From Hook to Book

Archive for the category “Conferences”

My Tribe (SCBWI Australia East/NZ)

Der Arme Poet

Writing is such a solitary endeavour. Of course, we writers/illustrators/creators are no longer isolated or starving in a garret as in years or centuries past. (Forgive the aside, but is it only me who perceives ‘starving in a garret’ as somewhat romantic when transported to 20th century Paris? I could happily go hungry in such company as F. Scott-Fitzgerald, Stein, Hemingway.)

Alas, in reality, I like my food/wine and comfort too much to suffer such deprivation. But I do look to the company of like-minded hearts and creative souls.

Writers/Illustrators are a tribe, co-joined by our aspirations and drive to create and share our stories. We want readers to thrill and thrall to our tales and to see our work in print. Often it can be a long road to publication and the initial marks of ink, publishers’ cruel rebuffs. So we look to our peers to commiserate, communicate, collaborate and coalesce. What better way than at a writers’ conference?

syd-conf-logo300pxI am privileged to be part of the warm and welcoming team of SCBWI Australia East/NZ and to serve as Assistant Co-ordinator of SCBWI Vic. Every two years we gather under the banner of the bi-annual conference in Sydney and mentorship of Regional Advisor, Susanne Gervay. The warm, funny, all embracing Susanne inspires all to believe their publication dream is possible. Of course, adding in a little luck, perseverance, industry savvy, research and a measure of talent too.scbwi-crew

The 2016 SCBWI Australia East Conference was a fantastic gathering of the tribe in September at the Menzies Hotel in Sydney and a great chance to catch up with friends and peers and meet many new members attending. It was brilliant too, post-conference, to hear of all the wonderful outcomes in contracts, representation and requests that came out of SCBWI 2016.

scbwi-vic-crewFantastic, detailed conference reports by Dimity Powell and her roving reporters plus lots of pics can be found on the SCBWI blog. But here are a few tips and tweets from the conference: Be poignant. Bestow ideas. Don’t give up the day job. Never risk starvation. Unless you’re in Paris, sharing a garret with F Scott-Fitzgerald. Pre Daisy days, of course!

 

 

 

The Value of Conferences – CYA

CYA dinnerI can’t believe it’s been weeks since I attended the fantastic CYA Conference in Brisbane. I’ve been head-down ever since, following up on manuscript advice received during my two publisher assessment sessions and giving social media a narrow gaze.CYA 2016

Chris Bell CYA 2016 Highly CommendedI was really excited in the weeks prior to the conference to be shortlisted in the 2016 CYA Writing and Illustrating Competition – published author category. It was fantastic that I was already booked in to attend the conference and so I was there to receive a “Highly Commended” award for my middle-grade eco-fic novel Strange Creatures from the judge, Scholastic Australia publisher, Clare Hallifax. I was extra pleased with my HC as there was only one overall winner (congratulations Facebook buddy, Karen Collum), but no placings in this highly competitive category.

It was a great boost to see this 19000-word story that I wrote several years ago with the intention of making it book one in a trilogy appreciated and acknowledged. I’ve always loved the characters and the setting and thought I had not perhaps given it fair exposure at the time as it always seemed an awkward word-count. So I worked on it some more and entered it into CYA and it was really terrific to see it awarded in the competition. I look forward to reading the initial judging reports, which give the added bonus of feedback to entrants in the CYA competition.CYA 2016 Highly commended

During the conference I had two really positive and informative meetings with publishers regarding my YA historical novel and received some great advice. 1. Begin in setting and introduce character’s day-to-day life 2. Use less language of the time.

The first suggestion initially surprised me because I’d always been taught – in kid lit – begin with action. But during the conversations (which offered very similar advice) I came to realise that, with my character’s world and time being quite foreign to the reader, to begin in drama gave the reader no chance to come to know or care about the characters before the initial dramatic interaction and danger. Invaluable advice and well worth paying for. This is one the value of critique and manuscript assessment sessions offered to attendees of conferences and seminars.

Both publishers are keen to see the reworked manuscript, so it’s back to work for me.

 

 

 

Photo credit: Peter Allert

#HNSA2015

Stepping into the past is something all historical fiction authors and readers love to do, and in a room full of like minds and 21st century technology, it’s even more fun. Just ask the hundred and sixty enthusiastic attendees/tweeters gathered recently in Sydney for the inaugural Australian Historical Novel Society Conference.

I took plenty of notes, but also discovered how fantastic Twitter is for capturing quotes and the essence of talks and then for sharing them, both with those attending and any interested to follow at #HNSA2015.

Rather than go into heaps of detail about the diverse range of sessions, ranging from personal histories to What is it about the Tudors, to YA historical fiction competing against volumes of vampires, I’m just going to let a few of the tweets talk. Along with some of the pics, including those of a fun and fabulous reading between our lovely conference patron Kate Forsyth, cheeky keynote Colin Falconer and (missing her second calling) the marvellous Jess Blackadder.

If you’d like a snapshot of the conference from tweeters including @KateForsyth @jesseblackadder @kmjgardiner checkout #HNSA 2015 on Twitter.

Many thanks to Chris Foley, Elisabeth Storrs and all their team for a fantastic event. I cannot wait until the next one *** IN MELBOURNE*** in 2017.

SCBWI Australia NZ Conference 2014

What a crazy, busy few weeks, but I can’t let them pass without mention of attending the fantastic SCBWI Australia NZ Conference in Sydney July 13-15th.

