FARGO – Authors only tell half of the story, says illustrator Elise Parsley.
“Children’s picture books are unique in that a reader wouldn’t understand the entire story by only reading the text; similarly, a reader wouldn’t understand the whole story through just the pictures,” says the Minnesota State University Moorhead alumna.
Her book, “If You Ever Want To Bring An Alligator To School, Don’t!” was perched at No. 9 on the New York Best Sellers list for Children’s Picture Books last week.
Parsley is among dozens of illustrators who plan to attend the upcoming Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators-Dakotas conference this weekend. Designed to facilitate connections between burgeoning illustrators and publishing opportunities, the conference will be at Country Inn and Suites in Fargo.
Though Parsley’s next book is contracted for publishing by Little, Brown and Company, and her 2016 book, “The Magic Word,” is being published by HarperCollins, she plans to convene with other illustrators at the local conference.
“Fargo has a growing illustrator community that I have found to be essential to my career in children’s illustration,” she says.
Parsley encourages anyone in “kidlit” — an industry term to describe the entire genre from board books for toddlers up to teen books — to join the conference.
“Writing and illustrating can be a solitary job, so this is a time to build community, share information and get inspired,” she says.
Industry veteran Barbara McClintock is one of the keynote speakers that will prompt inspiration at the SCBWI Conference. She has published over 40 books in 12 languages, and she won the New York Times Best Children’s Book award five times.
She began her career illustrating books for Jim Henson’s Fraggle Rock series. Highlighting 1907 maps of Paris among her pen and ink drawings, her 2006 “Adele & Simon” was awarded Banks Street — Best Children’s Book of the Year.
Raised in Jamestown, N.D., McClintock now lives in rural Connecticut. She is looking forward to returning to the conference in Fargo and connecting with local illustrators.
“Writing and illustrating books is sort of a niche market, not like dentistry, we rarely just bump into each other on the street,” she says.
McCal Joy, a fine artist and illustrator in Fargo, is working on her first series of illustrated books. “The Gingerbread Cousins” is a 50-book series aligned with the states of America. Each book contains 20 to 24 original illustrations. There are currently three titles published, including “Tanner The Timely Traveler,” but she will illustrate all 50 state books if the series gains traction.
She finds the region to be supportive of artists evolving into children’s book illustrators. “Fargo-Moorhead gives creative people the opportunity to step outside of their comfort zone, and illustrating for books is one way artists are stepping forward,” Joy says.
Fargo artist Amy Richardson is transitioning into book illustrations and is a member of SCBWI-Dakotas chapter. She has created a handful of illustrations using hand-drawn images scanned into Photoshop, where she paints the images.
“More illustrators are moving into Photoshop and digital illustrations. It’s quicker to make changes than in traditional media,” she says.
Like many up-and-coming illustrators, Richardson is trying to secure a publisher for her work.
“The conference is going to offer me connections to publishers and agents. It’s going to be so valuable to gain the knowledge of the experts there,” she says.
Anyone interested in children’s book publishing is welcome to the conference, Richardson says. “There is so much change happening in publishing, and the conference is for anyone interested, even if they aren’t an illustrator yet.”
If you go
What: Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators-Dakotas Fall Conference
When: Saturday, with pre-conference workshops Friday
Where: Country Inn and Suites, 3316 13th Ave. S., Fargo
Information: Contact Betty Raum, SCBWI-Dakotas regional adviser, at Dakotas@scbwi.org. Illustrators Barbara McClintock and Elise Parsley will be offering book signings following the SCBWI event at 4:30 p.m. Saturday at Zandbroz Variety, 420 Broadway, Fargo.
This article is part of a content partnership with The Arts Partnership, a nonprofit organization cultivating the arts in Fargo, Moorhead and West Fargo. For more information, visit theartspartnership.net.