Through the Looking Glass

That's what going to LA SCBWI Summer Conference feels like. Wandering into a fantasy world populated by fantastical authors and illustrators, new friends of all nationalities, heads on sticks and, um, fighting monkeys.

Let me explain:
Fantastical authors - Gary Paulsen, Bruce Colville, Judy Blume to mention a few. That fantastic enough for you?
Fantastical illustrators - Paul O' Zelinsky, Richard Jesse Watson, Denise Fleming, David Small, Kadir Nelson, Marla Frazee, Jerry Pinkney. Amazing.

Someone said to me that being at the LA conference was a lot like speed dating, and you know it sums it up. Awesome people everywhere you turned and so little time before rushing off to the next great breakout session.

Did I learn a lot? Yes. Did I make new contacts? Yes. Did I have a good time ... er, yes :-)

The heads on sticks and fighting monkeys will be explained by the following photos ...

With the awesome Debbie Ohi

the Pixel Shaving's Gang (see heads on sticks)
Fred Koehler, Sheri Barnes, Moi, Debbie Ohi, Russ Cox

Fred and Russ hangout with the famous Emma Dryden

Lin Oliver interviews Judy Blume

View from our hotel window.

The Fighting Rave Monkeys explained courtesy of the talented Charlene Ellen

With the lovely Paul O. Zelinsky and Fred Koehler gets in on the act.

I also made notes and sketches at the illustrator's intensive day (SUCH A GREAT EXPERIENCE!) and if you would like to read them they are on Facebook at this link Illustrator Intensive Notes 

The SCBWI really excelled themselves this year, especially with the intensives.

The thoughts that I brought away were that I need to really work on discovering my passions in my work and not focusing so much on the passions of others. Although my portfolio got good feedback, I still haven't found what I really want to do with my artwork.

My website and portfolio online have had a makeover (again!) it's like painting the Golden Gate Bridge ... you have to start over as soon as you have finished. Take a look at Will be glad to know your opinions.

Also I started a new sketchbook blog at I am liking this because it auto posts to Facebook and Twitter. Shamelessly copying Dan Santat here, but what is good enough for him is good enough for me.

Anyway - it was straight back into work on my return. The finals are due for the next 2 'All Star Cheerleader' chapter books by the end of August and I tell you my ink dipping pen is frantic. Talking of which, time to start work.

Thanks for dropping by

Books on the Bedside Table

Burned - Ellen Hopkins
Lemonade Mouth - Hughes

Win - Win Situation

 No! Really! It was! My entry for the poster showcase at the New England Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators conference last weekend in Fitchburg, MA won TWICE! Not once but TWICE! Excuse me for bragging, but you got to celebrate these things. Cynthia Leitich Smith (keynote speaker) said so. Celebrate everyday! So I am. Goodness knows you need something to keep you going when you look in the rejection drawer.

So what I won was - 2nd place in the People's Choice, and 3rd Place in the published category. (Beaten to 1st place twice by the gorgeous and very talented Robert Squire and Jennifer E. Morris. So how cool is that??

Anyway, here is said poster (yet again, I am sure everyone is sick of it by now!) Prints available - email me!

Alright, enough of the bragging already.

It was a great weekend, with lots of laughs and learning and knowledge shared. I got to sit and chat in the Quiet Room with Cynthia Leitich Smith, Toni Buzzeo and the beautiful and funny Jennifer Ward. How awesome was that! (I know I am becoming more Americanized by the minute. Well it can't be helped.)

Saturday night was a riot, dinner with several illustrator/authors including AJ Smith, Melinda Beavers, Jennifer Meyer, Teri Weidner, Jennifer E. Morris. Got to say things got a little noisy (hey, you think I incited it??). I practiced signing arms (you can't start too early) and was famous in my own mind for at least 5 minutes. I was famous on Twitter for an evening too. And I don't even Tweet!

Seriously (and now and again I am), the workshops were excellent. Cynthia Leitich Smith gave two great keynote speeches. I attended Marlee Frazee's workshop ... such beautiful work and an inspiration. She and Allyn Johnston gave a great lecture also.

Sunday was Illustrator's Academy - a small workshop with 24 attendees ... lead by David Costello, Matt Phelan, Yolanda Scott and Ann Scott. Lot's of good info on how art directors and author/illustrators work together, a portfolio review and dummy review. Excellent. To say nothing of the song and dance act ... REALLY with a ukelele and Kazoo.

So that is enough name dropping. I came back to the attic with much inspiration-o and determination to do good things.

Meanwhile, still have not finished Share the Bear ... SOOOOOOOON! (Note to self: Must do better.)

And as if I haven't had enough jollity and fun this week today we are off to Quebec City for a few days break. The sun is shining and blue skies so it will be nice to have some R&R. Camera and sketchbook are going along. I even have hopes of roughing out an MG synopsis. Depends on the wine consumption I expect.

I did get some more work done on the Owl book ... here's a moonlit scene ... only 5 more after this spread.

Right! I have to pack and take doggies to kennels and organize 'im indoors.

aka The Wacky Brit.

PS. Favorite conversation on the week. On returning items to Walmart:
"What do you have?" asks little old man who has to give me extremely important label to stick on items.
"Shirt and sweater," says I.
"Shirt?" he says. Pause."What was that second one now?"
"Sweater." I repeat. He looks at me blankly.
"Nope." and shakes his head.
"Jumper?" I offer hopefully. He looks at me with a startled glance. This was a mistake, and I remember I am in an alien culture and must speak in the native tongue.
"Cardigan!" Now we are really in trouble. He looks at me warily. (It really IS a cardigan!)
He moistens his lips. 'Is it a sweatshirt?'
Sigh, I give a 'kind of' nod.
"I know!" he says brightly, 'I'll just put down TWO shirts and we'll call it good!"