I'm a children's author, wife and mum in no particular order. I perform these jobs simultaneously and I love them all!

Sunday 26 June 2016

Kids & YA Festival, 2016

The NSW Writers' Centre hosted its biannual Kids & YA Festival on Saturday, 25th June.

Aleesah Darlison developed a wonderful program full of industry favourites. Anyone who attended the day left feeling elated, inspired and with lots of new friends.

This festival meant a lot to me this year. I caught up with my author and illustrator friends from all over the country, met friends I'd connected with on social media, picked up new tips to help improve my writing, and I appeared on my first panel as a published author. More about that later.

The Keynote Speaker for this festival was the mesmerising, Tristan Bancks. He entertained us by revealing his writing process and by sharing some of the stories behind his stories including one about a knitting needle embedded 7.5cm into a buttock. Long story ... you had to have been there! (Not his own buttock btw - ha!)

For the rest of the day the program broke into two streams. It was so hard to pick which session to attend.

Next, I was on a panel called, 'Picture Book Parade'. Aleesah Darlison, Meredith Costain, Andrew Daddo and I were in conversation with Sandra Wigzall about how we started our picture book publication career. The panel was constructed with a wonderful mixture of experiences from using slush piles, to networking at conferences, and to being discovered via writing competitions. 

I was extremely nervous even though our panel was designed to be an informal but informative conversation. We received wonderful feedback so hopefully a few people enjoyed our stories and grabbed some ideas to help them on their publication journeys. 

I was quoted on twitter during this session - how bizarre but fun! I've never had that happen before. I'm very new to Twitter, I only retweet usually, so to be quoted as a tweet by someone else was a little exciting. Thank you so much to NSW Writers' Centre, Michelle Worthington and Debra Tidball for these tweets and retweets photographed below. I look like I slightly know what I'm talking about in that photo, Deb! 

True story!

I had to miss the panel, 'Turning Facts Into Fiction - How do you turn the cold facts of history and modern-day reality into something children and young adults want to read? with Pamela Rushby, Jan Latta, Kylie Fornasier, Libby-Jane Charleston (Chair) as it was on at the same time as ours, but the feedback was wonderful.

For the next short while, I debriefed with my fellow panel members while the program continued. However I did manage to catch the end of the panel, Writing For The World Stage: What are the various paths you can follow to get your book published – and selling – overseas? with Susanne Gervay, Jacqueline Harvey, Michelle Worthington, Sophie Masson (Chair). The snippet I listen to was very insightful!

Sophie Masson, Michelle Worthington, Jacqueline Harvey, Susanne Gervay  
LUNCH TIME! It was a little cold outside during lunch (ok ... a lot) but it was so lovely to mingle among the Jacarandas, eat, chat, sip tea and buy books. 

Pamela Freeman and Liz Anelli launched their stunning picture book, Dessert Lake on the verandah during lunch. Pamela shared the highs and struggles she experienced while bringing this story to life and Liz demonstrated her illustration talent. (She was half frozen but still managed to draw better than most of us!)

Also during lunch, Susan Whelan and Sandy Fussell hosted a seminar titled: 'Paying Forward, Giving Back: Networking for Authors and Illustrators'. It was sold out with all proceeds going to the Indigenous Literacy Foundation. I heard the girls presented an outstanding session full of hints and tips everyone could implement into building a successful career while supporting others in the industry. Clever girls!

After lunch I snuggled into the session, 'Publishers and Agents: What They’re Looking For and How to Impress Them' with Tara Wynne (Curtis Brown), Anouska Jones (EK Books), Holly Toohey (Random House), Rochelle Manners (Wombat Books) and Aleesah Darlison (Chair). Great industry tips filled this room from some of the most talented children's publishers in Australia.

Gosh, I wish I could have also attended the session called, 'Learn How Authors and Publishers Write and Develop Series' with Wanda Wiltshire, Chrissie Perry, Meredith Costain, Jodie Wells-Slowgrove and Jessica Owen (Penguin) (Chair). If only I could have been in two places at once. My next adventure is down this path. Watch this space!

To challenge my thinking and to learn more about a genre I'm not very familiar with, I next attended the session, YA All The Way: What makes young adult fiction so enticing to read – and to write? with Tristan Bancks, Steph Bowe, David Burton, Will Kostakis and Adele Walsh (Chair). This panel was fun! The diverse experiences on the panel made it extremely interesting.

Meanwhile, next door another dynamic panel was in place, 'Illustrators Incorporated: Being a successful children’s book illustrator involves more than just drawing pretty pictures' with Michael Salmon, Serena Geddes, David Hardy and Georgie Donaghey (Chair). How I would loved to have been in this room. I did find a leftover whiteboard illustration by Michael later in the day.

And the last two sessions for the day involved pitching. One for picture books and one for kids and YA novels. I didn't pitch this year but I felt so nervous for the people who did. I attended the picture book session and I learnt so much from listening to other people pitch. Listening to live feedback was priceless also. It was a fresh reminder of what to keep an eye on when constructing picture book manuscripts. This was very timely for me as I'm just about to submit a manuscript for an assessment during the upcoming SCBWI conference.

It's always a thrill to see your book in a bookshop, then have people buy it and come up to you to get it signed. And of course I couldn't stop myself from adding to my signed book collection as well.

My day ended with a well deserved social outing in a beer garden at a Balmain pub with my Newcastle author and illustrator friends (and Serena too!). A full tummy certainly did help with the long drive back home after a jam-packed day.

Thanks to the NSW Writers' Centre, Aleesah Darlison, and everyone behind the scenes who helped bring this festival to life. 

I still pinch myself at how many beautiful, talented and caring people I have met in the children's publishing industry during my own publication journey. 

Until the next one, may your writing and illustrating be full of amazing ideas!

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