Linkup 2008 Midsouth SCBWI Fall Conference

Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, Mid-South (SCBWI)

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2008 Midsouth SCBWI Fall Conference

From an Illustrator's point of view

(you can see the 2007 Conference photos HERE )

The 2008 SCBWI Midsouth Conference began with a rousing keynote address by writer Bruce Coville. With a title like :"Saving the World, One story at a Time: Why What We Do Matters", you just had to open up your matter how little coffee you'd had. Bruce Coville has such an engaging speaking voice, much like his writing. He switches on a dime from a "voice over" explaining his writing theory of "HA", "Waaaahhh", and "Yikes!" to the attitude and story of a conflicted 10 year old boy.....all at the drop of a hat. And just when you think you've got your wits back.....he launches into a haunting tale of butterflies and a young boy's wonder.....and left not a dry eye in the audience. It was a tour de force performance.....and left us all in awe of a "Master Story teller".

Bruce Coville is the author of 90 books for children and young adults, including the international bestseller My Teacher is an Alien(Aladdin), and the wildly popular Unicorn Chronicles (Scholastic) series. He has been, at various times, a teacher, toymaker, a magazine editor, a gravedigger, and a cookware salesman. He is also the founder of Full Cast Audio , an audiobook publishing company devoted to producing fullcast, unabridged recordings of material for family listening. Mr. Coville lives in Syracuse, New York, with his wife, illustrator Katherine Coville.

After the first session it was onto the Illustrator's side of things, with the first breakout session with GreenWillow's Victoria Jamieson and her "Art Department: Confidential: An Illustrator's View from the Inside". She showed us a view of her office with tons of folders all over the desk, and assured us that the forelorn plant at the side of her computer, near a looming stack of folders, did make a complete recovery....'tho it was touch and go for a while. The next image was her Promo Card Basket....where a months worth of cards sat waiting for her review. She says she much prefers cards over envelopes that must be opened (Ooopsies...paper cut!), and likes to see images of children and animals. She keeps the ones she likes and refers to the illustrators' websites, and prints out images she keeps to remind herself about that person's style.

My next session was also with Victoria Jamieson, "Picture Books, From Start to Finish". This session was a primer for those who have the desire to both write and illustrate their book. This session was particularily close to Ms. Jamieson's heart as her forthcoming book "Bea Rocks the Flock" which she both wrote and illustrated is due out in 2009. She showed us a wealth of materials that she put together during the making of her book. She had original ideas sketches she used to pictch the idea, all the way thru the finalized dummy that was very helpful in planning where the various panels, pages and spreads would be most effective, in keeping the reader turning the page.

Victoria Jamieson designs YA, middle grade, and picturebook jackets and interiors for Greenwillow Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. She is always looking for new illustrators and fresh talent for various projects. Additionally, she works as a children's book illustrator herself. Her first picture book will be published by Bloomsbury in 2009. You can see her work at http:// and on her blog at

After this session it was time for lunch and the Illustrator's Critique Group meeting. We had about six illustrators who have attended the Conference before, plus three newer illustrators make up our group. It was just lovely to see how much the returning illustrators have grown! Their styles have changed and grown more professional. The three newer illustrators showed off some impressive work, and asked questions about this business. This Group meeting is always one of my favorite portions of the Conference. It's a great time to get to talk "shop", in a group of your peers, and to exchange tricks of the trade. And just to get out of our often lonely work-a-day shell.

In the afternoon, I attended the second version of Ms. Jamieson's Art Department Confidential talk, and then us "brave and few" went for our individual critiques.

The next day, Sunday, was waaaay more relaxed, with only one breakout session, and an "Art Screening" with Ms. Jamieson. At the Screening, about six of the illustrators sat around a table, and laid out some of our promo materials in a pile, and called it our "Card basket". Ms Jamieson shuffled the deck, pulled out random cards/sheets and gave us a few words comment and whether she would put that card in the "keeper" box or recyle it. It was a most informative peek into what goes on in an Art Director's mind. We all came away with good insights.

The last part of the day was a Panel discussion, and I got to see some of the faculty that I hadn't seen before. From left to right was Harold Underdown (Purple Crayon) , Victoria Jamieson, Amalia Ellison, Bruce Coville and author Alexis O'Neill.

Frank took also took photos at the session he attended with Amalia Ellison:

Amalia Ellison is the newest member of the Amulet/Abrams Books for Young Readers editorial team, moving from Random House just under a year ago. She's edited 50 Ways to Save the Earth (Abrams) and has had the privilege of working on other standouts like the forthcoming The Order of Odd Fish (Delacorte) by James Kennedy, A Thousand Never Evers (Delacorte) by Shana Burg, and at Abrams, Cicada Summer (Amulet) by Andrea Beaty. When she was a little girl, she used to dream of being Charlotte Doyle, Winnie Foster and Turtle Wexler. The Westing Game, Tuck Everlasting, and The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle still remain on her list of all-time favorite books, among a slew of new ones that have captured her imagination and held it captive like Pullman,His Dark Materials trilogy and Twilight by Stephanie Meyers. She loves a good mystery for any and all age groups, appreciates YA contemporary fiction that doesn't take itself too seriously and can't get enough of those special middle-grade books that are adventure stories at the core but still make her laugh. She remains, to this day, undefeated in the board games Clue and Clue Master Detective.

I always feel that anytime you can come away from a Conference more inspired and excited than you were when you came's been a HUGE success!

A great big shout out of thanks to Candie, Sharon and Genetta and all the wonderful volunteers who make these conferences run so smoothly and allow us all to get so much out of a weekend "gathering".

(For another viewpoint of this wonderful conference check out Kristi Valient's blog.)

Alison Lyne


All photos are from the skillful photography of Frank Lyne


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