SCBWI VicSome of the wonderful crew from SCBWI Vic (Photograph courtesy Dimity Powell)

 What an amazing gathering of creators, publishers and industry professionals all communing and exchanging ideas, knowledge and inspiration. All brought together by our amazing SCBWI Regional Advisor and leader Susanne Gervay and her incredible team over three days at the gorgeous Hughenden Hotel in a packed program of publisher info sessions, pitches, book launches and insights into the international market.

SCBWI delegates at SCBWI 2014 including moi

Despite Jetstar’s best efforts to keep me (and a couple of colleagues) from the opening day and changing my return flight (again!), insisting I leave before the close, I enjoyed a wonderful couple of days and came home recharged and inspired. Who could not be seeing the wonderful, diverse works being produced out there in the kid lit world and wanting to be part of it?

Here’s a few reflections I shared on Twitter @chrisbellwrites on gems gathered.

  • Louise Park Publisher Paddlepop Press “Don’t orphan your product – it needs you.”
  • Lisa Berryman Assoc Publisher @HarperCollinsAU “Poignancy can make a book a classic.”
  • @Zoe_Walton Publisher Children’s &YA Random House sub advice “no marketing manifesto, we have a team to do that.”
  • Bruce Whatley deletes all illust notes “illlustrator needs to find their own visual narrative.”
  •  Louise Park Publisher Paddlepop Press “If you’ve got a top product – leverage – write three more.”
  •  @Zoe_Walton Children’s & YA Publisher Random House “Never underestimate the value of food in kid’s books.”
  • “Historical fiction with a genre twist can sell.”
  • @MissConnieH Connie Hsu Commissioning Editor Roaring Brook Press “Character driven picture books still reign supreme.”
  • Karen Tayleur Five Mile Press poss rej reason “nothing special to lift it to top of pile”.

Bruce Whatley session Twitter

Lisa Berryman Children’s Publisher Harper Collins introducing the amazing Bruce Whatley

 

 

 

 

Young Writers’ Competitions and Opportunities

It’s that time of year  to flex your writing muscles and get your entries in to the fantastic number of competitions and exciting opportunities open to young writers right now. You’ll find further details and some cool new resources on my Young Writers’ Resources page, such as writing residencies, including: three great KSP places in WA, the Ray Koppe Residency – offering a week at Varuna Writers’ House; writing conferences, including:  CYA Hatchlings  combined with the full CYA program in July 2013 and  the National Young Writers Festival blasting off in October 2013, plus lots more competition details, events and workshops.

All fabulous opportunities to get your writing in front of judges, publishers and selection panels and there’s some not insignificant cash prizes going.

So get those stories and poems in fast for those comps closing soon.

Some tips for success:

  • Follow submission guidelines (exactly)
  • Redraft, redraft, redraft
  • Read your work aloud to pick up jars and jolts and to check for rhythm
  • Vary your sentence structure
  • Be strenuous at spell-checking and proofreading
  • Flick off that fear goblin nagging on your shoulder. If you’ve put in the work – it’s ready. Repeat – flick and submit.

If anyone reading here knows of any writing opportunities or competitions for young writers, not listed on the YWR page, I’d love you to leave me the details in a comment or email me the link. Thnx.

CYA Conference for the WIN!

CYA logo by Bec Timmis

A thrilling week for me!

On Friday I flew to Brisbane for the 2011 CYA Conference. I’d heard so much about this conference over the past few years and have been keen to go, then this year I had a huge added incentive.

Back in June, I entered my YA novel manuscript Jumping Through Hoops into the CYA published authors competition. Not in the hope of winning, (who am I fooling, of course, I hoped to win) but because part of the prize offered a publisher critique and feedback to shortlistees via marking sheets. Also, I have to admit, I had a further motive. It’s been a little quiet in the achievement line of late. Writing a long-length novel has taken all my time and, in the interim, I’ve had no new books come out for the past eighteen-months. I determined to fill the gap in my C.V. for 2011 by entering the comp in the hope of a short-listing.

I was delighted a few weeks ago to learn my story had been shortlisted. Decision time. To go to Brisbane or not. Then I saw CYA offered not only pitch sessions to publishers, but the opportunity to pitch to a literary agent. Done deal.

I’m thrilled to say that Jumping Through Hoops won the published author section and, despite my shaky hands, I loved being there to collect my award.

These are the kind of opportunities emerging writers need to keep us writing through the drought times, or should I more kindly say, the quiet times. Entering competitions, submitting short stories or articles, give us hope, deadlines and dates to look forward to. And, if we’re successful, writing credits, validation and acknowledgement. Something like the CYA award, and attending conferences, also puts our names in front of publishers and gives us the wonderful opportunity to mix and mingle and meet our peers.

I had a fantastic time. It was wonderful to catch up with some real and online writing buddies and meet some lovely new ones. As well as attending all the wonderful author sessions and a brilliant Brian Falkner workshop. I look forward to letting you know if, and when, I have any good news to share coming out of the win or attending CYA.

It’s times like this when I can roll up my Certificate and swat those swarming self-doubts. (Of course, only figuratively. My award is far too precious for that.)

Special thanks to Tina Marie Clarke and Ally Howard for organising the wonderful CYA Conference and offering writers and illustrators the fabulous opportunity to put themselves and their work in front of publishers face-to-face. Absolute gold!

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