An exclusive event recently in Sydney saw me and Bill amidst the crowds of enthusiastic professionals from the children’s book industry. It’s called SCBWI or the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, Australia and New Zealand. The program was held at the Novotel Sydney Central. There’s always a buzz when you come face to face with passionate writers and picture makers.
Panel discussions, interviews, master classes and book sales feature along with portfolios of brilliant children’s artwork and the line ups for coffee and food. Networking is possible. A must really. A chance to celebrate successes and new possibilities. I met so many fascinating people, including Elise Hurst and Stephen Axelsen, both commanding illustrators. The trio of Sue Whiting, Sally Murphy and Claire Saxby were in a happy mood as they met up to celebrate the evening.
Topics discussed at the conference were How To Make Yourself more Marketable as a writer – and sell books! The Craft and Business of Getting and Staying published with US Editor Mira Reisberg, and Success in Publishing with Vivian Kirkfield, acclaimed US blogger. MC Susanne Gervay captivated her audience with witty comments and a friendly, warm approach.
The perfect pitch to publishers was wonderful; in other words, how do pitches become a published book? Several emerging and established authors pitched their books to Lisa Berryman, Claire Halifax, Tara Wynne, Maryann Ballantyne and Brian Cook. Always a bit nerve wracking for the speakers, this session proved to be most informative.
So many bright faces in the crowds. Catherine Pelosi ( Quarks Academy) in the red dress with me. Nicola Bolton, bottom left and Liz Anelli with Maddie’s First Day, bottom right. Snippets of conversations about ideas and publication. Inspiration. Questions. Sipping coffee and muffins. Sharing ideas. Catching up.
Illustrators like Emma Middleton enticed many lookers to her keenly observed illustrations. Christina Booth who believes, “art is not what you see, but what you make others see.” Edgar degas’s quote. Nicky Johnston’s clever sketches, Gemma Patience’s fun and likeable drawings, and Giuseppe Poli’s vibrant and quirky paintings.
I attended a Masterclass with Zoe Walton, above, whose approach to writing dialogue was demonstrated by her skilful examples of correct punctuation, dialogue tags, ‘beats’, authenticity, character, intention and extracts read to help the students. We were given time to edit our manuscripts and ask questions.
Mira Reisberg, art director and US editor provided outstanding examples of visual humour and exercises for us to complete on a worksheet. Our group of 6 worked hard to imagine all sorts of mish mash situations, plotting, goofy characters and teasing out a narrative. Mira’s slide presentation was so helpful to the many versions of humour in kid’s lit. ( sarcasm, parody, hyperbole, dark humour etc)
The keynote speeches, face to face manuscript appraisals ( I was lucky to have Linsay Knight from Walker Books talk to me about my middle grade novel) the Pitch to Publisher panel and so much more made SCBWI a fabulous 2 days.
Added to this Bill and I rocked up at Dymocks bookstore to be part of the notables presentation and to catch the passionate Matt Cosgrove ( below) with his Macca the Alpaca picture books. What a treat! Cute clever alpaca in all sorts of humorous situations. Matt even showed the audience how to draw the face of the animal with a simple YOU technique. The shapes of YOU are the essence of the drawings. And Matt’s childhood story to the present day is worth listening to.
And our dear Sheryl Gwyther from Queensland had the best moment of JOY when her Middle Grade book Sweet Adversity was recognised as a notable. Congratulations Sheryl!
Coming home is always a time for reflection and improving one’s writing. The sea of faces I met made the trip memorable. Special thanks to all the amazing helpers, volunteers and dedicated staff. Personally it was fun to meet many talented illustrators and writers who love what they are doing.