For those illustrators making last-minute shifts to their portfolio for the SCBWI National Conference, I have 3 pieces of advice:
I was recently asked to judge portfolio applications for a Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators award. It was an eye-opening experience being on the other side of the table, in the judge’s seat. Here’s what my big take-away was from that experience:
I preferred to see 5 GREAT pieces alone, vs. 5 great pieces mixed up with 5 okay pieces.
It was ALWAYS obvious when people were adding filler, or thought they needed more variety, so they put in mediocre stuff. In many cases, a portfolio would be amazing, and then right at the end the illustrator panicked and threw in one or two strangely out-of-place, low-quality works. Those one or two pieces were the ones that cut them out of the running to be considered.
So yes, it would be GREAT if you had 10 GREAT pieces, but if you don’t, don’t try to hide it. Take one last look at your portfolio before you submit it, and ask yourself, “Am I really proud of this piece?” Those are the only ones you should display. Even if there are only 5. You can add more great work next year!
See more more tips on how to edit an award-winning portfolio here:
Portfolio Comparison: What made an SCBWI winner
Each year I go to the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrator’s National summer conference, and each year I promise myself to type up notes and blog about the experience. And each year (up until now, huzzah!) this promise has gone un-kept. By now I’ve got a pretty good handle on how this happens — and I think other conference-goers can probably relate. This event is four straight days spent with 1200+ fellow writers, illustrators, publishers, agents, and SCBWI staff. It’s a social, informational, and inspirational whirlwind. SCBWI’s director and MC, the hilariously love-able, Lin Oliver nailed it when she said:
“This is what happens when a bunch of introverts get together and feel comfortable with each other.”
It’s the best kind of social+professional interaction. In fact, it’s come to the point where these events nearly match Christmas for me. I’m giddy and excited to geek out with hundreds of other children’s book, well, geeks for four days straight.
But, as we know about introverts, even small social interactions involve rest and recovery periods. I’ve come to terms with the fact that it takes me a whole 7 days after the conference to recharge (the entire first day involves lying face-down on the bed). A lot of that time is spent catching up on deadlines, emails, and binge-watching some tv series (usually involving bridal gowns, or food, or the 90’s). It also involves thinking “I gotta type up those conference notes while it’s all still fresh,” yet not having quite enough energy to take action. But this year I did it! It’s two weeks later, the dust has settled, but it’s still fresh on my mind.
The event highlights for me:
- my conference buddies, Debbie Ohi and Kimberly Gee
- meeting author Pat Z. Miller!
- the keynote speakers
- juicy breakout sessions, during which I always seem to collect new tips on craft, and get insight for my stories in progress
- seeing my agent, friends I’ve made from conferences past, and the SCBWI mentor/mentee group–we eat, we drink, we bond
- meeting new friends, and collecting cards at the illustrator’s social
- the Monday Illustrator’s intensive: all about inspiration this year