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Monday, 11 August 2014

SCBWI Sydney Conference 2014 - Lasting Impressions

It's the last month of winter. Almost four weeks since I had to dig out my gloves and wraps for the first time this year. They accompanied another 'first'. An experience I had been secretly yearning for, aspiring toward for years...my first SCWBI Conference. And, unlike a few other 'firsts', it exceeded all expectations.

Much of what went down, who was there and what we got up to has been magnificently covered both on the official SCBWI Australian/NZ web and blog sites, and featured in several sensational personal accounts, not least of which is Tania McCartney's SCBWI Wrap Up post. Be you author, illustrator, industry professional or just interested passer-by with a fondness for Kids Lit, you're bound to unearth some awesome insights on your favourite artists, books and literary gems.

Here are a few recollections and choice tip bits of my own, along with the mandatory blurred snapshot to seal the moment.

Feeling like a kid allowed to go to her first big party by herself, I rugged up, boarded up and headed off to sunny Sydney.

Had to stifle slight alarm after sliding into the taxi and was promptly asked by the driver how to get to The Hughenden Hotel. Hmm but get there, we did.

The cosy lounges and corridors of this charming boutique hotel soon bubbled with conversation and old chums. A veritable cauldron of new faces and old, some connecting for the first time in spite of years of cyber friendship. It felt like a magnificent homecoming in many ways.

First task: to register. Met these two bear-skinned cuties in the marquee. Poor little mites must have misunderstood the brief and filled out themselves instead of the forms provided. Oh dear.

Kick-off at 3.00pm Opening remarks were lost as a rabble ensued thanks to one boisterous baby brolga and some unruly banana-benders.

Rachelle Sadler, Rebecca Sheraton, Yvonne Mes, Peter Taylor & Tracey Lennon

Fortunately the unflappable Christopher Cheng was there to lend a hand and restore calm.

Things settled down and I settled with the idea of sharing digs with these three ratbags - Sheryl Gywther Head of the Rovers, Jacque Duffy minus her bear and the effulgent Kaz Delaney.

Meal times were quite memorable. Scott Chambers and Peter Taylor seen here with their unfortunate Freundian choice of table number.
Deb Abela, Mark Greenwood, Frane Lessac and DianneWolfer.

Feeding time fun at the Woollahra Hotel.

Dianne Wolfer encouraging a frail looking Wendy Binks to wolf it all down.

Sessions Away!

Room to Read's Wendy Rapee inspired and moved, by reminding us that 'the ripple effect is world changing'.

Connie Hsu

'Publishing is Conversation and Collaboration' Maryann Ballantyne Black Dog Books

'Be the next you!' Karen Tayleur The Five Mile Press

'Give readers a visceral reaction' Connie Hsu Roaring Brook Press

'Visual elements in books are a HUGE draw card for older readers.' Connie Hsu

'You can get a hole in one depending on how many times you want to hit the ball'  Tania McCartney

'Books are static. We need to make them real for people' Kathryn Otoshi KO Kid's Books

'Encourage, support. Start small and grow organically. Stay true to yourself and give back' Tania McCartney

'Remember your eight year old self' Tania McCartney

'Even back cover Blurbs need a resolution' Melina Marchetta

'Look for your pot of gold but don't be unrealistic. Study which fund, grant, award or fellowship will suit you and your project best and stick to the application guidelines' regarding tips on seeking grants.

'How do you move 250,000 books? Use boxes' Louise Park Paddlepop Press

'Never orphan your product for what you think is a good marketing plan. Have a contingency plan and invest YOURSELF in it to the very end' Louise Park

'Focus should be on excellent books to increase the pleasure of reading' Professor Ernst Bond

'Provide diverse experiences so kids can connect' Professor Bond

Master class with Bruce Whatley, Christina Booth, Tania McCartney, Nicky Johnston and me. Photo courtesy Tania McCartney.
'Common Core Standards can increase visual literacy, critical thinking, better writing and an understanding of literary elements' Professor Bond

'If an illustrator can find their own visual narrative, they will add multiple layers to the book and enhance the text rather than simply duplicate it' Bruce Whatley 

'I never feel I'm quite 'there' because if I get there, I may stop.' Bruce Whatley

Then things started to slide when they let publishers from Walker Books Australia, Harper Collins, Black Dog Books and Scholastic Australia up on stage to 'assess' a couple of outstanding but as yet uncontracted book concepts pitched by our own efficacious Susanne Gervay and Frane Lessac.

They had every chance to make it as shown here by Sue Whiting's display of a fart making picture book.

The Budgie Smuggler pitch met with wild applause and generous feedback.

However Frane was advised that her artwork need more refinement.

Scott Chambers, Frane Lessac, Meredith Costain, James Foley

Fortunately she was recompensed with Mark Greenward's booty thanks to the award winning efforts of The Beatnickers.

Susanne Gervay Extraodinarie with Frane Lessac
Already fat on fun, fabulous facts and friendships, we rewarded ourselves with group shots, dinner, wine and a bit of choralling of course to the wonderful groove of The Beatnickers. Have a peek at the video below for a glimpse of authors and illustrators behaving...quite well actually.
Queensland SCBWI members
SCBWI Sydney Roving Reporter Team headed by Sheryl Gywther

The SCBWI Sydney Conference was a fantastic meeting of minds, kindred spirits, ideas and shared dreams and in some ways, of a realisation of ourselves as valued members of a truly tremendous industry. Just in case anyone didn't realise who they were, I requested they all hold up their name tags. What a self-aware bunch.

The Delegates - a fraction of

And so, as the halls emptied and the ink dried on the limbs of another set of SCBWI bears, I headed back to my writing nook, to bask in the warm afterglow of my inaugural Sydney conference confident it would not be my last.

What did the SCBWI conference mean for me?

Apart from a few days respite from making school lunches...

It was more than the absorbing and enriching presentations and workshops.

It was more than the chance to mingle with contempories and pitch my work.

It was like attending a big family reunion. Hundreds of people, some you may not know intimately, some you have never met before but there pervaded a powerful sense of being part of something greater, an extended family, of belonging.

As dawn goes down today...on Sydney
If you are a published or self-published children's author or illustrator and want to find out more about the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators and exactly what it offers, have a look here. Consider becoming a member. You could do far worse than listening to the Beatnickers once in a while...