Old Friends, New Friends, Part 2 (or DOING'S IN VIRGINIA CITY)

As promised here's some thoughts on the NV SCBWI Mentor Programme I have been part of this last six months. NOT 'MENTAL programme'as some of you who can't understand my version of English imagine I'm saying.

This is the 'New Friends' of the title. A lot of good stuff came out of this programme, but making so many new friends was the best. I cried buckets when we all said goodbye.

But here's the thing - more than half of us will be meeting up at SCBWI Summer Conference in LA ... oh me oh my ... the party is going on the road ....

OK, seriously, (always hard for me). Why do this programme? First because you get to work with a great mentor in the children's publishing industry for six months for less than the cost of a week's holiday. (My mentor was Priscilla Burris) ...

Here we are at brekky, along with Teri Sloat.

The programme kicked off last October with our first meet-up in Virgina City Nevada (hell of a place! The atmosphere really gave an extra dimension to the whole thing ... so much better than a dull hotel.) You may have read my previous post covering that. Included in the cost was the NV SCBWI conference weekend.

For six months each mentee (about 30 of us) worked with a mentor (about 3 mentees per mentor). Different genres were covered: YA, MG, picture book and illustration. Each mentee received 3 reviews on the progress of their work with critiques during the six months.

Every mentee took away a different experience, but I know that we all benefited tremendously from being around such excellent mentors - these included Ellen Hopkins, Emma Dryden, Harold Underdown to mention a few. Check out NV SCBWI site for more information and details on how you can get on the programme.

All too soon we descended for our final wash-up weekend in Nevada. St Mary's Arts Centre in Virginia City is an excellent venue ... an old hospital (haunted no less!) housed most of us. The cozy feel of the place, big kitchen and dining room made for a convivial feeling.

For the final weekend we had a guest editor (Alvina Ling from Little and Brown and the first weekend we were lucky enough to have Cheryl Klein from Arthur A Levine onboard.) Along with meetings with our mentors, breakout sessions and workshops we also each had time to present our work and receive feedback from Alvina.

The goal of the programme was not to find a publisher, but rather to develop our skills and knowledge as writers and illustrators. However I KNOW there are going to be some high flying authors coming out of 2010/2011 and look forward to cheering them on!

During the weekend mentor Terri Farley  arranged Mustang Safaris ... they were wonderful. We got to see the wild horses, and I got to do a little sketching ... if you want to know more about wild horses check out Terri's website.

And, of course, ... we partied ... I believe that authors and illustrators are among some of the unsung heros of partiers in the modern world. Long may it continue .... I give you a selection of photos ...

 Workshop with Terri Farley

 Alvina Ling - Karaoke Extraordinaire

Harold Underdown hitting the caffeine
Emma Dryden and Craig Lew - note the Hollywood smile (Emma, not Craig!)

Me, posing for photo which I hate

Antics at the breakfast table with Priscilla Burris

Lee Wind and Craig Lew. Note the Hollywood Smile (again)

Sunset over Nevada

Pizza Night

Sarah Mcguire and Nathalie Mvondo

Oh yeah baby, Karaoke

Suzy Morgan Williams and me singing 'On Ilkley Moor B'hat' in honor of Yorkshire.

Terri Farley and Lee Wind getting right down to some teaching
Terri Farley, Tracey Clark and Susan Hart Lindquist being beautiful

Here are two memories I will take away with me ... exiting a liquor store and being chased by a Pitbull, pulling a newstand, followed by an irate redneck lady. I did not drop the liquor though.

Visiting 'Doo-Dads' in search of liquor. I never did find out what they sold, possibly crack. But I did mystify the old boys in the back playing banjo and guitar. I will never be certain they understood my request for liquor as they pointed back down the street with that look on their faces 'You ain't from round here'. They were probably pointing me in the direction of the local brothel and or gold mine.

So that's it for Nevada. Until LA in summer. I think it's an experience in my life I will treasure. Especially the after schmooze. Oh yeah.

I HAVE been working since I returned ... beavering away on 'Hidden New Jersey'. Here is the cover image!

