Jay-Z featuring Alicia Keys in 'Empire State of Mind'
I took New York City by storm. From February 12-14, I attended the Society for Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) 17th Annual Conference in New York City. What an exciting opportunity to connect with old friends, meet new ones, and network. Last year, I went to the conference (which was at that time my first SCBWI even), not knowing what to expect, with only my anticipated titles on the horizon and my portfolio (which I almost removed from the showcase but so glad I didn't). But 2016 was different. I arrived at SCBWI NYC, armed with books in hand and I was more selective about what I participated in. As a newly published and conference-seasoned author, I felt ready to "dive in" and have my writing critiqued by a group of strangers. I attended a workshop on writing sellable middle grade novels (for my manuscript that I finished) and another one agents. (Given that I write and publish in Canada, having an agent is not necessarily a requirement for publication or even access to a publisher. However, in the United States, this seems to be the way it works to "elbow" your manuscript through the slush pile and into the hands of an editor who can select your work. When I speak to the Canadian authors and illustrators who have agents, they discuss at as a way to ensure that they can become "career writers" or "career illustrators". You know what I mean?) This year, I also kept my illustration portfolio at home and tried to focus on the writer in me (but I do love and "miss me" some nice illustrations and got that faint wistful feeling during the illustration portfolio showcase. There's always next time.) Until then, I can savour the wonderful experience that was the SCBWI NYC Conference. The highlight of my weekend was spending "a good chunk of time" with one of my favourite authors, one of my I-read-her-books-since-I-was-in-high-school-and-basically-everything-she's-published authors, none other than Rita Williams-Garcia. I taped various aspects of our chat as I learned so much and I wanted to remember these chats and play them back, especially the moment I showed Ms. Williams-Garcia a copy of my first upcoming picture book, Malaika's Costume. She absolutely loved it and really knows how to appreciate a good picture book (mine!). At some point, I will share that video but for now Imma' jus' watch it whenever I get in the "writing doldrums" or have some existential crisis. For now, check out my SCBWI NYC 2016 slideshow.