Undiscovered Voices - An Illustrator's Perspective


Last week we ran a feature on what it is like to be a winning author of Undiscovered Voices. This week I have two winning illustrators, Bing Wang & Andrea Ipaktchi, who were happy to share their experience at the event too.

Bing Wang
From the moment you open the wooden door with the posted sign "private party" and enter the large room, string lights decorating the left windows, you can feel the energy -- guests buzzing, music pulsing, drinks bubbling in fluted glasses. What a wonderful experience to be feted! A combination of Cinderella at the ball and Carrie on prom night: you're thrilled to be there and want to belong but don't know what to expect. 

We presented our A4 portfolios on a back table and laid out postcards with images of our entry illustration. After greeting all the other artists, we went up front for group photos holding prints of our drawings. A summary of the UV Anthology's purpose and successes was given.
Rosie Best (l.) & Anna Bowles (r.) near the portfolio table (photo by Bing Wang)
Listening to Sally Gardner (photo by Bing Wang)
My first impression is that most editors were mainly interested in meeting with the writers because ultimately there is no book without the story. Emily Sharratt, a UK editor with Orchard Fiction, affirmed that we're in publishing because we're passionate about books. We're also not the target audience and must remember the readers that we're creating for. 

Also an author’s responsibility doesn’t end once the book is published. Although a publisher's marketing department may promote the book, the author who initiates school visits or contacts librarians is a welcome partner in the process. Being articulate, proactive and well informed is key. 
Sarwat Chada (l.), Natascha Biebow (m.) Angharad Kowal (r.)  (photo by Bing Wang)
My second impression is that a career as a children's book illustrator requires a substantial investment of time and money. As Sara Grant said, this launch party is just the start. Next step? Build up the portfolio, tweak the website, send out mailers and stay active in SCBWI. Being persistent will increase the chances of being published. 

Thanks to everyone for coming to the party! Thanks to Sara Grant, Sara O'Connor, Working Partners for a memorable night!

Andrea Ipaktchi
I was armed with my brand-new portfolio and a list of 12 dream agents, art directors and editors in my pocket. I had the intention to make the most of my evening because maybe this is where it all began..

I don’t know London but I do know Jack the Ripper is always portrayed roaming down a dark alley and that’s where I had to go. I made it to my destination, duly un-ripped, and entered into a wide-open space that looked like a bar in an old Western --but with fairy lights. I didn’t see any cowboys but I did see the friendly faces of UV organizers and SCBWI members from all over Europe. 

Someone had taken the time to put each illustrator’s drawing on his or her name badge. Someone else had printed our illustrations onto lovely sheets of archival paper. Someone else handed me a drink. Another took off my coat. I was in the right place. It wasn’t a fluke. Everything was going to be fine.

I placed my portfolio and postcards. I chatted with the others. I was feeling proud of my accomplishment until—until the agents and editors started to trickle in. They were big people. The noise level rose. People had to shout to be heard. The space felt smaller. 

I cowered in the corner and munched on some hors d’oeuvres. Some other illustrators and writers came to huddle and munch with me. Had we made a terrible mistake in coming? I argued that being unpublished is really not that bad. In fact, my great granny lived to the ripe age of 101 without ever being published and she was as happy as a pig in mud. 

At this point, if I recall correctly, the organizers picked us up by the scruffs of our necks and gently placed us in neat rows for our first, official UV photograph. Then, the second photo and then the third… The past UV winners cheered us on. By the tenth photo we felt like pros.

 We listened to inspiring speeches encouraging us onto our journey. By the end, we held up our illustrations proudly with one hand and were practically doing fist pumps with the 2016 anthology in the other. 

 That’s when they broke us up and the real chatting began. An undiscovered writer and an agent immediately occupied my comfortable dark corner. I stood in the middle, not sure where to go-- but that’s thing about starting new things: you start by trying. You take that first step because you know deep down that you really want to be here. And also, because the place was packed, there was no place left to hide even if you tried and outside you might run into Jack the Ripper.

I caught the eye of an agent sitting alone. She looked meek. I recognized her as third on my ’10 agents to meet’ list. It was now or never. I moonwalked over to her and introduced myself as the professional I have always wanted to be. It worked! I mean--she listened. She took me seriously. We talked a lot. 

She proceeded to explain that she is only interested in authors-- not illustrators-- but that, my dear reader, is really besides the point.

Bing Wang is an illustrator who loves children’s books and comics. Major influences are Belgian clear line style, Chinese calligraphy and Japanese animation. Was formerly an advertising artist in NY but currently lives in Holland, following twin goals of traveling & learning new languages and working on a comic book. 

Andrea Ipaktchi is an American author-illustrator who works in both digital and traditional materials. Her love of comics and comedy has led to her regular performances as an onstage illustrator for an improvised musical-comedy show. She holds a BFA in illustration from Parsons School.SCBWI France IC

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