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It’s hard to believe that autumn is here! That means that Editor’s Day 2015 is right around the corner. It will be held at the Titan Theater, California State University Fullerton (located inside the Titan Student Union) on Saturday, October 3.

Our wonderful editorial speakers include: Erica Finkel – Editor at Abrams Books, Taylor Norman – Assistant Editor at Chronicle Books, Becky Shapiro – Associate Editor at Scholastic Books, Jeffrey Salane – Editorial Director of Little Simon – Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division and Kristine Brogno – Children’s Design Director at Chronicle Books. They will be joined by our terrific local talent: Jennifer Grey Olson, Spotlight Author/Illustrator, Henry L. Herz, Spotlight Author and Rodolfo Montalvo, Spotlight Illustrator. The delightful Sara Sciuto of Fuse Literary Agency (formerly Foreword Literary) will be joining us for panels and pitches. Our speakers will be focusing on craft so if you plan to join us be prepared to take lots of notes!

We kick off today, Friday, October 2, with an evening art exhibit to showcase our talented illustrators. Saturday is packed with opportunities including Manuscript Critiques, Pitch Sessions, First Pages Panels, Portfolio Displays, Promo and Tear Sheet Critiques, writer’s contest, lunch with the editors, PAL book displays, book signings, and book giveaways. Don’t miss out on this fabulous chance to connect with industry professionals!

We are always excited when we learn that SCBWI members have made valuable connections at Editor’s Day, Agent’s Day of or Spring Retreat. Over the past year we’ve had the opportunity to interview several of our wonderful SCBWI authors who met their editor through an SCBWI event. We were thrilled to get a chance to talk to author/illustrator Jennifer Gray Olson who met her fabulous agent, Kerry Sparks, at our SoCal Agent’s Day.

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Jennifer Gray Olson

 Jennifer, tell us a little about your book.

Ninja Bunny is a picture book about a little bunny who wants to be . . . a ninja! Our little bunny is ready to embark on his path to becoming a ninja. But is he cut out for the ninja life? Especially if it means leaving his friends behind?

How did you connect with your editor?

My amazing agent Kerry Sparks, who I connected with through SCBWI-SoCal Agents Day, submitted Ninja Bunny to the fabulous Allison Worthce at Knopf. We immediately had a great rapport and vision for the direction of the book.

Tell us about your most important experiences during the editorial process.

For me the most valuable aspect to the editorial process is the brainstorming phase in the beginning. I love collaborating with others to create the best version of the story that we can. I definitely don’t work as successfully when I’m in a vacuum.

What part has SCBWI played in your journey as a writer or illustrator?

SCBWI has played a part in every step of my journey. At the SCBWI-LA summer conferences I learned the mechanics of making a picture book, received invaluable critiques of my portfolio, and got inspired to persevere in the face of rejection. Through the local events I met my critique group, without whom I never would have developed artistically in the way that I did. Volunteering at Agent’s Day connected me with my agent Kerry, and I truly believe that I could not have gotten Ninja Bunny published without her.

What has been most enjoyable to you while working on this book?

The privilege of seeing my book in the hands of kids that love it has, by far, been the most amazing experience of the whole process. I think, for me anyways, working for so long on a book, usually isolated in my studio, I sometimes forget that I’m creating stories and characters that are going to be out in the world one day. It’s a humbling experience to put a piece of you out there like that and get such a positive response. I’m beyond grateful for it! SCBWI set me on the path to getting published! Through resources, contacts, even friends I’ve made, they played a part in every step.

Where do you get your ideas?

From just about everything! I’m always drawing sketches about my life, whether I’m observing my kids, trying to process my day, or even just listening to a song on the radio. Everyday I do a warm-up drawing before I begin illustration assignments. I call it my “mental commute to work”. It’s my way of cleaning out my thoughts so that I can focus on my work. Every character or picture book idea I’ve ever had has come from this process. It was the same with Ninja Bunny.

Who is your favorite author or illustrator and why?

I would have to say Jon Klassen is currently my favorite illustrator. His style and compositions are flawless in my opinion. It also doesn’t hurt that he might be my husbands’ doppelgänger, so I may be a little biased.

What was the best advice you received as you began to pursue your career?

Put yourself and work out there. No one can hire you if they don’t know you exist.

What are some pitfalls for an author or an illustrator to avoid?

As clichéd as it sounds, draw/write what you love, not what you think is selling, not what you feel an editor or art director is specifically looking for. Create something you care about. When you’re emotionally invested in your work it shows. It took me YEARS to figure that out, but once I did, it made all the difference.

Any other comments?

I’d just like to convey my gratitude for all the help I’ve received over the years from SCBWI, especially my local SCBWI SoCal chapter.

Jennifer Gray Olson is a graduate of California State University, Fullerton, where she earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in art education. In addition to writing and illustrating she is a glassblower and sculptor. Learn more about Jennifer and view her illustrations at JenniferGrayOlson.com.

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