Another Conference Report

Before we weigh anchor and sail off over the horizon on 2015, here's another broadside of highlights from the recent SCBWI conference in Winchester, brought to us by long time illustrator member Katherine Lynas!

Vlogging with Olivia Kiernan

Being a shy and retiring type the idea of vlogging does bring on The Fear, but I thought I would attend Olivia’s session to find out more.

Vlogging Definition: A video log. A journalistic video documentation on the web of a person's life, thoughts, opinions, and interests. A vlog can be topical and timeless, instructional and entertaining. The main thread is trying to communicate on a personal level with your audience.
(The Urban Dictionary)

I don’t think I was the only one with ‘The Fear’. Many of us had similar concerns around vlogging. Would we make a fool of ourselves? How do you deal with trolls? Is it even worth it?

Let’s look at the first concern, will we make fool of ourselves? Well it’s possible, yes, but does it really matter? Olivia pointed out that it’s very unlikely that you will get many viewers, especially when you first start and you don’t have to upload anything you’re not happy with. It’s also possible to take videos down if you change your mind, although they might be available elsewhere if they’ve been shared.

So, how do you deal with trolls? Most people seemed to agree that the Don’t Feed the Trolls rule applies in this case.

Is it worth it? Vlogging can be very time consuming and may involve a bit of a learning curve. It does, however, give you the opportunity to give added value to your audience, and to communicate in new ways. I think we need to ask ourselves whether it’s the right medium for us. If you enjoy the process, it will show. If you don’t, that will come across too. It’s just another potential string to your creative bow.

What to put in a Vlog

Olivia spoke about being your authentic self. If you love Octopuses, talk about that, if you love unusual manhole covers, talk about that. It’s best to avoid the hard sell, but think about how you can bring your book into some of your posts. You could talk about the research you did for your book, or talk about something that inspired it.

Illustrators (and other doodling fans) might like to try out video scribing. This gives the impression that you are drawing on a whiteboard as you’re talking. Another type of popular vlog for illustrators is speed drawing, perfect for those who don’t want to talk, but want to share their process. 

This is one of my favourite illustrator videos. It looks professionally shot and edited – I suspect a team of people were involved. Few vlogs are this slick.   

Olivia’s Top tips
Look in the camera lens – not at yourself
Structure your vlog like a story with a hook and a call-to-action
Keep it short, under 4 mins is best, between 2 and 2.30 mins is better

I think we could have talked well into the night, but we were evicted from our meeting room and there were critique groups to get to. Thank you Olivia for facilitating such an interesting session and sharing your experiences.

You can find Olivia’s youtube channel here

Keynote – Sarah McIntyre and Philip Reeve

George Kirk set the tone for Sarah and Philip's keynote speech with her now legendary ukulele introduction. She even provided the lyrics so we could all sing along, altogether now;
‘How did that get in their hair!?!’

A snippet of George’s song can be heard here.

Not to be out done, McIntrye and Reeve played one of their own hits, inspired by their book Pugs of the Frozen North – Yip!

Sales of ukuleles reportedly rose post-conference.

Sarah and Philip discussed how to make the most of your books by creating activities around them. For Pugs in the Frozen North Sarah created activity sheets that show kids how to draw pugs, and even instructions on how to knit your own. 

In their breakout session, delegates created their own pug using step-by-step instructions.

Puglet the slightly cross-eyed pug
Sheets like these can be used by teachers to prepare classes for a school visit, or give to them extension activities to complete after you’ve gone.

‘Don’t be afraid to make it stupid. Kids love stupid.’
Sarah McIntyre

Often teachers want you to teach something when you are doing a school visit (shocking I know). I think our job is to make it fun and as least like a normal lesson as possible. Sarah and Philip teach story structure with a game. They draw a snake-like board, draw/write in the beginning and end of the story, then the kids get to add the peril in the middle. The class splits into two groups that race each other to the story's end. 

Plotting the road to publication

I’d like to end the report with this quote:

‘Wear excellent outfits.’
Philip Reeve

Keynote – Jonny Duddle

Jonny told us the tale of his life before children’s illustration, and how he was repeatedly press-ganged into piracy. The first example being when he told a lady at the job centre that he wanted to be an artist and she sent him off to sea in a pirate ship!

That experience did come in handy as he was able to use the hundreds of photographs he took as references for his picture books.

Jonny talked about his early influences, including Mr Benn, Asterix, Trapdoor, Brian Froud, and the Hobbit.

‘Jonathan has two very exceptional qualities, sensitive draftmanship and creative imagination – he has developed his own style very strongly and should continue to develop this, with perhaps some sensitive drawings of objects in front of him, to supplement his folder. However, he is an irritating chatterbox far too often, I want to see more self-discipline.’
Jonny’s school report from his art teacher

He didn’t think much had changed. Being a chatterbox is an undervalued skill!

Before becoming a children’s illustrator, Jonny worked as a security guard, a children’s entertainer, a secondary school art teacher, and a computer games concept artist.  He spoke about how life experiences feed in to the work you end up producing, even if they might not seem that useful at the time.

After receiving LOTS of rejections, Jonny didn’t submit for 10 years. It was an image called Ye Pirate Muncher that resulted in his first picture book The Pirate Cruncher after he was asked to build a book around the illustration. Aardman saw the book and Jonny found himself drawing more pirates for the film Pirates in an adventure with Scientists.
Jonny hasn’t always worked digitally but made the switch after an accident involving a detailed pen and ink drawing and a glass of red wine. Now he enjoys the flexibility that working digitally can offer.

As Johnny’s daughters grow older so have his books. This has allowed him to keep his audience for longer as they start to read independently. 

Jonny Duddle and Philip Reeve presenting a costume prize to Kathryn Evans. Photo courtesy of Teri Terry.

Illustration Photos

Portfolios’ being laid out for viewing

The Roald Dahl Re-Imagined Illustration Competition
The SCBWI Showcase
More of the SCBWI Showcase


Katherine Lynas is a children's illustrator based in the North East. Her website is

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