Last week was something like a waking dream. On the morning after tornadoes hit my home-state of Kansas, I flew to Burbank, California. I had planned to be excessively delayed on my trip out, but suddenly I had arrived quite on time. I had no idea what to do with 8 or so extra hours on my schedule. Thankfully, Chris Oatley stepped in and I was able to snag a seat in a super large rented vehicle of some sort. I think it was a van. It had sliding doors. I'll call it the Oatsmobile.
Either way, I sat in it as Chris drove like a maniac across L.A., to the airport, to his house, to Santa Monica Pier, and to a Fedex place where I waited in line behind two belligerent gentlemen just to throw an envelope at them while I ran sheepishly out the door. While we were at the pier, someone mentioned ice cream (it might have been me, now that I think of it) and Chris led us to this hole-in-the-wall organic ice cream place called Three Twins Ice Cream. The lemon bar flavor was heavenly and woke me up for a bit as I was getting tired.
Once the ice cream was finished, we hopped into the Oatsmobile and went to pick up some international people on international flights. Unfortunately, customs decided to take their time. So I hung out with a guy named Manny (sp? your facebook name is spelled Manyu? dangit, now I don't know which one is right!). Anyway, we picked up Henrike and Lise and zoomed back to Chris' house for a party.
I met David White for the first time at the party! That was awesome! Then the sprinklers came on! That was not so awesome, but still kind of funny. Cookies was eaten. Conversations were had. I met so many people, my introverted self was mildly freaking out. I talked to Tong and Reggie for awhile and eventually David took me to Elizabeth's apartment, where I was staying. I hadn't seen or talked to Elizabeth Aurich in over a decade, so it was really neat to catch up with her. Plus she was super nice about letting me snooze on her couch for a couple days.
Pretty sure I was out as soon as my head hit the pillow. That was just Tuesday.
Imagine going to the happiest place on Earth. Now imagine going to the happiest place on Earth with friends. That's what Wednesday was. The Oatley Team went to Disneyland and it was a blast. I think my favorite ride was Space Mountain. They Star Wars'd it up a notch and I wouldn't mind riding it again. By the end of the day, I was beat. I literally fell asleep at the table.
OA DAY!!! The day in which we nearly got kicked out of the Getty. I loved looking at the paintings, but I most certainly loved meeting all the OA people that showed up. I made some new friends and met a whole lot more people!
After the Getty, a bunch of us went to Silver's where Chris announced the new Podcast Network! (YAY!) and we had pizza and eventually drew from the live models (it was pirate themed! it was awesome!). Met more people and handed out a few businesscards.
Chris also mentioned an idea about the responsibility that storytellers have in exchanging kindness and not hate in this scary world. I really found those comments thought provoking. I even wrote out a pitch for a story about the war on kindness.
The first day of CTN. Under some strange circumstances, I was able to walk the floor of the A-Hall before everyone else (I was searching for the Oatley Academy table). The place was huge and there was more than one hall! It was eerie. No one was there yet, but a lot of the art was set up. I just walked around, gaping in awe.
I almost felt a tinge of impostor syndrome when the Oatsmobile swooped in and I was given a job to help out with the Oatley Academy. It was then I knew that I could do this and that I belonged here. In a flurry of boxes, papers, signs, and more boxes, we rushed to set up the booth. Not without Chris jamming out Star Wars while driving down Empire Lane.
The event began. And the first scary thing I did was approach Christophe Vacher and ask for a portfolio review. He was gracious and then gave me some of the best, specific advice concerning my charcoals.
WIN. I didn't know quite what to do after that. I was pretty satisfied with one review. So I walked around and tried to meet as many people as possible. It was not hard with the OA booth as a sort of 'home base'!
Then I saw it. The Song of the Sea art book. Someone was carrying it. I had to get one. I searched for the book store booth. There were several book store booths. I didn't find it. But I did find a really happy fellow who was very kind. His name was Gary Montalbano. And I ended up buying his book, titled Memories within Dreams. It contains a ton of concept art. And it came with a gigantic poster of a tree, which he signed.
He has done concept work for many studios and graciously looked at my portfolio when I pulled it out. The only thing he said was do more. Great! I thought. I can do that!
A few minutes later I went up to a booth and started talking to Cameron Scott Davis, author and illustrator of sleepwalker books. I went through his book several times and it was beautiful. Now I'm kicking myself for not buying it. He was super kind and gave my portfolio a look.
Then I went across the street to eat something because I was starving. It was already two or three in the afternoon. When I came back, I found that I missed an opportunity to pitch Miss Ewe and the Stolen Garden to one of Chris' friends. This would be my one and only disappointment of CTN.
The rest of the day, I perused Hall A and didn't even get to Hall B. I didn't even get through Hall A, really. I was still in awe of all the art and people. After dinner, I sat by the famed firepits with a bunch of OA people, talking about art and making new friends. It was a lovely evening. And then I happened to check my email. Low and behold! I won a Breakfast with the Pros! For Saturday at 9am!
