I’m in Tupelo, Mississippi for a couple of days of school visits. Today, I visit Pierce Street Elementary School. It’s always fun to visit the kids who are reading my books! It keeps me in touch with what they are thinking. We draw together and have a great time.
During the sessions, I try to get some feedback on what works and what doesn’t work in a drawing. Most of the time, the kids see this as an opportunity to voice their opinions on the drawing’s subject matter and other stuff.
The presentations at Pierce Street School went great! The kids were so full of questions and were amazed at the creative process. This makes the travel all worth while!
Right now, I am in the hotel room, exhausted after the day’s work at the school. Would you believe it? My car battery went dead and I had to have it replaced. I would much rather go ahead and have a new one in the car so that I won’t be caught out somewhere without any help around.
5:24 a.m., in the hotel room-
Today, I go to Thomas Street Elementary School. The host teacher has told me that they have studied Jazz Cats and Rock’N’Roll Dogs. She said that there have been art projects created as they have studied the books. I can’t wait to see these projects! It sounds like they have utilized the full extent of my school visit by building a whole curriculum around those two books. That’s the way it should be done! The students get the full benefit of studying the books and art, and then by the time I show up, they are really excited about what I have to say: the creative process of the picture book.
The VSA Mississippi fund raiser art exhibition is today and tomorrow. We’re having artworks produced by the VSA Adult Art Class at Highland Village in Jackson. Many of the works by the artists are wonderfully creative and fun to look at.
My piece (which didn’t sell) was a watercolor of an apple and its peal. It was an interesting project and fun to work on. To be able to work on a fine at gallery style piece of art is a bit of a transition that I am slowly working on. The ceramic fish and sea shells was also an interesting piece.
It’s been a quick week turn around. I’m preparing for my storyboarding workshop at the Louisiana/Mississippi SCBWI BIG CHILL WRITERS RETREAT. I use storyboarding a lot because it lets me see the whole book all at once. This tool helps me plan the book out from the text AND illustration point of view.
My plan is to give a brief history of storyboarding as a tool when Walt Disney began the use of putting pictures up on a wall to view the camera shots and animation planning for his early movies. The review also includes PIXAR and other picture book authors and illustrator’s storyboards and sketches.
The activity part will be the Sequential Art section where I use the books Zoom and Re-Zoomto demonstrate the difficulty of ordering the visual sequential art in a picture book.
Another activity is to actually storyboard Wynken, Blynken & Nod, the wonderful children’s rhyming poem. That should be interesting.
I arrived at the Gray Center this afternoon around five where the BIG CHILL WRITERS RETREAT is going to be held. The Gray Center is a sprawling Episcopal retreat complex with cottages and motel style rooms surrounding a lake. The venue is perfect for organizational retreats and events. There’s a large chapel on the site designed with 80s style architecture. Outside the chapel, there is a labyrinth or a maze made of gravel and brook rocks. It’s a perfect setting for a fall retreat.
I checked in at the reception desk where I saw many old SCBWI friends. It was good to be among fellow children’s book writers and illustrators. My room was in one of the eight room cottages that are available for the conference participants. The main building offered a reception area and a cafeteria.
The room had a monastic style simplicity to it. No amenities at all like a TV or coffee maker. Simple. The room was for sleeping only because the main point of being at the Gray Center was to participate in the weekend’s activities.
Tonight, there was a gathering of everyone around the main patio to introduce the faculty and participants… ice breaker time.
It was fun to see old friends and get reacquainted.
The Storyboarding Intensive-
Today was the day that all the activities would unfold. My workshop intensive was three hours this morning and went pretty well. We worked through the storyboarding concepts, made book dummies and storyboarded the nursery rhyme Wynken, Blynken Nod.
I was impressed with all the illustrators AND authors were into the concept of storyboarding because, although all we were working with were stick figures, a whole grasp of the picture book could be seen and crafted. Everything from story pacing, layout and word design could be worked out from the storyboard. Of course there was lots of revisions and edits along the way which was part of the lesson.
One author told me that they had been through several workshops about preparing a dummy for a picture book, but this was the first time that she actually “got it” in regards to story pacing, etc. I was happy to hear that because it validated my efforts in teaching the workshop.
One participant came in late because she had gotten lost and couldn’t find the venue. So, with nothing else to do, we sat down in the lobby of the main building and worked through the entire workshop. It was fun to go back over the workshop in review with her because it gave me a chance to revise it a bit. There were add-ons that were not included in the workshop that morning. I think she was happy with the time we spent together working.
Later that night…
THE BIG CHILL OPEN MIKE NIGHT returns! It was another night of poetry and prose at the coffee house style event.
This morning, after breakfast, I went over a picture book layout with one of the authors who asked me to. I constantly amazed at the spectrum quality of storytelling that the Louisiana/Mississippi SCBWI Region has!
After the morning’s program of Whitney Stuart going over her editing and revision process, we had a quick goal setting workshop on how to utilize the materials learned as we move forward into our regular lives.
It was a great weekend to network, renew older friendships and begin new ones.
Time to go home.
Miss. Library Assoc. Annual Conference-
Back on the road, again-
Today, I drove to Meridian, Mississippi and the Mississippi Library Association’s Annual Conference to sign books at the Pelican Publishing booth. MLA has always been good to me. It’s like a homecoming when I can see all my librarian friends.
The conference was held this year at the Riley Center. I have been to many Miss. Arts Commission Whole Schools Summer Institutes here over the years and have had much fun. The exhibit hall was in the main ball room of the Riley Center. I signed books at the Pelican Publishing booth. And, I signed a few books this year!