More soon!
aka The Wacky Brit

Ont he Bedside Table

Lousy Rotten Grapes by Margie Palatini and Barry Moser
Winnie Finn, Worm Farmer - Carol Brendler and Ard Hoyt
My Friend the Starfinder - George Ella Lyon and Stephen Gammell
I Know an Old Teacher - Anne Bowen and Stephen Gammell
Skippyjon Jones in the Doghouse - Judy Schachner
Skippyjon Jones and the Big Bones - Judy Schachner

Riding high in Virgina City

Yes, yes I can never resist a good pun. This weekend ... NV SCBWI mentor programme and conference in Virgina City. I have been looking forward to getting here, and it is so much more than I hoped for. First ... the location. Never dreamed I would be out in the Wild West. And Virginia City has more than enough charm and authenticity left. It's a little rough a round the edges, but so much the better. It was worth the 3 plane hop to get here. It was even worth the anti-English abuse from a lady of the 'Southern' persuasion, who informed me on the plane in Los Angeles that 'You will find in THIS country we do things a little differently', (This because I was already in the aisle of the plane disembarking, and hadn't immediately thrown a cloak in front of me so she could join the queue. Not at all sure why she chose to berate me in particular when about 1,000 Americans had already walked past her. Perhaps a grudge from the revolutionary war?)

This is a special weekend, and one I will remember for a long time during the cold winter months to come in Maine. On Friday the group of 30 mentees gathered in an historic old hospital, (now an arts center) and met with our mentors. Great energy ... laughter, sharing, it is totally like coming home. The faculty is wonderful - Harold Underdown, Priscilla Burris, Emma Dryden, Terri Sloat, Emma Hopkins, amongst others.

Such fun to just sit at the big old kitchen table and chat with aspiring and published authors and those with such a knowledge of children's books. For me this feels like a home coming. I have been to several conferences this year, and all have been inspiring. But this is truely like being with family and I know that there will be friendships forged here that will last for a lifetime.

The city wraps you up in it's old charm, and good humor prevails. In between meetings and lectures we have wandered up and down the wooden-sidewalked streets, giggled at the shop window displays, popped into bars that have seen gunfights and bawdy dancing (but none of that this weekend right!) ambled around the tombstones in the cemetery on the top of a hill, gazed over the ranges of sienna frosted mountains into the aquamarine distance. We have considered our dreams and desires for the future. In the morning the sun shoots up surprised and blazing and pierces the soul. It feels good to be alive and part of something that takes no account of money or position.

Today the conference begins proper with workshops and so forth. Portfolio showcase this afternoon, and tonight an evening of reading and music. After the last few weeks with nose to the grindstone it's nice to relax, be away from the computer and have a real good laugh!

Yesterday I had my first mentor session with Priscilla Burris. Really helpful. She is very intuitive and I feel she really understands were I am at right now. It is so amazing to have someone to talk to about all the niggly questions and fears.  My main question at the moment was whether it is timely for me to seek an agent. With everything that I have going on right now, and after discussion, that's going to be my main goal when I get back to real life. Exciting!!

Also an informative and validating portfolio review with Terri Sloat. I put the pieces I most like in my portfolio and I think it showed. So I felt really validated with her critique and ready to stop worrying about my style amd have more confidence. I am going in the right direction. Just what I needed. Sometimes you just need to hear it from the mouths of others! Also great advice was to give myself a 'retreat' occasionally and create art just for me with no purpose other than exploration and to feed my soul. Thanks to both Priscilla and Terri.

So there we are, it's all about feeding the soul. Otherwise we all whither inside.

Did I tell you my good news? Email last week with the offer of a book to illustrate for a Boston publisher. Whee!! I am excited about this one. Thank you Face Book, as this is where they found me. More information on this soon, the deal ain't done yet, so don't want to jinx it.

Corrections are back on my other project, so as soon as I get back to Maine I will be into the next round on that.

No piccies this week, as blogging on my cutesy little notebook. I WILL try and do some sketches of the hills and post them later.

Brekky time! Have a great, peaceful, awe-inspiring weekend where ever you are and what ever you are doing.

Toodle pip
aka the Wacky Brit.