My CYA Conference Experience – Day 2

The second day of the CYA Conference was called ‘Everything’s a Genre’ and while the majority of attendees were children’s authors, the subject matter shifted to adult fiction.

The day began with a panel of eight industry professionals discussing the adult fiction section of their markets.

For the second session I attended ‘The Reality of Publishing from an Author Perspective’ with Belinda Murrell. She shared about the nuts and bolts of how books are sold through a bookseller and can be returned if they don’t sell. She also shared statistics about the Australian publishing industry, current trends and figures about how much an author or illustrator might earn when publishing a book.

Next up was ‘The Organised Writer’ with Ally Blake. Ally is a prolific author, so she definitely knows what she’s talking about when it comes to getting words on the page and finishing a project.  Ally shared practical tips on how to be the most productive writer you can be: from carving out the time to write, turning off wifi so you don’t get distracted and using apps to stay focused and track your progress.  (For more on this keep an eye out for my ‘Tools I Took Away from CYA’ post…coming soon.)

After lunch I was mesmerised by Isobelle Carmody’s session on Writing Fantasy. There were many opportunities to write during the session. Isobelle emphasised that fantasy should first come from a place of realism. She said that she starts with her protagonist’s inner reality when writing, then works outwards, rather than building a world first and then placing characters in it. We discussed what the fantasy genre means to each of us – we agreed it is about freedom, imagination and otherness, but also about humanity, truth and connectedness. It was also great to hear the stories and creative ideas that had been written during the session.

The final session I attended was on writing thrillers with Jack Heath, Australian author of over twenty books for adults, young adults and children. Jack shared about his humorous beginnings as a famous teen writer and how much he has learnt since then. After talking through the major difference between thrillers, mysteries and crime novels, he gave us some hot tips on building suspense, keeping the readers engaged and how we as writers are competing with every other form of entertainment on the market. Unlike TVs and movies, Jack said that we as writers ‘have an infinite budget and we can make anything happen’ in our stories. He finished with the differences in writing for adults and children, a quick eight-word story writing challenge and the reminder that writing well takes practice.

Due to travel commitments I was unable to attend the editor’s panel and conference closing, but I left the conference feeling motivated and encouraged. My notebook is now full of excellent advice from successful authors and industry professionals and I’ve come away with new friends who love the world of children’s books as much as I do. If you ever have the opportunity to attend CYA Conference I would highly recommend it.

I am grateful to the Northern Territory Government for their contribution of a Professional Development Grant that provided financial assistance towards my attendance at the conference.

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