Thursday, December 17, 2009

Laurent Linn: An Exclusive SCBWI Team Blog Pre-Conference Interview!

Another wonderful reason to attend the upcoming SCBWI 2010 Winter Conference in New York City (January 29-31) is the opportunity to meet and learn from Laurent Linn.

Laurent will be giving a workshop (three times!) on Saturday January 30th.

He's funny. (For anyone who hasn't seen Laurent in the SCBWI Tribute video by Kimberly C. Baker, check it out now!)

He's smart.

He's designed books across all genres. Picture books like Chaucer's First Winter, by Stephen Krensky, illustrated by Henry Cole:

Chapter books, including the Melvin Beederman Superhero series by Greg Trine, art by Rhode Montijo:

And even Young Adult novels. Check out this incredible cover he did for Joyce Sweeney's Headlock!

Especially for illustrators, it's an amazing opportunity to meet and learn from an Art Director who, in his own words, "works with artists all the time and is always on the lookout for fantastic illustrators of various styles and experience." And the bonus - Laurent is an artist himself, so he has insight into the process from all sides!

Here's our interview:

Lee: Hi Laurent! First of all, since it's a season of gift giving and being grateful, let me thank you for the gift of agreeing to this interview in the run-up to the upcoming Winter SCBWI conference in New York City.

Laurent: Hi Lee, I’m so happy to get the chance to chat with you about books and what we’ll be diving into at the NY Conference. This conference is always a fun one, if overwhelming, so getting the opportunity to think about things in advance is great.

Lee: I want to start off with asking, what advice do you have for illustrators and writers who are planning to attend the Winter Conference?

Laurent: No matter if this will be your first conference or your 25th, it’s always overwhelming and fun. The overwhelming part can be daunting -- after all, so many people are interested in doing what you want to do. But that’s the great part, too! It’s a vibrant community of creative people with the same interests and passions. While there are so many others there, I think it’s also true that each voice and vision is unique. So, while you may experience a bit of a reality check, let that be a time for reassessment of your direction and strategy, as well as a great big energy boost! There’s nothing more exciting than one of these conferences. Plus, it’s a great way to network and meet new people who speak the same creative language.

And, more than anything else, just relax and have a good time. If you soak up the good energy, it’ll keep you going for a long time.

Oh, and bring warm clothes!!! It’s freezing here in NYC!

Lee: There's a lot of talk for writers about finding the "voice" of a project, the "voice" of a character. What are the things that make an artist's visual "voice" stand out?

Laurent: It’s truly the artist’s overall style, really. The medium, the color palettes, composition, character and scene design . . . All these elements, put together with the artist’s personal vision and talents, add up to one’s unique “voice” or “style.” Because it’s visual, it’s a bit tricky to describe. And, as with writing, we each see things differently, so one reader’s reaction to an illustrator’s style will be different from another reader’s. That’s what makes it art!

Lee: That's a good point, that everyone responds differently. Can you share the story behind the cover design for Joyce Sweeney's Headlock? - it's amazing!

Laurent: Designing teen novel covers is always tricky, because so many people are involved in approving them on the publishing side. And, unlike with picture books that already have an illustrator as a part of the book, novel covers are truly a blank slate, which is actually a lot of fun for the designer!

The book you mention, Headlock, by Joyce Sweeney, was a big challenge. It’s a wonderfully written, multi-layered novel for teens, especially boys, about a boy who wants to be a professional wrestler, costume and all, but is dealing with some very complex issues at home and socially.

In trying to figure out how to approach the cover design (should it be photographic, illustrated, simple image, complex images telling aspects of the story, type only, a combination?), I must have done about 45 concepts — no joke. We didn’t want it to look like just a book about wrestling, which it’s not, nor did we want it to look too lofty/literary — we were trying to appeal to a lot of different potential audiences, which is why it was tricky. Plus, the sales and marketing groups had a lot of input, so there were a lot of eyes on it. In the end, I have to say, everyone was thrilled with the final cover, as was I. And, I should add, so was Joyce, who was such a fantastic trooper through the whole process. Once I found the right image I was able to compose the other elements in the right way. It’s hard to describe, but it’s a lot like solving a math puzzle . . . it’s instinct and experimentation.

Lee: Is there some homework you'd like to give - a couple of books that people should read before they attend your "Real Deal About Visual Storytelling" Workshop, so they can get the most out of your session?

Laurent: Interesting thought. I can’t think of any particular books, but I think that it’s always a good idea to revisit your absolute favorite picture books from when you were a kid and go through them with the eyes of an illustrator. Step back and analyze if it really flows and works as visual storytelling, and, if so, how? Sometimes you’ll be surprised that some classic books really do work so well, but others don’t. Of course, kids lead much different lives now than when we were kids, and their way of seeing art is quite different — they see in camera angles and quick transitions — but good storytelling doesn’t go out of fashion.

In my workshop, I’ll have lots of visuals to show, so no real prep work is needed. But the more picture books you read in general means the more you know!

Lee: Great advice! Okay, here's a Bonus Holiday Question: Eggnog or Hot Chocolate?

Laurent: Oh, hot chocolate — anything with chocolate wins out over anything else as far as I’m concerned!

I'm excited to see Laurent at the SCBWI Conference - and I hope you grab this opportunity as well! Remember, the discount for early registration ends on January 4, 2010.


Anonymous said...

The link to the video doesn't work. :(

Lee Wind, M.Ed. said...

Whoops - sorry about that - the link is fixed, and here's the direct url:

Thanks for letting me know. Hope that makes you all smiley again,


Lisa Yee said...

Laurent is correct. Chocolate always wins.

Great interview!

Traci Bixby said...

I am so excited to go to NY for the first time! It is great to put a face to the name. I'm so glad I signed up for Laurent's break out session. Thanks Lee for such a great interview!

Elizabeth O. Dulemba said...

Laurent is awesome. Wish I was going! e