Leanne Barrett: Putting Yourself in the Picture

Thursday 16 August 2018

Putting Yourself in the Picture

Reflecting upon last night's SCBWI ACT and Surrounds event of Putting Yourself in the Picture has me wondering. How do you put yourself in the picture?

Maya & Cat's award wining author and illustrator Caroline Margel spoke about her journey and experiences in life and creating stories. She showed us how she put herself out there, walked down all the valleys and reached her peaks. Caroline reminded me that we need to 'Enjoy all the little things and that they carry you though your career.' 

Over the past year I have been reading The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron  it talks about moments of SERENDIPITY and Caroline has taken these kinds of moments when they have presented themselves to her. She has literally walked though doors that have opened for her and seized chances to present her work to key figures in the book industry, leading to new career opportunities. So I'm wondering, have I seized my moments of serendipity?  Have you?

Are you part of the 'people game'? Caroline talked about how we learn by talking to people and participating in groups and events. It is through these connections with others within our industry where we can learn, experience light bulb moments and may even have a splendid chance to try something new. This is where I feel it is important to shun our inner critic's voice, grapple with our fears and insecurities and go for it. Our bookie friends will be on the sidelines and in our box cheering us along.

Caroline Margel
Caroline inspired me to think about the kernels of ideas and that I need to keep myself open to pursue these ideas. Protect your kernels. Stick with your idea.

Caroline mentioned Albert Einstein so I went searching for a quote of his about 'holding onto your ideas,' while I couldn't find that quote I did find two great quotes that can apply to us creatives;

"Imagination is more important than knowledge. 
Knowledge is limited. 
Imagination encircles the world."

“If at first the idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it.”

One parting thought from Caroline, which is important for the long game of creating children's literature, 'Keep affirming yourself, you've got something awesome to share.'

For the second part of the evening we heard from a panel of Susan Hall from National Library of Australia (NLA) Publishing and her collaborative author and illustrator team of Emma Allen and Hannah Sommerville. On September 1 they release their new book Digby & Claude. Emma describes this as a  story about belonging, loss, sadness and change.

Susan Hall, Hannah Sommerville & Emma Allen
So how do these book creators put themselves in the picture?
Again it harks back to Caroline's 'people game' and a large splash of serendipity, of taking the chances that the universe presents to us.

Emma and Hannah created the book Grandma, the Baby and Me (2014 Scholastic Australia) without any direct collaboration with each other.  After the book's release Emma contacted Hannah and their true collaboration started. They took their book proposal to Susan Hall and then the long journey began.

Emma had a kernel of an idea; a big empty bath that a child can climb into and a newspaper article about 1930s building development of city housing.

Emma said that this collaboration has taught her to trust in the illustrator, to put the heart into the pages. That there is a joy you feel from collaborating that can keep driving you to tell your story.

Hannah said that Digby & Claude's collaboration has taught her to be confident about her own ideas and voicing them. A project like this book involved a lot of consistency checking and historical accuracy eg. brick type, machinery and the number of windows in the buildings.

Putting myself in the picture - Learning from others. As an illustrator what resonated with me was Hannah's experience of creating a 1930s colour palette using adverting material from the NLA. She confirmed her colour choices from the book 100 Years of Colour by Katie Greenwood. I had experienced a similar process when choosing my colour palette for a series of illustrations I drew in October 2017, see my blog about my process of developing my palette Choosing and Mixing Colours for Illustrationswhich was initially inspired by a previous SCBWI ACT event.

Maura Pierlot
The take home message from this panel for me is;
  • find joy and excitement to keep working on your project; and 
  • learn to trust your ideas and yourself.

Another local creative that is putting herself in the picture is Maura Pierlot. Maura is a author and playwright who has recently been a recipient of the KSP Fellowship. During her fellowship she participated in a few workshops but spent most of her time working on several plays, including one play with a series of monologues on mental health issues faced by young people. Maura reminds us that sometimes you have to get down and do the work and meet your deadlines. But is is also great to experience a new location that can inspire writers to work, like a garden or a library with a great events program. She encouraged us all to apply for grants to help us work on our craft.

Thanks SCBWI ACT and Surrounds Branch for another insightful event where authors and illustrators share their experiences so that we can learn how to put ourselves in the picture. As Caroline said - You need your own agenda rather than follow someone else's.   

Also a thanks to Emma Allen for her time on the committee, she is leaving the committee to pursue her writing and PhD in Creative Writing. 

8 November 2018 Canberra Event
25 & 26 February 2019 for the SCBWI - Biennial SCBWI Conference in Sydney.

Caroline & Grace

Leanne & Shaye

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