The SCBWI Conference

Hey everybody,
Here's my post after having returned from the big SCBWI children's illustrators conference in LA. The conference lasted Friday-Monday, Aug 3-6. I was really excited to go after having had the chance to go for the first time 4 years ago. I hadn't been able to afford it/did'nt feel adequately prepared since then. But this year I set aside my tax return, bit the bullet, swallowed my pride, etc. and registered for it. This time I had the advantage of knowing some of the people that were going to be there. About 5 people from my illustrators group, "OC Illustrators," attended the conference.
The conference is held every year at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza in LA. When you arrive and check in you are given a packet with all of your information and schedules for the weekend. Basically, each day there are several main sessions that everyone attends, and then there are a couple of breakout sessions that you get to choose. Each of those sessions had 12 different topics/speakers to choose from. This sounds like to many choices, but actually it was usually choosing between 2 or 3 of them because many were geared toward writers instead of illustrators, or were on topics that didn't apply to me--like licensing or contract negotiations.
The speakers they get are successful professionals in the field and share all kinds of good information. Sometimes they get some pretty big names in. This year the 2 most recognizeable names to me were Tamora Pierce (best-selling fantasy novelist) and Kadir Nelson (Caldecott Honor winning illustrator). It's pretty exciting to be there and to possibly see some of these famous people just hanging out by the pool or in one of the classes with you. If you can get your courage up you can go talk to them and they have only been friendly and nice from what I've experienced and observed.
I'm one of those copious note-takers so I came away from the conference with about 11 pgs of notes in my 7 x 10" sketchbook from all the presenters. My favorites were: Peter Brown (illustrator), Marla Frazee (author/illustrator), Tamora Pierce (writer), Kadir Nelson (illustrator), John Green (writer), Jesse Watson (illustrator), and Elizabeth Parisi (art director).
I also participated in the portfolio display on Saturday evening. Porfolios are displayed in one area along with any promotional materials you have. Art directors and editors are given a private look at your work and then it is opened up to everyone. I had my business cards, promo sheets, and promo bookmarks available with my portfolio. Of course, one hopes that some editor will be dazzled at your portfolio here and offer you a book deal right there. I feel my work measured up well there but I don't know if any editors or art directors will be biting.
I definitely enjoyed getting to enjoy the time with some of my fellow "OC Illustrators" there.
Now my challenge will be to use what I've learned and to keep my momentum from all the great energy there at the conference. I've got some ideas I want to get going on soon...