Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Taz: Highlights from Children's Book conference (NESCBWI)

I recently attended the New England Society of Children's Books Writers and Illustrators conference in Springfield, MA. It was my first time going to the conference, and it was a genuinely great and enriching experience. I went for one of the days and took 3 workshops by accomplished illustrators and writers: Character Design with Kelly Light, Writing for Illustrators with Mary Brigid Barrett, and Essentials of a Picture Book Dummy with Dan Yaccarino.

Each of the talks had a rich amount of experience and enthusiasm behind them, and I soaked up not only the speakers' tips and ideas, but also being in the presence of many other interested, motivated artists.

Highlights from each talk: Kelly Light doing her Tasmanian Devil impression while encouraging us all to physically do and feel all the things we want to draw our character doing. Also, "Draw the idea, not the pose; draw the action, not the anatomy." She also recommended 2 books: Drawn to Life, the Walt Stanchfield lectures, Volumes 1 and 2; 20 years of talks given to Disney animators.

Mary Brigid Barrett's class on writing for illustrators was very visual, engaging, and included this interesting tip about writing: "Don't use adverbs or adjectives, make your verbs VERY specific. Your character shouldn't walk slowly, she should PLOD."

Dan Yaccarino's talk was supposed to be about laying out a picture book dummy, but it was more a look at his work and an analysis of picture book structure. "Keep it simple: the protagonist trying to get what they want, with obstacles along the way, is the story." He gave a list of classics to read including:

Curious George
Harry the Dirty Dog
Amelia Bedelia
Blueberries for Sal
Cat in the Hat
Harold and the Purple Crayon
anything by William Steig


  1. Awesome Summary! Thanks so much Diana. I've allways wanted to go to this and hope to do so one day. I wrote the "drawing to life" books down. They sound liek exactly the sort of thing I could use.

    1. I think you would really like the conference, maybe for its access to editors and publishers (you can do a portfolio review and pitch ideas). I didn't do that myself this time, but saw lots of people doing that. You could be a presenter! but you might enjoy also meeting other artists and writers, lots of camaraderie. It's your field, these are your people!


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