|Dan as Daenerys Targaryen, he is a fan of GoT|
Dan came here in 2001, this Summer Conference is the first SCBWI conference he ever attended. He worried it was too expensive, but that worry was soon put to rest when his portfolio got noticed by editor Arthur Levine, and because of attending the conference,Dan got his first book contract.
In the many years of attending SCBWI events and conferences, Dan's noticed success stories of authors and illustrators, and some stories of people who are still finding there way. Dan says:
Your time will come, it's not a race to the top of the mountain, everyone finds their time.
One way to ease your trek on the road to publication is to improve your taste: Do you know if you have good taste? Do you know if what you're writing is good? Dan reads us this Ira Glass quote:
Dan lists some of the stories and genres he likes, and thinks improving your work and taste is due to understanding why you like things, don't censor or bias yourself. Dan likes:
Batman and Akira comics. Movies and TV shows like Moneyball, Game of Thrones, Lost, and Breaking Bad. Podcasts like This American Life and Serial. From all of these he is learning story style and technique, observing different points of view. Immerse yourself in life and culture, take these references, says Dan, and come up with a unique spin on things.
You must do a critical review of your work. Dan reads us some 1 star and 5 star Goodreads reviews for Where the Wild Things Are (which has an overall rating of 4.2, by the way). Compare your opinions with others, there are crazy reviewers and there are good reviewers, the good reviews are useful pieces of critical information that can make your work better.
Study the fundamentals, but don't be rigid.
Learn by imitation, but don't become a clone. In art school, Dan copied Wyeth paintings in class because when you paint the strokes a master painter painted, your hands learn what your head doesn't quite understand yet. But be sure to make your art your own, Dan says, try to make work that is original to yourself once you begin to trust your inner instincts.
The exploration comes by doing: You have to make a lot of lousy paintings before you find one you want to put in your portfolio. Dan was working a full-time job when he decided he wanted to be published, so he started working from 10 pm to 3 am on his illustration work and after weeks and weeks of working like this and honing his craft, he'd made himself an illustration portfolio he could be proud of.
Form follows function. Dan shows us how good stories have things happening for a reason, you see it in everything from Back to the Future to his very own Beekle.
A few of Dan's final thoughts: Do what you love, and the work will find you. Don't think about the money, think about the craft, and working on your craft is the only way to improve. And don't give up!