Saturday, February 3, 2018

Dan Santat's opening keynote

Dan Santat is an award-winning New York Times best selling author/illustrator who has published over seventy books for kids. His titles include the 2015 Randolph Caldecott Medal winning book, The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend, the New York Times best-selling titles, Are We There Yet? and After the Fall: How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again. He is also the recipient of the Silver Medal for outstanding illustration from the Society of Illustrators for Oh No! Or How My Science Project Destroyed the World. He has collaborated with many authors including Mo Willems, Dav Pilkey, Mac Barnett, Aaron Reynolds, Michael Buckley, Tom Angleberger, and Gennifer Choldenko. Dan is also the creator of the hit Disney animated series, The Replacements.

Dan starts out joking about how he has 45 minutes to change all our lives - that's the challenge of a keynote. So instead, he tells us a story about that has the room riveted, and laughing... a story that leads right into his real topic...

Do You Really Know Who You Are? (How Understanding Yourself Can Prepare You For Future Success)

Can you tell a story?

"You can't read a book about riding a bicycle, you have to ride a bicycle."

He speaks about how hard it is to be a judge of your own work, how pride can get in the way of listening, and how important it is to know your own strengths -- and your flaws.

He shares stories of his own journey, including attending his first SCBWI conference in 2002 and how his book dummy was picked up by Arthur A. Levine at the portfolio showcase and he was offered a two-book deal. So, no "tragic rejection story" - but then how his first book, The Guild of Geniuses, wasn't the success he'd hoped.

Then he dug deeper into why, and realized "I need to be better at writing for children."

What did he do? "I learned by working with others." He decided to illustrate other people's books for a while, and he learned from each project.

"If you can look at your earlier work and cringe a little - that means you've improved."

And he talks about 5-7 years in, how he realized he was in the mid-list. And the challenges of that. (Like the heartbreak of how quickly his books weren't re-stocked on bookstore shelves.)

Dan covers so much more, including the see-saw of commercial success and critical success, the challenge of expectation and how winning the Caldecott impacted his creative life, and much more!

He's funny, and humble, and tells us:

"It took me years to find out who I was and what I wanted to say."

And he urges us to do the same.

You can find out more about Dan at

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