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Debbie Ridpath Ohi reads, writes and illustrates for young people. Every few weeks, she shares new art, writing and resources; subscribe below. Browse the archives here.

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First visit to Simon & Schuster in NYC

A continuation of my series of posts about how I'M BORED was created. To catch up, see the post archive. Or you can go back to the Main I'M BORED Homepage.

In late 2010, I posted on my Facebook Wall that I was going the SCBWI conference in NYC:

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When he saw this, Justin Chanda e-mailed me to ask if I'd be interested in visiting the Simon & Schuster offices while I was NYC.

I remember reading his e-mail twice to make sure I hadn't misread. Holy cow. (!!)

Of course I said yes.

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On the day of the meeting, I arrived about an hour early because I was paranoid about getting lost.

I know you experienced published types are used to the idea of visiting your publisher, but it was such a thrill for me. I remember staring up at the main entrance sign in gawking awe. I WAS STANDING IN FRONT OF THE SIMON & SCHUSTER BUILDING IN NEW YORK CITY!!! THIS WAS MY PUBLISHER.

Did some sightseeing until it was time to go in, then went to the first-floor security desk and asked them to let Justin know I was there.

As the security guy dialed Justin's number, he said, "You know, your name sounds familiar."

Me: "Really?"

Guard: "Yeah, I think I saw it on a sign up on the 4th floor, where you're going."

Me: "A SIGN??"

I figured he must be misremembering but sure enough, here's what was on the lobby bulletin board when I stepped out of the elevator on the fourth floor:

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Is that COOL OR WHAT?!???

And check out part of the front lobby:

S Slobby

Dani Young, Justin's editorial assistant, greeted me and led me through the corridors to Justin's office. This is Dani in her office (I took this photo later in the year):

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Justin's office wasn't quite what I expected. I knew he was the publisher of three imprints at S&S, so I guess I assumed he'd be in some huge posh office with big windows and designer furniture. Instead, his office seemed to be the same size as most of the other offices…and it was crammed full of children's books. Very colourful and fun and comfortable-looking. :-)

After chatting a bit, Justin took me around to meet Laurent Linn, who would be my Art Director on the project.

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Laurent used to work on Sesame Street; check out what was on his office door:

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AND he had a Sesame Street photo signed by the staff!

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They took me to a restaurant (I don't remember which one, sorry) close to the office. I remember being really nervous at first, but the food was really good  and the conversation was lots of fun, so I started to relax a bit. 

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After lunch, we then headed back to S&S. Justin gave me a tour of different parts of S&S, and I got to see The Room Where All The Big Deals Are Made, with a long board room table lined with chairs. I saw framed photos of Richard L. Simon and M. Lincoln ("Max") Schuster, and also a hallway of framed portraits showing some of their best-known talent.


Above: M. Lincoln (Max) Schuster & Richard L. (Dick) Simon, who founded the company in 1924.

Then we headed back Justin's office to hook up with Laurent and talk about the sketches I had sent. We sat at a little table in Justin's office and went through the printouts of my sketches. I confess that it was an effort for me to concentrate at first. I kept thinking, "OH MY GOD I'M HAVING A MEETING AT SIMON & SCHUSTER AND THEY'RE TALKING ABOUT *MY* ILLUSTRATIONS FOR A *BOOK*" but  I forced down the squee in a tiny corner of my brain so I could focus. There would be time enough to let loose the squee after I went back home.

And then things got even more fun. Because WOW, that meeting was amazing. It was the first time Justin and Laurent had had a chance to discuss my sketches with each other, and I learned SO MUCH from listening to their comments as they flipped through the pages.

But not only that -- they made me a part of the process. Again, you experienced types already know how things work. As a total newbie to illustrating picture books, however, I hadn't expected to be so involved in decision-making process from the beginning. Both Justin and Laurent kept asking me for my feedback during the discussion, asking me what I thought of this and that, making sure I was okay with the changes we were discussing.

Also, Laurent and Justin are pretty funny guys, and the banter back and forth could be highly entertaining. I never expected to laughing so hard at my first meeting at S&S! 

2011 01LaurentJustinDebbie final

I'll be talking more about progression of changes in my sketches in future posts, along with giving examples of how the images changed from start to the final version.

For now, though, I have to just say this:

That first meeting was incredibly productive and so SOOOOO fun.

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Above: high tech tools at our meeting in Justin's office.

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