I have known about CYA Conference for several years now and have always dreamed of attending. This year that dream came true.
I flew into Brisbane and went straight to the Friday night Networking Dinner, suitcase and all. Once I’d stowed my bag in a corner and found my name tag I was ready to mingle. The crowd of aspiring writers and illustrators were all willing to say hello, introduce themselves and talk about children’s books. There were also published authors, editors, agents and publishers present. They were just as happy to be there, joining the conversation and sharing the passion for kid’s books that had brought us all together.
Saturday began with the announcement of the winners of the CYA Competition and then the CYA Success Panel. This was a fantastic reminder that receiving awards and getting published does happen to aspiring writers! The panellists encouraged us to keep working hard, seek out feedback and apply it and encouraged us not to give up on our dreams of being published.
The next three sessions I attended were presented by Belinda Murrell, author of over thirty books, including the ‘Lulu Bell’ series and recently released ‘Pippa’s Island’ series. Belinda was eager to answer questions, she touched on the business and marketing side of being an author, the key elements of fiction and the unique aspects of writing for children.
Belinda also spoke about the fact that children who read are more empathetic, that the most important relationship in a book is the one between the protagonist and the reader. She suggested that building a detailed profile of your character will help you to keep their actions adn dialogue consistent throughout the story.
Belinda was realistic about what is expected of published authors these days: to not only write great stories, but also to market them, market themselves and engage with readers through social media and author platforms.
She said that while children can be the worst critics, they can also become your biggest fans if you write something that they love. “Writing kid’s books can change lives and make the world a better place.” Her take away point was ‘Work hard but write with joy.’
My next session was ‘Writing Engaging Non-Fiction for Children’ with Allison Paterson, author of ‘Anzac Sons’ and ‘Australia Remembers.’ Allison emphasised the importance of being thorough with your research and meticulous with how you store information, record dates and sources.
She reminded us that non-fiction should be interesting and engaging. Non-fiction authors need to be aware of what already exists in the market and what makes their project different from others already in print. A non-fiction book should have a major idea that carries through from start to finish, just as a work of fiction does.
Allison warned that the research stage of a project can be perpetual, so she encouraged us to be firm and draw a line in the sand to mark when the research ends and the writing starts. She also recommended having our own images to offer to a publisher wherever possible. (You can purchase images from archives, libraries and museums.)
The day ended with the editor’s panel featuring five different editors and agents from various sized children’s publishing companies discussing current trends in the industry and what they were looking for in manuscripts they receive.
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.