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A Brief (And Somewhat Stunned) Post From The SCBWI Conference In L.A.

Illustration Friday: Robot

The image above was one of the pieces in my portfolio, and was displayed on the screen at the Golden Kites Luncheon, when the award winners were announced.


[August 21, 2010 update: WOW, Simon & Schuster wants me to illustrate a book! Author: writer/actor/comedian Michael Ian Black. Tentative release date: Spring, 2012.]

I'm writing this from a hotel room in the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza in L.A., where I'm attending the SCBWI Summer Conference. It's been a FANTASTIC conference. I dare anyone to come to this event and not leave super-inspired, armed with new knowledge about the craft and business of writing and illustrating. I've been taking all my notes on my iPad.

This was also the first time I attended this conference where I attended some illustrator tracks in addition to writing tracks. My California illustrator friend, Beckett Gladney, convinced me to sign up for the Portfolio Showcase at the last minute. I was highly resistant, telling her my work wasn't good enough yet, that I wouldn't have the time to polish the pieces I wanted to include.

But (as good friends do), she pushed hard enough that I finally thought heck, I might as well. I'm always encouraging people to step outside of their comfort zones and push their own personal envelopes, so I should listen to my own advice. My mega-talented author/illustrator sister, Ruth Ohi, also encouraged me to enter, offering me portfolio and art tips.

When I almost pulled out because of lack of time, Beckett helped me by going into my Flickr set of illustrations online, picked out the pieces she thought would showcase my strengths, and printed them out for me. She also sewed a gorgeous handmade cover for my portfolio that attracted a lot of positive comments (to you artists out there: Beckett sells custom-made portfolio covers in her Etsy shop).

Photo by Beckett Gladney.

At the hotel, we spread all the pieces on the floor of our hotel room, and she helped me put my portfolio together. I was surprised by her choice of pieces -- they weren't the images I would have chosen. But I trusted her instincts, and I'm glad I did. Because...


Not only did I place in the top three (an Honor award) overall, but I was also selected by a second set of judges as one of the six Mentorship Award illustrators. The Mentorship Award is given to illustrators participating in the annual Portfolio Showcase "whose publishable work shows great promise and potential." Yesterday morning, I had individual critique sessions with six members of the SCBWI Board Illustrator Committee  as well as publishing industry pro, Rubin Pfeffer.

Mentor List (added later because some people were asking):

Cecilia Yung, Art Director and VP at Penguin Young Readers;

Pat Cummings, Illustrator, Writer, and Instructor at Parsons;

Priscilla Burris, National Illustrator Coordinator;

David Diaz, Award Winning Illustrator;

Bridget Strevens-Marzo, International Illustrator Liason; and

Rubin Pfeffer, Agent at East/West Literary Agency.

I was completely stunned, considering the level of craftsmanship I saw in the portfolios display in the showcase.

I'll post more info when I get back from L.A., but I had to post the news here because you've all been so supportive of my cartoons and doodles. THANK YOU! Special HUGE thanks to my friend Beckett and sister Ruth for encouraging me to do this.

After talking with the Mentors yesterday morning, I'm SOOOO excited about new possibilities in my creative work that I hadn't considered before.

Part of me is still wondering if I'm going to be waking up at some point.

Ok, so this post wasn't so brief after all. And AUGH, I can't believe it's already the last day of the conference!

Must log off now...


Reader Comments (22)

Congratulations!!! That is fantastic!!! :)

August 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNina Crittenden


I love your comics, so I'm glad what you draw got officially recognised!

August 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKat

Congratulations! Really well done and well deserved! Yay!

August 2, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterfairyhedgehog

Congratulations are the award!!!

August 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJohn Smith

Woohoo! Sounds great, congrats!

August 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSusanne

Oh, Debbie! I got tears in my eyes. How awesome to have a friend who loves you enough to boot you out of your comfort zone. AWESOME. Ecstatic congratulations to you. Isn't SCBWI so great? Wish I'd been at the conference this year; thanks for sharing your joy.

August 2, 2010 | Unregistered Commentertanita

Wow, that's awesome!!!

August 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBrooke Lunderville

Wonderful news!

August 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKathryn Jankowski

WOOOOOOOT!!!!! Yay Debbie congrats!!

August 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAndrea Dale

Debbie, that is fantastic. Congratulations! :)

August 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterErin

Congrats! And, yes, we knew Beckett is a goddess all along... :)

August 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGlennS


August 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAmy

Thanks very much for the congrats, everyone.

To Tanita: Yes, I feel VERY VERY lucky to have a friend who cares enough to boot me out of my comfort zone. :-)

August 3, 2010 | Registered CommenterDebbie Ridpath Ohi

Congratulations! To your friends you listen!

August 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSandra

Debbie - I was so thrilled when your name was announced! (I kinda broke the rule by a much-too-audible "squee!") Congratulations! Well-deserved! Julia

August 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJulia Karr


August 4, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterchrista allan

Oh, I am so thrilled for you! What a great team that gave you feedback
Double Congratulations!

August 5, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAngela Cerrito

Huge and well-deserved congrats, Debbie!!!

August 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBev Katz Rosenbaum

That's so awesome! Congratulations! You know I've been a huge fan of your work for a long time. :)

August 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterIrfon-Kim Ahmad

Congratulations! I'm also surprised...not that you won an award, but that you didn't get one sooner! I always thought you were very talented. Love your illustration/cartoon style.

August 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRomelle Broas

That is just amazing, Debbie! Congratulations. Totally well deserved.

August 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterShai Coggins

yay Debbie _ i looked for you and didnt see you :( maybe next year.

August 17, 2010 | Unregistered Commentershelli

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