In preparation for this year’s NY Winter Conference, I asked the three of the recipients of the 2016 Student Illustrator Scholarships to give their best advice on attending a SCBWI conference for the first time. A lot of this advice also applies to SCBWI events of all sorts, so even if you aren’t coming to the NY conference, read up!
* Everyone is here to meet new people. If you see someone at a mixer you admire, it isn't weird to approach them and introduce yourself, it's expected. It felt awkward at first, but I slowly got used to approaching people and trading postcards. A lot of amazing people attend SCBWI, so feel free to take advantage of the opportunity to meet them.
* Know why you are here. It seems simple, but I think it is important to be clear about what you want from SCBWI. You're going to receive a lot of feedback, whether it is in a workshop, a portfolio consultation, or at the showcase. If you know what direction you want to go with you work, you'll be better able to decide what advice to act on and what advice to simply keep in mind.
* You aren't here for long. The conference goes by faster than you would think, so make sure you do as much as possible. Attend all the lectures, eat with new friends during lunch, ask questions in the workshops, and catch all the social events. It’s an incredible time so enjoy it to the end!
SCBWI opened my door to the children’s book market in the US. I am so grateful that I got the chance to go to the conference as a student scholarship winner, right before I graduated! I got my agent and my first book deal after it. Here is some advice I have for illustrators who come to the conference for the first time.
* Participate in the portfolio showcase if you can, it’s a great opportunity to get access to art directors and agents, also a chance to see a lot of great work by other illustrators.
* My favorite part were the breakout sessions, they were very specific and right on point. I recommend workshops about how to write a query letter to agents. What I learned from the workshop helped me a lot when I looked for an agent later.
* The Illustrators’ Social was also a great opportunity to talk with the art directors and illustrators, and show them your portfolio of course.
* A little bit of research about art directors and editors who will attend the conference will also help, sometimes the art director is standing right by you but you don’t know their face…
* Try to have enough business and promo cards in your pocket. You never know who you’ll meet at the NY conference.
* I know many illustrators are bit shy (myself included). But this is your chance to meet illustrators, authors, agents, and art directors! It's also a rare chance to meet thousands of people in our field. Isn't it? So try to speak up with them, and make new friends. Never miss any illustrator parties (socials) at the conference even though you feel tired.
* Share the information you hear from the lectures you attend with friends. It’s sad that we can’t all attend everything. But we can get tips from each other by sharing. You can also make new friends as you share ; )