For Young Readers

Last week I was so fortunate to attend the FOR YOUNG READERS conference in Salt Lake City, UT. Having gone the year before, I knew what I'd be in for: a really intense week full of content based lectures, 20 hours of mentoring and illustration projects, lot's of homework and an overall stimulating experience. In fact, a couple of classmates and I joked that we weren't sleeping well at night because our dreams were so vivid from all the visual stimulation our brains were getting. It was that awesome.

So, I mentioned before Kevin Hawkes was the illustration instructor for our small class of 12 students (Have you seen how cool his website is, by the way?). From 8:30am-12:30pm each morning, I had the chance to work along side super talented illustrators and get feed back and critique from Kevin and his assistant Julie Olsen, a wonderfully talented illustrator as well. As a young mom who doesn't even get out to go to the movies, getting a week of intensive illustration time with amazing mentors was more than life changing.  Kevin Hawkes is one cool guy.  Kevin had a lot of great content heavy presentations, but all in all, I was impressed with his story and his slow but steady rise to the top of the children's book scene. He was such an inspiration. He is a family man (5 kids!) which meant a lot to me especially after writing this post on keeping your creative mind fresh and active while managing a growing family!

He admits that he is the king of altering his style for the need of the book, which also inspired me to really take risks and follow my own intincts. He is a master at his craft, and it was seriously an honor to work with him. And he even signed the books we own of his to say "To the Wright Toddlahs" for how much i love his latest books. How cool is that?

My husband participated in the Picture Book Writing intensive, and he just soaked up time with his mentor Bonny Becker. Again, like working with Kevin, it was a bit surreal to be tutored by the same author who has charmed our bedtime story routine for 2 years now. Bedtime for Bear, a New York Times bestseller has won tons of awards, but Kenneth and I bought this the month it first came out once we realized what a treasure it was. And it is just that.

It was so delightful to hear Bonny read out loud her own book that we have read so many times ourselves. It was just as amazing to see her reveal the process of the over 30 revisions that led to it hitting the shelves. The children's book industry aint' for sissies-that's for sure!  But Bonny is a wonderful talent as well as editor. She loves freelance editing and has an awareness of the craft of writing for children that a lot of picture book writers don't have. It was such an honor to work with her! And if you love Visitor for Bear, you'll LOVE the other 6 books she is contracted to write about Bear and Mouse that will be will be trickling out soon. We got to read Sleepover for Bear coming out this fall, and analyze Christmas for Bear that won't even come out for 2 more years and isn't even finished yet. It was truly inspiring!  Oh, and I have to put in a plug about Bonny's assistant Jed Henry who I also got to meet, who is himself a budding author/illustrator. Great contacts and great experiences.

This conference has been going strong for 11 years and is one of the best there is. If you get a chance to go next year, I can promise you won't be disappointed!