Rocky Mountain SCBWI Conference

Kate/ September 23, 2009/ blog

Author Denise Vega introduces her mentor, Julie Anne Peters

Author Denise Vega introduces her mentor, Julie Anne Peters

This past Saturday and Sunday I attended the RMC-SCBWI Conference at the Sheraton in Lakewood, Colorado. In attendance were a couple hundred writers and illustrators, and industry experts who gave presentations, demos and critiques to the published and to the aspiring. Rather than spread myself thin, I decided to focus on three of the presenters whose work and expertise were of particular interest to me.

Allyn Johnston, publisher of Simon & Schuster’s new imprint, Beach Lane Books, gave an excellent tandem presentation with writer/illustrator Marla Frazee. “Let’s Start at the Beginning—with the Ending!” emphasized the infusion of raw emotion within the core of a storybook—especially on the last page. I found this discussion particularly fascinating and helpful, as Allyn shared her emotion-squeezing techniques, using some of Marla’s books for examples. “But what are you reeeeally trying to say?” It’s a good question. “Ok, but what are you reeeeeeeeeeally trying to say?” Even tougher. Later I sat next to Marla during lunch, where I picked her brain a bit on successful illustration portfolios.

Another highlight of the conference was James Gurney’s plein air discussion. Mr. Gurney exposed all his secrets for painting onsite, whether it be legal (as in a paintout situation) or not so much (such as in a fine art gallery). Later in the evening I jumped at the chance to sit with him at the dinner buffet, where we discussed the similarities between birds and dinosaurs, extreme plein air painting and his February appearance at the Delaware Art Museum. I snapped a few shots while he personalized a book for one of our tablemates.

James Gurney personalizes a copy of Dinotopia: Journey to Chandara

James Gurney personalizes a copy of Dinotopia: Journey to Chandara

A T-Rex mowing the lawn.

A T-Rex mowing the lawn.

Sunday was a shorter day and included a class on public speaking, an expert panel Q&A, and a sort of shotgun critque session with Allyn and Marla. The two were asked to comment on images flashed on a projector screen for one minute a piece, which proved to be quite the challenge (pressure!). Three of my illustrations made it up on the screen, and the commentary for each was positive (thank you!).

I believe the most important bit of wisdom I pulled from the entire weekend was this: Write.

About Kate

Kate Garchinsky illustrates and writes children’s books and educational media in her studio in the woodlands near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Her debut picture book, The Secret Life of the Red Fox, written by acclaimed wildlife author, Laurence Pringle, received a starred review from School Library Journal. Kate Garchinsky received a grant from the Eckelberry Fellowship at the Academy of Natural Sciences, where she has been researching and illustrating extinction stories about North American birds such as the Passenger Pigeon and the Carolina Parakeet. Prior to creating children’s books, Kate designed lots of fun things like toys, birdbaths and trail maps. She lives with her husband Brian, Julia and Spencer the cats, and her one-eyed beagle, Maggie May. Kate recently signed on to illustrate two more “Secret Life” narrative non-fiction picture books with Boyds Mills Press—The Secret Life the Little Brown Bat (2018) and The Secret Life of the Skunk (2019). While drawing foxes and bats, Kate also began work on Belle’s Journey, a middle-grade non-fiction chapter book by ornithologist and osprey expert, Rob Bierregaard (Charlesbridge 2018). Get to know more about Kate Garchinsky at http://KateGarchinsky.com (aka PenguinArt.com).