A few months ago, I received a party invitation from MB Artists to commemorate their Tenth Anniversary. I imagined a party with drinks, h'orderves and chit chat amongst the who is who in the publishing industry. As much fun as the party sounded, I was apprehensive of what's to come. One of the wonderful qualities that I have as an introvert is awkwardness. I am awkward at social functions. I never know what to say and I dislike making small chats or forcing a conversation. Having build a big massive invisible wall around me for many years does not help in my social skills. At most parties, one can find me hugging the wall, playing with the only kid in the room or sitting in the loo waiting for the party to end. Don't get me wrong, I can have fun at a party but it would involve good friends that have known me for a long time and a couple of cocktails. I always envied those who flourished under such circumstances and can keep up with conversations and get people laughing. For this reason I was concern about my social awkwardness. I didn't want to disappoint the art directors and editors, some of whom I've worked with for some time and may have a certain idea of what kind of person I am. Logically , I knew they had other more pressing matters then to sit and ponder all day about me. Right? But it didn't stop me from being uncomfortable with the idea of meeting up with them. My weird sense of extremely dry humor and speak before I think tends to get me in trouble and I've been told one too many times that I'm a bit of an odd ball. I couldn't decide whether I wanted to go to New York but I knew deep down inside I couldn't pass up on this opportunity to meet up with other illustrators and publishers.
When the agency send me the list of appointments and events leading up to the big party, I knew it wasn't just a celebration. It was our chance to meet up with the art directors and editors to show them our work. At that time, I had not taken into account the time, energy and effort that it took to bring illustrators from 12 different countries together with art directors, editors, publishers in one place. It wasn't just the big event but the meet up sessions, portfolio meetings, appointments, pitches and luncheons. But my agent Mela Bolinao and her team made it happened. They ran it with efficiency and class. They pulled out all the stops and poured their heart into this project. it was flawless and looked deceivingly effortless but we all knew and saw what it took behind the scenes to put this together. I was impressed, so were the illustrators. I'm quite sure the publishers were as well.
Everyone worked hard in this agency. It was very much a team effort. Our agency made sure everyone had the opportunities to meet up with the publishers, and the rest was up to us although once in a while we would get a message, pep talk or phone call from Mela. The illustrators worked hard pounding the pavements traveling uptown, downtown, midtown and then back uptown to show their work. Speaking for myself I spend most of the week till the last two hours before my departure sometimes attending up to 5 meetings. I had also made my own appointments so my days were all about meeting up with publishers and grabbing half an hour here and there for a bite or some retail therapy. Honestly, there was no time for anything else. Most evenings, I am back in my room working on deadlines and catching up with work, calling my kids and finding myself too exhausted to do anything else.
At one of our planned events, I had the chance to meet up with other illustrators, some of whom I became friends with on facebook. It was definitely one of the highlights of my trip to New York. Don't get me wrong, it was great having the opportunity to speak to the art directors but to meet some of the artists that I've respected and liked from afar, I was very excited. From what I saw and heard, the illustrators were humble, nice and some were introverts like me. Now, that just sucks cause I actually thought I was special. I was prepared for some cockiness or less humble qualities from these illustrators so I could like them a little less, maybe gossip about them but darn it, they were all too damn sweet. Kidding aside, I'm so very glad I got to see their work up close in person and they were better than I had imagine and the icing on top was I got to know them a little better.
The day of the big event, I was still scrambling to turn my work in for a deadline and had only just gone to bed at 6 am. So I had zero freshness that day. I had appointments before the party. This was actually a good thing because I was not focusing on my awkwardness. I put on the outfit my husband had chosen for me cause he had better fashion sense then I did. Seriously, he does, I'm not being sarcastic. When I got to the party, most of the illustrators had arrived. There was excitement in the air and everyone had their printed postcards and samples of their books up on display. We were all armed with our ipads and portfolios. See below. This is just a little section of an entire wall display. It was pretty impressive. I had one set of postcards, some of the illustrators came armed with 5 or six different designs. All the more better for the guest to choose from and me to take home. One of the illustrators had even designed a game application on the ipad for the guests.
Everyone was running around setting up for the party, the caterers, the waiters, waitresses. Mela was at her top form. There was good tension in the air. We all felt like we were part of something really special. Mela quickly brought us together for a group photo and then all of sudden, there were guests arriving at the door. I must be honest, I did feel awkward and uncomfortable but it wasn't as bad as I had imagined. There were a few stalled conversations, some awkward moments and some surprisingly very good conversations. It was great seeing some old faces and talking with new ones. I did not try too hard making a conversation. I said enough and gave myself the space to just be my weird self. There wasn't a table between us and the publishers, it was relaxed and I can honestly say that everyone enjoyed themselves thoroughly.
I cannot say enough good things about these group of people who have worked tirelessly to put us front and center stage for this big event. Jess our bad ass designer who designs the catalogs that are filled with so many wonderful illustrations and the gorgeous invites, they were beautiful.
Jon Bolinao who coordinates behind the scenes, deals with the business what not, puts fun into all the seriousness of business and keeps us relax, calm and happy. Mela our agent, I can only say, she has made it clear to the publishing world and her illustrators that she has our back and will continue to work tirelessly for us and for the agency. She put this all together with grace, talent and humor. She is tough, she expects the best out of us, she demands it only because she believes in us. I feel the same way. I hope she knows we've got her back her as well. Loyalty goes both ways.
Even though I've visited publishers for many years, I have enjoyed and learned a lot during this trip. I've learned to be a better conversationalist. I've learned that I will not compromise my quacky self to be something that I'm not and if this doesn't work for other publishers, I'm okay with it. I've learned that it's okay that not every publisher is going to like my manuscript or love my artwork. I've learned that there will be some publishers that I will connect better then others and that is also okay. I've learned that the conversations I have with some publishers can open up my eyes to challenging myself more in my style of drawing and taking myself out of the comfort zone. I am happy to have made friends on this trip. I know I will never loose the awkwardness of being in a social gathering but that's okay too. I survived and came out of it with few scrapes. What I do feel is a sudden burst of creative energy and hunger to make more children's illustrations. I have loads of ideas after speaking to some of the publishers and can't wait to share them all.
On the next blog, I'm going to talk about my meetings with some of the publishers and not all have a happy ending but it doesn't mean it's the end. Till next time, have a great awesome week!