Wednesday, September 29, 2010

North Texas Art Director-Editor Day

Some thoughts this morning about the Art Director-Editor Day, presented last Saturday (September 25, 2010) by the North Central/Northeast Texas Chapter of SCBWI:

Elizabeth Parisi, executive art director at Scholastic, gave us an inside view of what goes into designing a book’s cover art and overall look. I was encouraged to learn that the design process is just as fraught with peril as the writing and editing can be. Many, many design ideas will be tried and discarded on the way to finding the right one. The designer’s scrapheap, I decided, is analogous to my writer’s bonepile.

Dan Yaccarino, author/illustrator, offered a fascinating look at his creative processes — processes plural, the man does so many different things. He works in lots of different media, including animation. Though his talk was aimed mostly at illustrators, his advice is applicable to writers, too: “Be self-motivated. Set your own deadlines. Channel your energies. Experiment; make mistakes. Do books about what you really like! Stick to your vision and have an opinion.”

Mallory Kass, assistant editor at Scholastic, gave a wonderfully detailed and helpful talk on “First Impressions: The Art of a Captivating Opening Page.” Mallory gave us lots of useful advice on using that first page to set the tone, create atmosphere, bring the reader into the world where the story takes place ... set up the reader’s expectations, build anticipation, offer glimpses of the qualities that make the work special. The first page is a microcosm of the book. Mallory cited The Golden Compass for its strong opening that gives such a wonderfully rich sense of the setting. That’s one of my favorite books, too.

Priscilla Burris, author/illustrator, gave a mini-workshop to round out the day. Since I can barely draw stick figures, I used the time to wind down after a long and busy day. After the artists among the attendees had finished their sketches, Priscilla offered some advice that resonated with all of the creative types in the audience: We do what we do because we can’t do anything else. We all have our strengths, and we all have the areas we need to grow in. Be teachable; be open to learning. We’re in competition only with ourselves.

And on that note, I need to end this blogging stuff and get back to work. Only yesterday, meeting with my critique group, I was reminded again of my strengths and, alas, of my weaknesses. It’s time to settle back down with Book 1 of Waterspell and try to improve those areas that remain in need of improvement. (Will I EVER succeed in “Omitting Needless Words”? Not unless I find a way to recognize which words actually are needless.)

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