There were loads of brilliant quotes from yesterday's Children's Writers and Illustrators' Group Conference, but the Two Steves made me laugh with, 'When Do The Dinner Ladies Need The Hall?' This was as part of their talk about school visits and their sage advice for visiting junior schools: the dinner ladies rule. Make sure you know when you need to be out of their way.
Other great quotes?
'The voice of God is speaking to you through me and he's telling you that you're important.'
Tony Bradman on our venue at the St James the Less Church in Pimlico.
'Every school is its own little kingdom.'
'We're in a business.'
'Creativity isn't about Productivity.'
'As human beings we think with stories.'
Frank Cottrell Boyce
Sorry to any speakers who I've failed to credit. (The hall was buzzing and I couldn't always see name tags across the church aisle!)
The conference was stupendous from the moment I arrived. The cheery welcoming noticeboard set the mood:
The church venue was inspiring. We cracked straight on with a welcome from Gillian Cross, then it was straight into the first panel discussion with Helena Pielichaty and Tony Bradman, chaired by Eleanor Updale. Tony and Helena were there to represent the 'Gloom' and 'Doom' part of the day - a frank look at the challenges in today's marketplace. Tony wisely pointed out that a writer's life has always been challenging - it's just that lots of challenges are coming at the same time in this cycle of publishing. Despite their best attempts, we were left feeling jovial at the end of this session and the style of the day was established as all attendees were actively encouraged to contribute with opinions - and did!
I was thrilled to be invited onto the podium to talk for two minutes only about the launch of the third Undiscovered Voices anthology on 5 April. I'm part of the organising committee this year and was there to encourage established authors to spread the UV word to any up-and-coming authors they know or are mentoring. I had flyers to hand out and everything!
I had no idea how my presentation was going to go down, but everyone was so supportive and encouraging. Undiscovered Voices is a superb joint innovation by SCBWI and Working Partners to platform unpublished and unagented authors and illustrators but I'll blog about that separately. We had a conference to get on with!
In the afternoon, Anne Cassidy and the Two Steves talked about raising your profile in a discussion chaired by Gillian Cross. All speakers crammed their presentations with information and again, there were excellent contributions from the floor. Some highlights:
Jo Cotterill talked about her great success forking out for button badges, which led to her publisher supplying many more and children around the country now sporting her name and details on their lapels and school bags. In other areas of my life I've seen how much even grown adults love a free pin badge, so this is a suggestion I think all authors should follow.
Another author mentioned MailChimp - the free email marketing software she uses to send newsletters to contacts - and analyse who's opening and reading her newsletters.
The Woman's Institute and the Grammar School Associations were both revealed to be sterling supporters for authors looking to promote themselves.
And there was myriad discussion of blogs, YouTube, interactive games, FREE stuff, web conferencing...It's safe to say that our children's author community is embracing the 21st century and winning!
Some of my favourite advice of the day came from Eleanor Updale who encouraged us to take ourselves more seriously. Not to apologise for our existence and sit cowed in a corner as the 'children's author' at a festival, but to treat ourselves as seriously as we'd like the rest of the world to. Great stuff.
Finally, Frank Cottrell Boyce took to the podium. What do I tell you? Everyone needs a Frank Cottrell Boyce in their life. I felt the urge to scribble down his entire speech and hand copies out to people in the street. The warm glow in the church was palpable as he inspired us all to take pride in what we do, remember the important bits and focus on the reason we write at all: for the children whose lives will be changed. We can't predict the future, he told us again and again. Who knows what will be happening in 50 years time? But someone out there will have had their life affected because they read a story. That's a big responsibility. It's also a privilege.
We trailed out into the sunshine streets of Pimlico with beaming faces and lighter hearts. Every speaker present had waived their fees for the day to make this conference affordable for attendees. That's inspiration, handed out gratis. If you want to understand how communities thrive and succeed, you could do worse than attend a CWIG conference.
Writers don't just inspire with stories, their actions speak loudly too.
Thank you to everyone involved, but especially Enid.
Down the road in Tate Britain, this was happening when I popped in. Our audience.