Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Keynote address by Mark Teague 8/1/08

Mark Teague
My 20 Years in Children’s Books: A Survivor’s Tale

I am Picture Book Creator

when stopped by people who claim to have a good idea, and are interested in the business, he gives them the SCBWI contact information to steer people in a direction – to pursue their "great" ideas.

Picture books were a start – childhood drawings – create stories and draw pictures

His parents basically viewed work as one of options

Divine human experiences: those that lead to poverty, and those that don’t

Art categorized as “poverty”…. Art school… graduation?

San Diego born / UC Santa Cruz – confused by studying American History – and UNEMPLOYABLE

Reading Jack Kerouac – road trip – create a good successful story – launch a career (minus the alcohol and despairing death)…

Dodge Dart – head east – cross country in winter? A huge FLAW…. Mom wouldn’t send $$$ if ran out… GET A JOB…

In NYC and got job at Barnes and Noble corporate offices. 1986, before National – still a regional book store. Books that were “over print” – Remainder books – books that were overstocked. Job: Advertise this Big Boxes (palette) – learn how to create book cover (copies)…groomed on the job. It was art school / got paid for it J B&N Jr, Children’s Only store – more concentrated on Children’s picture books / art books of the 1980’s / fully saturated color art – William Joyce, (Rolie Polie Olie / Robots)… Stories with picture and words in big colorful packages.

Roughly autobiographical – kid moved to big city – homesick – contrives to take a magical journey – the Trouble with the Johnson’s – a family of dinosaurs – illustrated it – idea to make a dummy (not knowing it was a dummy)… no computer, but had access to a great assortment of professional display tools. DISPLAY DEPARTMENT / Mike Cavanaugh – the B&N Book Buyer…Target – Chris Van Allsburgh’s editor = Walter Lorraine / took it to Houghton-Mifflin – tried his publisher / editor. It was a personalized rejection letter. “I can’t figure out what you are trying to do here”…. Focus / Emotional Distance created while it’s away / Grounded / read revision and notice the flaws… could see truth in notes from WL…

What is NOT working – can’t get enough focus or clarity in the work… try to tell a story – make it work in 32 pages… in general – conflict boiled down into something that works in a few short sentences…not too complex. Tighten this form of communication.

Communication has to be direct. Not condescending, Not Indirect…

Scholastic offered an interview – thanks to MC – looking for “young talent”… reviewed it… liked it…. Bought it…

4 – 5 Months to get the contract…

Got married –

$5000???? WOW!!!

Struggled – Jean Fiewel – Got out of “rut” pasting – Scholastic sent “free lance “ work… practice, work, and improve… / pseudonym?

able to quit that job at the yellow pages
then able to quit working as Elroy Frehm
later stopped having scary gaps between

then one job after another came in

next step = able to work with great stories
and 20 years later -

thats where I am now
gets letters from children we have to do good work
these kids are are ultimate audience

when I was first starting out
I didn't know if I was doing this right
I just wanted some one to tell me
this is what you do, so do it
and no one ever told me that

and that uncertainty is now what I love about this job
= the field is wide open there are no rules

people have expanded this field tremendously
the only rule is = it must work

the job IS a flying leap
you always get something when you're willing to take risks like that

Notes transcribed by Suzanne Gibson with input from Anastasia Suen 8/05/08

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