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By Marcelle Greene, SCBWI-L.A. Contest Coordinator Emeritus

Carmel O’Mara-Horwitz & Cassandra Federman

Whether you’ve thought of mentoring, or dreamed of having a mentor – this year’s mentorship team demonstrates how a seasoned professional working with a promising newcomer benefits everyone involved.

Mentor Carmel-O’Mara Horwitz started working with selected mentee, illustrator Cassandra Federman, on May 1st, and they set an ambitious goal: improve Cassandra’s portfolio, including the creation of a new piece, and update her website before the SCBWI Summer Conference. They had two months and six days.

Starting with a portfolio review, Carmel pointed out that Cassandra’s recent pieces reflected a personal style, while earlier pieces were more generic.

“Carmel encouraged me to go back to those earlier works and give them a style makeover in order to make my portfolio feel more uniform,” Cassandra said. “This forced me to focus on figuring out what elements define my artwork and make it unique.”

Cassandra created her new portfolio piece around the sketch of a girl and her llama that had received numerous “likes” on her Instagram feed.

“It went from the two of them standing alone, to entering a town where other kids are meeting a friendly elephant,” Carmel said. “It makes me want to know more, which I feel is essential in children’s book illustration.”

One of Cassandra’s goals during the mentorship was to develop her backgrounds instead of using white space.  “Putting a character in an actual setting allowed me to work on composition and lighting,” she said.

Cassandra finished the new piece and a book dummy in time for the summer conference, along with updating older works, her website, and SCBWI profile page. “Whew! Carmel was great about checking in with me and lovingly holding my feet to the fire,” Cassandra said.  “It was all very exciting and productive.”

“Her hard work paid off,” Carmel added. “She had a great portfolio to put in the show and she got a good deal of attention.”

And what did Carmel get? “Mentoring another artist brought me renewed enthusiasm and helped me to see my own work with fresh eyes,” she said. “I realized all the things I know, and the wisdom I have been given by so many other people. It felt so good to bring that forward and share it with someone else.”

The pair finishes their official mentorship on October 31st, though their bond will extend beyond that. Since the conference, Cassandra has worked with Carmel to create a new series of narrative illustrations, featuring a mysteriously missing pizza.

To see the resolution of the pizza mystery, visit Cassandra’s website: http://cassandra-federman.squarespace.com


If you are a PAL member interested in mentoring, please read more about the program on our website: Mentor Program

If you are a PAL writer, we are now accepting proposals for a 2018 writing mentorship. Details are on our website. The deadline is 10/21/17. 

For more fantastic content, community, events, and other professional development opportunities, become a member today! Not sure if there is a chapter in your area? Check here.


Photo by Carmel O’Mara-Horwitz

Illustrations by Cassandra Federman