Saturday, August 5, 2023

Debut Authors Panel: Lala Watkins

Debut Authors Panel: What to Know About the Path to Publication
Moderated: Martha Brockenbrough

Q: Tell us a bit about your journey.

Lala started in product development and graphic design and initially didn't think about making children's books. She began making comics for her Instagram and a good friend/fellow bookmaker, Mika Song, connected Lala with her agent. 

"I didn't really decide when to start. When it came, I said 'The time is now!'"

"connoisseur of good vibes," she continues to embrace fun and joy, creating stories that represent her, her culture, and her bubbly view of life. 

"Let's do it all until they say no!"

Check out Lala's Instagram 

Q: Was there a pivotal moment in your learning/play with art when things clicked for you?

Lala has always felt ready. She grew up always drawing so she knew it was what she loved. 

But as she started to make children's books, she had to remind herself that there are other types of artmaking, not just animation. So she reminds herself that she is an illustrator. 

"I am an artist."
"You are seen."

There were new challenges that came to the forefront when she started working with publishers like composition, scheduling, and deadlines which definitely overwhelmed her. 

"I totally felt imposter syndrome. I had bad days with crying breaks. I had a lot of expectations of myself but I push through."

But lately, she has been finding messiness, and playfulness with her style, medium, and process.

"I let myself play. Traditional work can be scary but be free, play, and just do it. Take action to have fun! It relieves stress. Don't be caught up in trying to be the best!"

Q: On the creative process: What does it feel like when you get an idea? Where does it live in your body?

Lala is really good at concepts, having worked as a product developer/graphic designer. 

"I have a lot of practice in pitching."

Lala currently has a document with all of those concepts. She keeps a logline of the ideas and how she would pitch it. 

"I get ideas from everywhere. Sometimes I'll be laying in bed and say 'Wouldn't it be cool if...' then I let my imagination run wild and free, letting it come up with random ideas."

Now she says she has to work on how to "make the sandwich," but from there, she tries to take the idea and make it suitable for a child. 

Q: On writing for children: How do you get into the child's mind?

"I feel like a child"

Lala takes in big topics and concepts, whether on social media or from life and asks:

"How would I explain to a five-year-old? How can I make this fun in a way that is simplistic?"

Questions from attendees:

Q: How many years did it take you before you were agented?

Lala had an unconventional journey to becoming agented but it took a year or so before she landed a book project. But she has a great relationship with her agent, who "knows her heart" and who is supportive and helpful when it comes to concepts, ideas, and pitching. 

It was such a great panel! It was helpful, inspiring, and powerful to hear about their journey! 

Check out the books of these debut authors at the SCBWI Bookshop!

If you want to view this session to hear the full content, along with the rest of the conference, register at Replays of the conferences will be available until September 10, 2023.

Lala Watkins

Lala Watkins is an author-illustrator extraordinaire whose work is like a summer pool party, and everyone's invited! She makes playful illustrations and lovely stories that make her heart (and yours) emote the heart-eyed emoji. She graduated with a BFA in Graphic Design and Interactive Communications from Ringling College of Art & Design. She has worked as a product designer, product developer, illustrator, and graphic designer at Sanrio, Paper Culture, and Cartoon Network. Let's be friends!

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