tell anyone...

I filled up several pages in my sketchbook of people while listening to the keynote speakers - I was so inspired  by everyone around me and the buzz in the air!

I filled up several pages in my sketchbook of people while listening to the keynote speakers - I was so inspired  by everyone around me and the buzz in the air!

Part of the conference is the Illustration Challenge. This year's assignment was to reinvent a Jules Verne story for the 21st century on a double-page spread. I decided to do my version of 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, where a boy enters a photo contest to be the first person to get a shot of the rare and mysterious sea creature.

I did a good number of sketches to figure out what this sea creature should be - octopus? whale? giant sea turtle? Something imaginary or other-worldly? And in the end decided on a narwhal - and to make it a bit more unusual, I made it purple.

The final piece was done in watercolor, with some photoshopping at the end, and InDesign to add text. Overall, I am pleased with it, and it will be my next postcard mailing.

I left the conference excited about the publishing industry, and with the feeling that this is the right path for me at this time. And that is an awesome feeling. Now I'm back in the studio drawing drawing drawing and creating more work, and I'm looking forward to sitting down to a writing session very soon, and seeing what comes out.