I nearly panicked. I was just starting to feel comfortable talking to strangers and now I have to EAT and talk with strangers?! PROFESSIONAL strangers?!
I went to bed early.
And I woke up early. Way too early. By the time 8:45 rolled around, I had been up for at least three hours, pacing my hotel room floor. I finally went down to the VIP lounge where I met Fred Lang (if you don't know him, you should! He's great!). He helped me calm down a bit. This is another reason I love OA. There are people always willing to talk and help before epic freak out meltdown happens.
I had looked at the list of the professionals who were going to be there. I didn't recognize half of them. But I recognized Brenda Chapman. I was kind of hoping I would be placed at the table with her.
I was placed at a table with Christian Alzmann, whom I didn't know anything about. But luckily the guy next to me was a good talker and kept the conversation up. I mostly listened until they started talking about story and third acts. This was a topic in which I was able to make coherent words. Then Christian started talking about Star Wars and how he had designed BB-8.
He also told us about how he got started in the industry. Turns out he went to junior college for five years and then realized that he should actually be doing art. I really enjoyed this part because it gave me a little hope. I went to school for five years and graduated into a field that I actually dislike. Christian talked to us (there were four of us at the table with him) for nearly two hours. It was so inspiring and in the end he gave us his businesscard. I gave him mine but I forgot to introduce myself! (Gah! Extreme social anxiety stupidity!)
But then I got to shake his hand and I introduced myself. Why do I do everything backwards?!
Even so, it was the coolest way to start Saturday. I actually made it to Hall B AND I found the book store with the Song of the Sea. Things couldn't get better!
But oh, they did.
Around two in the afternoon, there was a panel thing about pitching or getting your story idea ready to pitch, with Robert Lence. I had no idea who he was, but I certainly wanted to know about pitching! So I got in line. Turns out Robert Lence has pitched to every major studio in L.A. and co-pitched A Bug's Life to Michael Eisner. He had some GREAT tips!
Some of his tips were:
Feel the Room - I heard this before from Sarah Marino. It's like testing the attitudes and emotions of your audience.
Be Careful What You Order - Most pitches happen over a meal, so be smartly decisive about what you order. A messy meal could take valuable time away from your pitch! At the same time, take into account what others are ordering too.
Be Professional, Always - If the pitch isn't going well, don't cut it off too short. End professionally and be courteous.
After getting out of that panel, I was almost convinced that all I wanted to do was pitch! It sounded like a lot of fun! There was another panel right after that with Lorelay Bove and Brittney Lee. They talked about design and about what their day to day work was like. They're working on the upcoming film Gigantic. So that was really fun to listen to! The day was just getting better and better!
Sometime during the day, Lea Hernandez stopped by and gave my complimentary copies of The Garlicks Halloween Comic (which I helped her on!). It was SO cool to see it printed! It even has my name in it!
In Hall B there was a Copic Marker booth. And guess who was there? Terryl Whitlatch. I nearly passed out when I approached her. I was shaking terribly and I felt really bad. All my confidence shrank from me. But after my horrible speech about how her work has influenced me (which almost made me tear up surprisingly) I asked her to sign her book AND SHE DID! Not only did she sign it, but she drew a unicorn in it. I'm pretty sure I flailed. We talked about horses and how her favorite horses were Tennessee Walkers.
This was the cherry on top of a wonderful day.
The evening was again spent at the firepits with some new and some old friends. And again, I went to bed rather early. These crazy wild days were wearing me out!
I had two panels on the schedule for Sunday - Brenda Chapman and Dean Deblois. Both of which I was extremely excited for. The thought of pitching Miss Ewe and the Stolen Garden to Brenda occurred to me. My friend, Jessica Doll, pretended to be Brenda as we were headed to the panel. I pitched the story five or six times to her until I felt comfortable. And then... it just happened. I gave Brenda a copy of the printed version of Miss Ewe and the Stolen Garden and she made me sign it! Eeeee!
My confidence didn't wane after this. I went to the panel with Dean Deblois and sat right next to him and asked what kind of literary stories he liked (turns out he likes Edgar Allen Poe! who knew?). I was also surprised to learn that he was Head of Story but he actually isn't a very good reader. He came from the art side of things. I found that extremely intriguing. I had thought you had to have a degree in literature to be Head of Story. Turns out, you don't exactly have to! Though I'm sure it probably helps.
Later that day, I passed by Lorelay Bove and Brittney Lee's booth and bought the book "Lovely". I had been eyeing the book and I was lucky enough that both of them signed it for me too! I bought some other things from them as gifts for my family.
I ended up buying quite a bit of art and books by the end of CTNx. Next year I'm going to have a 'Britny Shopping' budget.
When it all ended, no one really wanted to leave. I met so many wonderful artists and people. I have a bajillion businesscards. There is no way I'm missing CTNx this coming year. Or the next for that matter.
I encourage all artists and writers to go. Go and be inspired. Go meet new people. Make new friends. Come up with ideas together.
I may be from Kansas, but CTNx felt like home.