Mo Willems spoke at the SCBWI Winter Conference on Sunday and here are (the gist of) some of the things he said:
If your manuscript makes sense on its own, it won’t work as a picture book. Same goes with your images.
Your dream won’t come true, unless you get a better dream. If getting published is your dream, it kinda looks dumb against a dream of wanting to make a difference, a better change in the world.
Write about what you DON’T know. Don’t dictate to your readers; if you don’t have fun figuring things out in your process, neither will your readers.
Illustrate from the middle spreads, then the last pages; leave the first 2-3 spreads for last so they are the strongest.
Practice public speaking
"Your job is to be some child’s best friend."
"It’s not about you, it’s always about them."
Of course he is a wonderfully hilarious speaker, but from time to time you sense a dark shadow here and there throughout his talk. This is not bothering at all; instead, it helps you understand that, despite his natural talent, he’s been working very, very hard to figure out the balance within himself and the rest of the world to find what works. He repeatedly said “it’s not about you” and everything he says makes you realize that authors and illustrators of children’s books must make stepping stones out of their lives, so children can walk on them and eventually find a door to open themselves.